herCAREER: In your experience, what is crucial for a successful transition into tech?
Henrieke Max: Transitioning into tech requires relevant skills, but a strong network is equally as important. I have found that women, including myself, often underestimate the importance of the latter.
It is also important to familiarize yourself with job descriptions at tech companies, and contemplate how your existing skills could be of good use. Identify what skill gaps you may have, and think about how you can gradually build upon your skills, alongside your current job.
Remember to invest in your professional network – job referrals and insights into how tech companies operate and hire are invaluable. I joined FrauenLoop, an organization based in Berlin, which offers programming courses to women from all backgrounds to enable them to venture into a career in tech. Through FrauenLoop, I was able to acquire programming skills from scratch, while also engaging with a community of women already working in IT.
There are many initiatives and programs targeted at women and other underrepresented groups in tech, which offer trainings, access to networks and moral support – both remotely and in person. Make use of them, and start applying for jobs before feeling “ready”.
herCAREER: Why do you think it’s also a win-win for tech companies when women apply to work at them?
Henrieke Max: Identifying (and being identified) as a woman or man shapes how we perceive the world around us in many ways – what we pay attention to, which values we hold, how we approach challenges. Tech companies that have a homogenous workforce when it comes to gender, will never reach their full potential. They are at high risk of designing biased products and services, which will make it even more difficult to attract female applicants.
herCAREER: Why do you consider it important to discuss myths around the skills required for a successful career in tech?
Henrieke Max: There are many preconceived ideas of how a “technical” person should be. For instance, I still encounter the “myth of the programming genius”. In actuality, learning a coding language, or how to program, is nothing but a muscle you can train. It requires practice, patience, and an approach that fits the person’s individual learning style. You do not have to be innately good at programming to eventually become a good (or fantastic) programmer. Just because you were not the child that built a computer, it does not mean you cannot acquire solid coding skills as an adult. There are so many ways to learn, at your own pace, using videos, reading books, completing coding challenges, interacting in a classroom with others. For example, if you love learning with others, there are just as many options these days as there are for self-study.
Job descriptions are often intensely focused on core technical skills. However, my experience, in practice, is that if you rely on these skills alone, your career in tech will ultimately reach a dead end. Tech companies are realizing more and more how essential soft skills are – such as clear communication, collaboration, business savviness and interpersonal skills – irrespective of your role.
herCAREER: At herCAREER, the focus is on professional exchanges, which is based on the personal experiences and the knowledge of the sparring partners. As an organizer, it is also in our best interest to support women beyond the exhibition and make our networks accessible. We would therefore like to ask you if you would also act as a sparring partner in addition to the expo participation. If so, we would ask you to name the topics for which you would act as a sparring partner in bullet points.
- Managing data teams
- Career changes
- Supporting women from non-STEM backgrounds in tech
herCAREER: Are there any topics on which you personally are looking for a sparring partner and would like to continue a professional and personal exchange? Then name keywords for your topics.
- Founding a company
- Continued learning/hands-on experience in management
Use one of the ways to contact the interviewee and refer to the herCAREER community interview.