Laura Voineag | Software Engineer
Role models are so important when looking for advice, inspiration and encouragement...so what do you do when you can't seem to relate to influencers in your industry? Well, you become one yourself of course! And that is exactly what Software Engineer and self-proclaimed "career changer" Laura did when she realised there was no real voice for "ordinary people" switching to tech.
If you are feeling any self-doubt or unsure of your next step in your career then this is a MUST-READ! Laura talks candidly about anxiety and imposter syndrome, offers some amazing tips and there are tangible takeaways throughout!
Get ready to feel motivated...
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO TALK WITH US TODAY, LAURA. CAN YOU START BY TELLING US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND, AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TAKE THE LEAP INTO SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT?
As a career changer, I never knew what I wanted to become, so I tried a few careers (in finance, law, and public service). I discovered that tech allows me to express myself as a person as I rarely stick to norms. As a Software Engineer, I have the opportunity to be creative, to learn, to improve, to problem solve and to work with others in creating great products. As a bonus, tech allows me to encourage others to code and improve the industry with my contribution.
WHAT DO YOU THINK STOPS OTHERS IN A SIMILAR POSITION FROM TAKING THAT FIRST STEP?
1. The unconscious bias where if you don’t see people like you — you feel that you don’t belong.
2. Erroneous self-belief that you are not smart/good enough. This is primarily because, as women, we were never encouraged by our families, schools, community or country to go into technical roles from an early age.
3. The Tech industry is not supporting authentic female leaders - female leaders think they need to adopt “masculine” traits to produce better results because the industry didn't create a space for them.
4. No training and support available for people going into tech. Most organisations only hire mid to senior devs. They expect developers to gain the knowledge somewhere else and apply to their jobs in 2 years' time to reap the benefits.
5. Rightly, Imposter Syndrome kicks in with the cumulation of the above and women get disheartened and start to question their decision of picking tech as a career, some even abandon it.
Tech is still perceived as a "difficult" subject to pick up where only the brightest would succeed and boot camps, companies, and recruiters cultivate it ignorantly. Even if women switch to tech, they rarely go for the more technical roles like software engineering.
We should normalise pursuing our goal and accept that, in order to accomplish it, we need to overcome obstacles and learn a lot of lessons. Learning to code is the same as learning any other skill, it’s just a habit and anyone can do it. Nobody is born doing calculus! (Dr Heidi Grant - Growth Mindset)
YOU TALK A LOT ABOUT IMPOSTER SYNDROME, HOW HAVE YOU STRUGGLED WITH THIS, AND HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED TO OVERCOME THIS?
Before moving to tech I called Imposter Syndrome, anxiety. I sometimes suffered from anxiety because of not finding my place in the world, changing careers, moving countries, and failed relationships, but mostly because I was feeling the odd one out. After finding tech I substituted my Anxiety with Imposter Syndrome.
I soon realised that I was worrying about things outside of my control. I read a lot of books about mental health, CBT and motivation and was able to pick up on my unhealthy habits. I made a decision to free myself from fear or worry and accepted that someone's opinion of me does not need to be my reality.
Therefore, in my first month as a Software Engineer, I made my peace with getting fired. I dropped my ego and allowed myself to make as many mistakes as possible. I asked all the questions I wanted in order to learn without worrying about what people thought. I stopped doubting myself and stopped comparing myself with others and just focused on my progress and accomplishing my goal. And finally, I surrounded myself with positive like-minded individuals and ignored anything else that didn't support me.
YOU HAVE BEGUN TO BUILD A PLATFORM THROUGH WRITING ARTICLES ON WOMEN IN TECH, AND FORGING A CAREER IN SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT. YOU EVEN MENTIONED THE WOMEN IN TECH PANEL YOU WILL BE SPEAKING ON IN THE NEW YEAR. WHAT INSPIRED THIS, AND WHY IS THIS PLATFORM SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?
After securing my first role as a developer I joined a Women in Tech event. I listened to women speak about their experiences in the hope that they might offer a formula or some great advice that would help me in my struggles of becoming a great software engineer. Suffice to say that didn't happen, there was no actionable advice provided. Moreover, I got a bit frustrated with hearing other women only praising "the superstars" and the "most talented" individuals giving the impression that ordinary people cannot just switch to tech.
In the absence of a role model, I decided to become a Speaker.
I was accepted as a Panel Speaker at the Reframe WIT Conference in March 2023. Shortly after this announcement, I started to write articles on my Medium account.
I want to provide practical and tangible advice to individuals pursuing tech and especially to software engineers. I don't want people to have to suffer from imposter syndrome and I want to empower the belief that everyone can switch to a career in tech.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE BIT OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO’S THINKING ABOUT FORGING A CAREER IN TECH – WHAT WOULD IT BE?
You start by understanding your needs, the tech industry and the companies you would like to work for.
Firstly, decide on your purpose and then you strengthen your reasons for picking it. Knowing why you've chosen your goal will help you during dark times.
Secondly, think about how to accomplish your goal e.g. going to boot camp.
Thirdly, understand the Tech Industry wall. I've written an article about this here.
Lastly, choose the right company for you. A company that provides you with a safe space for learning, where your diversity is valued, and a collaborative and Agile environment where best practices are encouraged.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE TECH INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The change that I would like to see is how we address and recognise diversity in tech along with how we support early career engineers after completing their tech course.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING IN YOUR FREE TIME?
I do so many things (＾ｖ＾)
I am a Coder 👩💻Illustrator 🦋 Otaku (๑• .̫ •๑) who draws manga (๑•́ ₃ •̀๑) loves ♡ Anime & the Japanese culture🙌 Very active with Sports ⛹️♀️🏊 🏃♀️🤸♀️🧘♀️💃 ✨Painter🌟Learning Japanese おはようSpeaker 👩🎤 advocating for Women in Tech and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 🦄 🧚♀️🧛♀️🧜♀️Early Career Engineers ❤️Obsessed with motivation and mental health.
FINALLY, DO YOU HAVE A MANTRA TO LIVE BY?
It's not whether or not I can do it. I am doing it because I want to!
Thanks, Laura you rock 🤘
Interview by Izzy Morgan-Davies