“The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – An interview with Jacqueline Rodríguez-Pérez
Jacqueline Rodríguez-Pérez is a software engineer working with Brightpearl in Bristol, originally from the beautiful Canary Islands in Spain. She shares her backstory with us and how she got into technology. It all started with an IBM 4.86 computer her parents bought her when she was just 8 years old! Jacqueline and I have been in touch since the beginning of the year, her passion and enthusiasm never goes unnoticed. She shares a raw and honest outlook on the barriers women face in the industry as well as her honest opinion on Jamie Oliver’s Paella recipe!
TELL US HOW AND WHY YOU CHOSE A CAREER IN SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT?
It all started when I was a kid I suppose. At that time my uncle Carlos worked fixing computers and introduced me to this world. My father and I used to learn together how computers worked using components from my uncle’s lab.
When I was 8 my parents bought me my first computer, an IBM 4.86, and subscribed me to MS-DOS course that I loved. I kept “playing” with my own computer, adding new hardware components, connecting it to other computers, installing new software.
By this time the only user friendly OS I had was Windows 3.11 that came with a very old fashion WordPerfect. This text editor allowed you to see and edit all the hidden tags that transform the text appearance. That was the first time I saw some sort of coding and started digging into how those applications worked.
When the time came, the choice was very clear. I went to university and study a Computer Science degree.
JACQUELINE, YOU WORK AS A SOFTWARE ENGINEER WITH BRIGHTPEARL – WHAT IS IT LIKE WORKING THERE DAY TO DAY?
8:45 First cup of tea
Well I joined Brightpearl in mid May and have to say it has been a non-stop learning process.
10:15 Time to ask Product team
From a non-technical perspective Brightpearl has a very good team of business analysts. This makes developer’s lives much easier in daily basis as they gather the requirements from the customers and are able to pass them in a detailed way to the engineering team.
16:00 Fifth cup of tea
There is also life outside of engineering! There is always something going on in Brightpearl. From a Greek cold coffee master class to board games nights or chair massages to mention just a few.
IF THERE WAS ONE THING YOU COULD CHANGE ABOUT THE INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Obviously I would like to see more women in this industry. But not just women, also people from other genders and races. I think engineering teams could benefit from having people with different backgrounds offering different perspectives.
If you are reading this interview you are probably aware of the current situation and the barriers women have to face in Tech, so I won’t bore you listing them here again. There are still many things to do to break down the barriers of gender equality, and I believe technologies are helping to do it. For instance, things like working from home to improve family and work conciliation, automated recruitment processes that ignore gender and of course internet access allowing women to hear other women and to be heard.
YOU’RE ORIGINALLY FROM SPAIN, WHAT IS THING YOU MISS MOST ABOUT HOME?
Probably the beach! I am from the Canary Islands and always lived near the coast so the beach was always close. I used to go not just for a sun bath but also to relax after work. I have visited a few beaches here in UK and have to say they are really nice, but they are a bit far away from Bristol!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SPANISH DISH TO COOK?
I am not a person that particularly enjoys cooking, but I reckon that cooking seafood paella gives me some kind of satisfaction if it ends it up well. It’s a dish that takes a long time to cook and it can go terrible wrong if you are not an experience cook like me. Also it’s a dish that I learnt from my mother so it makes me feel closer to home.
Speaking of paella, dear Jamie Oliver, why chorizo? Why?!!
HAVE YOU EVER FACED ANY CHALLENGES THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER BEING A WOMAN, AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO MIGHT BE FACING THE SAME THING RIGHT NOW?
Unfortunately the list is a long one and started when I was studying my degree. This industry has been in the hands of men for a long time and sometimes you have to deal with men from the old school. Sometimes they are your lectures, sometimes your colleagues, sometimes your boss or even your own family telling you are doing a man’s job. The problem I see is that even when you overcome these challenges day after day, eventually what you have learnt is that you are going to have to work harder than the rest. You have to show them that you are as capable as them and that you can do it alone, without mistakes, without any benefit from your gender. Over time, this might lead to a sort of paranoia, wondering if something, bad or good, that has happened to you is because you are woman. The only thing I could advise to those going through this is trust yourself, be confident but mainly be upbeat. You have the same right to fail than them.
I KNOW HOW MUCH YOU LOVE TO LEARN NEW TECHNOLOGIES, WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU HAVEN’T YET WORKED WITH THAT YOU WOULD TO WORK WITH?
So far Brightpearl is keeping very busy learning new technologies and my plan for now is to be better at then. As you know, my biggie is Java and I still have many things to learn about it so I keep this as my main goal. At the top of my to-do list still have going deeper with Spring framework and do some UI work with ReactJS. But who knows, the list might vary while I learn.
NAME WHO WOULD BE IN YOUR ‘DREAM TEAM’?
I’ve never thought about it! Rather than tell you names, I can tell you which skills I would look for. I think I would build a team of trusted and talented people with good communication skills, curiosity and as, I mentioned earlier, people from different backgrounds. The dead ones probably would need to make an extra effort to catch up!
There have been some famous ones that have impressed me. I would include names like Ada Lovelace, Katherine Johnson, Alan Turing, Elon Musk (sometimes not for good reasons), Col. Chris Hadfield and the Queen of shitty robots Simone Giertz.
FINALLY, WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?
“The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
— Albert Einstein for “Old Man’s Advice to Youth: ‘Never Lose a Holy Curiosity'” LIFE Magazine (2 May 1955).
This is just part of an interview where Einstein encourages to not losing curiosity. I believe this is not just a must do in this profession but something to keep in mind in your life too. Be curious, be brave, leave your comfort zone and try new things. Mistaking is part of the process to evolve.
An interview by Steph Jackson
a voice of diversity in tech.