Women in Python: Success Stories, Career Advice, and Life Lessons

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Women in Python: Success Stories, Career Advice, and Life Lessons
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Table of Contents
  • 1. Zara Maria
    • What’s your best advice for women starting out in Python?
  • 2. Melissa Weber Mendonça
    • What’s your day-to-day like as a Python engineer?
    • What’s your best advice for women who want to be Python engineers?
    • What’s a challenge you’ve faced in your career so far?
    • What’s your advice for someone who wants to contribute to open source?
  • 3. Sophie Brannon
    • What’s your best advice for women who want to learn Python?
    • Where should newbies look to find Python career opportunities?
  • 4. Melanie
    • What is it like being a female Pythonista in a male-dominated industry?
    • What’s your best advice for women starting out in Python?
  • 5. Dawn Wages
    • What’s your typical day as a Python engineer like?
    • How do Python engineers typically collaborate?
    • What’s your best advice for women who want to build successful careers as Python engineers?
  • 6. Uffa Modey
    • What’s your day-to-day like as a Pythonista?
    • What’s your best advice for women who want to have successful Python engineering careers?
  • Final thoughts on women in Python

Python is one of the top 11 most in-demand programming languages in the US these days, according to Indeed. This makes it a viable and potentially lucrative career path for people in tech, and women are no exception here.

However, building a profitable career in Python can be challenging. Most newbies, especially young women, may not be sure where to start. And even when they do, the learning process can seem isolating and overwhelming.

To help you navigate your career path, we’ve gathered insights, lessons, and advice from 6 notable women in Python:

  1. Zara Maria
  2. Melissa Weber Mendonça
  3. Sophie Brannon
  4. Melanie
  5. Dawn Wages
  6. Uffa Modey

Read on to learn what they had to say about breaking into the world of Python as a woman—and how to become a success story like them yourself!

1. Zara Maria

Industry: e-learning

Zara Maria is the co-founder of Eleven Ace and Code Ace—an online learning platform that teaches children aged 8–15 how to code.

What’s your best advice for women starting out in Python?

If you’re starting out, the best thing you can do is start building a profile for yourselves. The results are incomparable. A few pointers are ranking in competitive platforms like HackerEarth and taking on a few projects either as an intern or a freelancer.

You can use this opportunity to explore platforms, tools, and technologies that are based on Python. The beauty of a programming language like Python is that there is always more to learn or a better way to do things.

2. Melissa Weber Mendonça

Industry: open-source software consulting

Connect with Melissa on Twitter: @Melissawm

Melissa Weber Mendonça is an applied mathematician and former university professor turned software engineer. She works at Quansight, developing open-source software and working on consulting projects.

Melissa is a 2020 fellow of the Python Software Foundation. Over the course of her career, she has been actively involved with the Brazilian Python community and believes that open-source contributions can go beyond code.

What’s your day-to-day like as a Python engineer?

I work on a number of different projects in different roles. My work involves code, docs, community, and people management. Mostly, one of my big takeaways is that engineering is more than just writing code—you have to interact with your team and all the different stakeholders in your project.

What’s your best advice for women who want to be Python engineers?

I’ll say, find a good support system. Other women in similar roles as you; people who have the same responsibilities. Connect with them and find a place to exchange experiences and feel comfortable. This has been a huge game changer for me, and it might also be for you!

In her interview with the Scientific Python Community, Melissa also answered the following questions:

What’s a challenge you’ve faced in your career so far?

I think because of the transition from “academia” to “developer,” I called myself a junior-senior. I had to relearn a bunch of stuff, even though I had a lot of experience in academia. And so, figuring out the right processes and workflow for software development was sometimes a challenge.

What’s your advice for someone who wants to contribute to open source?

I think the basic advice that everyone gives, and I don’t know if it’s correct or not, is to scratch your own itch.

Find a project that you’re interested in that will maybe help you do your work better, or something that you’re already familiar with and that interests you, that actually drives you to contribute and to offer that time to your open-source project.

Find something that really sparks joy, and this will make you feel more comfortable and motivated to contribute.

Head over here to watch Melissa’s full interview with the Scientific Python Community.

3. Sophie Brannon

Industry: search engine optimization

Connect with Sophie on Twitter: @SophieBrannon

Sophie Brannon is the Client Services Director at Absolute Digital Media—an award-winning SEO agency in the UK. Before taking on her new role, she was the Head of Search Engine Optimization at the same agency.

What’s your best advice for women who want to learn Python?

Join a community. There’s a big community, particularly on Twitter but also elsewhere, that can support you as you learn, like the Women Who Code and Women in Tech SEO communities.

There are also Discord servers of groups of Pythonistas (shout out to Orit Mutznik, @OritSiMu, who introduced me to this) and plenty of women in the community that, if you don’t know about them, you probably wouldn’t even realize who can answer your questions.

Also, there’s no such thing as a silly question in Python. We all have to start somewhere! Connect with fellow Python lovers of all skills, and it’ll make the transition far easier.

Where should newbies look to find Python career opportunities?

It depends on what kind of role you’re looking for. If you’re looking for fully remote roles, I’d recommend Remoters (although this is a little more generic and digital marketing-focused, it’s niched to remote-only jobs).

Python.org has a dedicated jobs section specific to Python job opportunities across a range of industries and positions, so it’s a great resource, too. And again, within the communities mentioned above and others, there are always people who know people.

4. Melanie

Industry: e-learning

Melanie is a Python developer and owner of Raspians—a beginner-focused site to help people get acquainted with and learn about Raspberry PIs.

What is it like being a female Pythonista in a male-dominated industry?

There is no denying that the tech and software space is still very male-dominated, and working as a female in some of these organizations can be quite intimidating. I consider myself very lucky as a woman in tech, as my time as a Python developer in both small startups and larger teams was generally very good.

As with all workplaces and industries—this is largely due to having had some great employers, managers, and colleagues. I am definitely aware that this isn’t the case for many women in tech, unfortunately, and the space has a long way to go when it comes to equality and opportunity for women.

What’s your best advice for women starting out in Python?

My advice to women starting out is to do your research on any company you’re looking to work for. It’s impossible to discover every minor detail about a workplace before starting there.

However, the internet has given a lot more transparency to workplace cultures nowadays, so you can often get a good feel for a place long before submitting an application. Know your worth, build your skills, and be meticulous in finding a workplace that operates with fair and just values based on merit, not gender.

5. Dawn Wages

Industry: information technology

Connect with Dawn on Twitter: @DawnWagesSays

Dawn Wages is a Python Developer Advocate and Product Manager at Microsoft. In her previous roles, she was a Senior Research Developer at the Wharton School and a UX Developer at Lenovo.

What’s your typical day as a Python engineer like?

As a Python Engineer, I’m constantly looking at documentation, writing documentation and updating my teammates and our task board—usually Jira, but sometimes Trello. I am constantly learning.

I also like to take breaks from my screen, because it does require consecutive hours of looking at a monitor. I try to take a full-hour lunch in the middle of the day and periodic breaks. I think this is the healthiest way to code, especially if I can get some time to move my body during my break.

The day-to-day varies based on what company one works for. Something common for the daily or weekly cadence of most engineers is the “standup.” It is an opportunity for everyone on the team to give a short synopsis of what they’ve been working on.

For my current team as a PM and the last two teams (as a Python/Django Research Engineer and as a Django/Full-Stack + React/JavaScript Freelance Web Developer), we did our standups weekly, but I’ve had a number of roles that did standups daily.

The goal of the standup is to talk about what you have done, what you’re about to do, and if you’re having any blockers.

How do Python engineers typically collaborate?

As an engineer, I’m also communicating with my team a lot. At Microsoft, we use Teams; in my previous roles, we mostly used Slack. I’ve worked with consulting clients that use Discord, and I’ve heard of teams a long time ago that used Skype (not very common at all!).

The key is that there are lots of asynchronous messages going back and forth in order to solve problems.

A common misconception is that engineers are siloed and solve the biggest engineering problems all by themselves. Although there is absolutely a degree of independence in programming that doesn’t exist in other jobs, software teams have an expectation of being highly communicative and very collaborative.

One of the common things we do includes “pair programming” or “rubber ducking” variations of activities that describe solving problems with a partner about your code. Sometimes you will pair program with someone, which entails one person writing the code and the other person on the call watching and assisting.

It’s a great way to be thoughtful about code and have another person who may also need to be familiar with the code to get context at the same time. Some people consider it “inefficient,” but in my experience, I many times end up with better code, a better rapport with my teammate, and better documentation.

Plus, another person on the team becomes aware of a feature in case they need to continue code based off what we wrote together.

Another type of communication is “rubber ducking,” which is mostly used when there is a bug or a problem to solve, and one needs to talk through the current requirements, their current approach, and alternative approach to figure out the next steps to solve the problem.

Sometimes it’s good to rubber duck when you “don’t even know where to start” or if you have an obscure error that you can find elsewhere/common solutions aren’t working.

What’s your best advice for women who want to build successful careers as Python engineers?

My advice is to continue not to be afraid to reach for what is possible. All of the problems in any other technical field also exist in programming and engineering. Some may not be as violent/virulent as others, but they still exist.

We face misogyny regularly, and it is common for others to assume that you are less technical than your peers—women even do it to other women.

It was important for me to figure out where to draw the line. I check in with myself regularly to see how I feel my working relationship with my teammates is and try not to assume responsibility where I do not have ownership and recognition.

I have drawn my lines less leniently in other areas of my working life, and I communicate my needs with my peers without apologies. Each person will have to make their own decisions where their lines are, but I encourage women to trust themselves that they are valuable people in the workplace and deserve the ability to make those decisions.

All that being said, there is definitely a large wave of engineering organizations with progressive policies and culture coupled with the actions necessary to create a safe workplace for women and people of marginalized genders.

I have had some of the best coworkers since transitioning into tech and continue to find more and more places where I feel safe as a black woman. I hope that all women and people of marginalized genders are able to experience the career benefits of being in tech, career stability, as well as working in the safe spaces that I know are out there.

Every day, we, as a collective, push the workforce a little farther in the right direction—making it a place that welcomes women and treats them with respect.

6. Uffa Modey

Industry: mobile app development

Connect with Uffa on Twitter: @PythonKing

Uffa Modey is a Graduate Python Developer at Hedgehog Lab—a leading mobile and web application development company in the UK.

What’s your day-to-day like as a Pythonista?

As a Python developer, I develop the backend for mobile and web applications using Django, Django REST Framework, and a number of other tools.

Some of the tools and technologies I commonly use include PyCharm as a Python programming IDE, GitHub for collaboration on API projects with my team, Docker for running containerised versions of the project I am working on locally on my PC, and Postman for testing and documenting API endpoints I develop.

What’s your best advice for women who want to have successful Python engineering careers?

A successful career as a Python developer can be achieved by gaining experience on building Python-based projects and learning how to share the projects with collaborators.

Women who want to be successful Python developers should also consider the specific use case or aspect of Python they want to pursue in order to have a well-tailored experience while learning Python fundamentals.

Python is quite versatile and may be used in a number of sectors, such as applications development, robotics, machine learning, data science, and artificial intelligence.

Understanding the aspect of Python development that they are interested in from the onset of their learning journey allows you to focus on learning the specific library and methods that are used in that sector.

Also, building Python-based projects and hosting them on open-source repositories such as GitHub will help you build a portfolio of projects that you can showcase to potential employers.

Final thoughts on women in Python

By observing the career progression of these 6 women, we hope you’ll get inspired to succeed as a woman in Python.

Since STX Next is the largest Python software agency in Europe, we have plenty of resources on our programming language of choice that you should find worthwhile. Here’s a selection of a few to get you started:

Are you a woman (or a man, for that matter) looking to start your career in Python? If so, we’d argue you couldn’t be in a better place. We’re always hiring and we don’t care if you have little to no experience—juniors, regulars, and seniors alike are all welcome. Check out our job postings and apply today!

And if you have any questions you’d like to ask us about your Python project or anything else related to software development, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. We’ll get back to you in no time!

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