On Being a Female in a Male Dominated Profession

As a Senior in high school I was torn between several different future professions. I wanted to be an English teacher (kind of amusing for someone that is Chinese). I wanted to be a computer programmer. And I wanted to be a Biomedical Engineer. I chose to major in Biomedical Engineering. Mainly because I really liked Biology. I really didn’t understand the engineering component. But I was a good student, so I thought I could figure it out. 🙂

I chose the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) since it was one of the few colleges in the area that offered Biomedical Engineering. That is how I ended up in what I jokingly referred to as an “all-boys” school. Eventually I learned that I didn’t really enjoy the engineering component of my major and I switched to Business and Computer Systems.

I was very shy in high school and I often felt out of place and awkward. I just wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I came into my own at MSOE. I finally learned that being different could be a good thing. I found it easy to be around males, it felt simpler than being around other females. After graduation, I worked at a small company where I had interned during college. After two years I moved to the company where I am now working. I celebrated my 21 year anniversary last month. Quite an accomplishment for someone in a technical field.

I progressed from Software Engineer to a Project Leader. My official title today is Senior Technical Architect. It was not easy, I had a manager that believed a male should be promoted ahead of me even though numerous people stated their recommendations for me. I had to prove that I could do the job before I was formally promoted. For awhile I was the only female Project Leader at my company. Once a manager asked me if he could bring some potential customers by my office, so they could see that there were women (well, at least one woman) in a technical lead position. True story.

I wish I could say that a lot has changed in 20 plus years, but there are still very few female software engineers at my company. I do see how education has changed with my two young daughters. I think today a girl is empowered to believe that she can do anything, whether it be with future careers or sports. And technology is definitely not as scary as it once was. I am hopeful that more women will enter professions that once were deemed “male”. I am hopeful that women are truly treated as equals. I am hopeful that my girls believe and are allowed to be whatever they want to be.

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