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A Woman in Tech without a Tech degree

September 18, 2020
Angelica Carrillo

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I almost failed computer classes in school. I taught myself to code and taught over 500 girls to code and I started a tech startup. All without being techy or engineering background.

A woman in tech without a tech background can be successful

I’m a woman in tech but I don’t have a tech degree. I am a big believer that you don’t need a technical background to be successful in technology. I’m a perfect example of this with my business degree, marketing background, and non-technical skill set. In fact, it’s this skill set and willingness to learn that will help many women succeed in technology.

From failed computer classes in school to Woman in Tech

My fear of technology was rooted in childhood, growing up I didn’t have a computer at home like older generations I thought computers were too expensive, something only universities could afford to invest in.

I was 7. I just moved to a new school that had bought computers and it was our first exam on how to use a computer. And I mean basics. The big task was how to add a new page on Word. And I froze!

I didn’t know how to add a new page. Something so simple!

All the other students were done with the assignment and I didn’t know how to do it so, I pressed the spacebar again and again and AGAIN until I got a blank page. My hands were sweating. I had pressed the space bar at least a thousand times.

I was afraid of people uncovering my secret: I knew nothing about computers. When the teacher came to my place, he realized that there was something off. He was looking at me and back at the page.

Everything looked right on the outside, it looked like a new page, but if someone clicked on it they could see it wasn’t actually blank, it was written with a lot of spaces. When he looked at me again and back at the page in disbelief, I knew he had uncovered my secret, I had one page with a ton of spaces.

I wasn’t born a techie. I made myself one.

I’m telling you this story not only for you to laugh that in time I didn’t even know how to add a new page. But to show you that no matter where you are starting, we can all learn.

Fears and Naysayers

When I left my corporate job, I knew I had to start a tech startup, the problem is I had no idea about tech. My biggest contact with technology was Excel.

On top of my own fears, I had some people tell me I wasn’t technical enough. We all have those loved ones that worry about our future. They worried I was crazy for trying to learn to code on my own when I already had a successful career when I already had a path in front of me. Starting developing this skill set feels a lot like starting over. But we are always moving forward.

To be honest, nowadays coding is not my favorite thing to do, but around that time I was so fired up. I used all those voices of “I can’t”, including my own, to be the fire that kept me going. I end up not only learning to code but making a coding camp for girls to learn to code. So they never had to pass for the same thing I passed once. When you make your personal struggle to your why on how to serve people, it gives you more energy than you could ever have. You stop doing it only for you, but for everyone, that was told they can’t.

You don’t need a tech background to be successful in tech

I had a friend who started a publication and was looking for guests, who contacted me and open with this message: “I want to have you but you are not a woman in tech because you don’t have a STEM degree.” STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Whenever I encounter women tearing other women down instead of elevating them, it’s a reflection of her own fears reflected back at you. It reflects more on them than on you. This friend doesn’t have a STEM background either, she has a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) degree. She was saying out loud the lie she actually told herself “You are not techie enough”.

Being the only woman in tech in the room is not a badge of honor

This is why I wanted to write this blog, you might face comments and micro-aggressions in a typically male-dominated industry. But, we don’t have to be the only woman in tech in the room, in a panel, or in an event and wear that as a badge of honor. There is more than one seat for us. We don’t have to fight each other for the only seat at the table. We can create more seats and lift each other up.

Anyone can be successful in tech, regardless of their background. Also, let’s think for a second Steve Jobs didn’t have a STEM degree, and not because of that he wasn’t invited to tech events. He didn’t even have a college degree. Half of Silicon Valley doesn’t have a degree either and are tech CEOs. Your degree doesn’t define you. To all the women in STEAM who actually picked a major in science, my respect, we need more of you.

In contrast, in my career, I’ve crossed paths with real friends who know my story and know that I’m proud to be a woman in tech. I’m a woman in tech even if I don’t have a tech startup or I don’t work as a developer, I’m a woman in tech even if I wasn’t the super techy kid but my curiosity took me to the tech industry.

I taught over 500 girls to code with a business degree

Teaching girls to code was a way to help myself, as I learned more and faster than I ever had. By having them share their questions and their thoughts I had to learn things I probably on my own would never have questioned.

I learn how to code websites and apps in a week. This ability was very useful, and the best is that now I can do apps and websites with no-code tools like Webflow and ShowIt.

I learned that no one limits you unless you allow it. No one gets to tell “you can’t”, or “you are not <technical>”. Unless you listen to it and never try it on your own. It’s not real.

You can learn any skill. Re-skilling is a natural thing, and we all can do it.

A Coding Bootcamp as a Woman in Tech

Update: This year 2022, I joined a coding bootcamp to learn how to code in Solidity, a blockchain development language. I taught myself to code almost a decade ago and my coding skills were very rusty, to say the least. But my curiosity for web3 was bigger than my technical limitations.

The experience of being in a cohort with top developers who wanted to build blockchains -not just- to understand how a jpg of a monkey could be so damn valuable. It was overwhelming. I was constantly at the bottom of the class, scoring low on the coding tests. By being the person who knows the least in a room, I got to learn exponentially higher.

Women in Tech Working as a Team

And I realized that my nontechnical skills make me special when it came to designing, putting up a pitch deck, and the soft skills of making a team work – like a team. I finally understood that I don’t need to be the best coder, or feel bad for barely keeping up with the technical side. Because I can work with the best developers, and be technical enough to understand them.

Just like there are amateur runners who train for a marathon (me as a self-taught developer), there are ultramarathoners (senior software developers) who run multiple marathons. And we can create magic because we can work together. One of my teammates was a senior software developer, and another of my teammates was already a solidity developer who wanted to polish her skills. I’m in awe of what they pull off in one night of coding. It took us longer to decide what to build than actually building it. But that’s my skill, I can speak business and tech and merge them together to create solutions.

Woman In Tech build the future

Being a woman in tech doesn’t mean that you have to be technical. Doesn’t mean you have to code or have a degree in STEM. It means that you want to create technology, innovate, and create solutions, that you are in the tech industry, you work at a tech company. It means you are looking ahead, and curious about building the future.

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Fueled by passion, and too much coffee. I'm here to help ambitious founders, and entrepreneurs create their perfect business. Grow your business, your network and your net worth.

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Fueled by passion, and too much coffee. I'm here to help ambitious founders,  and entrepreneurs create their perfect business. Grow your business, your network and your net worth.
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