Women In Tech: Interview With Software Developer, Mary Anne Lagaspi

Graphic showing an interview with software developer Mary-Anne Legapsi

With women making up 50% of the workers in the labour market as a whole, shockingly, in tech, it’s just 26%. In this series, we hope to shed light on the reasons behind a lack of women in tech in 2023, the prejudice women in tech jobs face, the changes we should make to encourage more women into tech careers and, most importantly, the incredibly positive contributions women in tech make every day.

As a woman who also works in a male-dominated industry, I was delighted to conduct a series of interviews with some very talented women in tech. I’m very pleased to share the first interview with Software Developer Mary Anne Legaspi – a key member of VIQU’s own software development team.

What do you do and what is a typical day like for you?

I’m a Software Developer, specialising in .NET. Essentially, my role involves the programming, building, deploying and maintenance of software. I’m currently consulting for one of VIQU’s clients – a creative digital solutions business. As their sole female developer within a technical team of 14, my role is to be responsible for anything related to the development of software for the client’s key accounts.

My typical day involves collaborating with the wider technical team for requirement gathering, then building and releasing software. I do spend a lot of my day working independently, so I enjoy any opportunity to work alongside others when it is required.

Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do?

I’ve always been passionate about building. When I was a child, I had a speaker that stopped working. Without any understanding of electrics, I made it work again! So, originally, this passion took me in the direction of architecture. That changed when I went to high school, and I was introduced to flash development. It was very accessible at the time, and its capabilities intrigued me. I didn’t have a computer at home until I was seventeen years old, so my first real experiences with technology were at school. I would use Pascal programming language at school, and found that I was really good at it. This led to me agreeing to build static websites for friends – I had no idea how to do it, but I relished the challenge and found a life-long passion in technology.

Who inspired you to study Computer Science at university?

I had to make a choice between architecture and computer science. I was fortunate to have many friends – mostly male, but some females too – who all had the same interests as me. This only encouraged my enthusiasm for technology. So, I chose to do the same as them and study computer science. Plus, the computer science course was closer to my parent’s house!

Are women lost to tech at education or early career stage?

I think it’s both. At university, the few female friends I had on my course dropped out because they didn’t enjoy mathematics enough. Unfortunately, this does seem to be a common theme for why many girls and young women decide not to pursue a career in technology. I think our initial socialisation plays a big part in this.

Throughout my 10+ years as a software developer, I’ve seen a few women start as junior developers, but then decide it wasn’t for them within a year or two. I think a lack of confidence was a major factor in these decisions. I certainly remember having similar doubts in my ability at the early stages of my career, when I was predominantly surrounded by older men who had decades of experience on me.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology?

There is a severe lack of women in software development. I am starting to see more women in tech jobs, but it’s not at the rate I’d like to see, and it’s not certainly not reflected when it comes to coding.

I’m lucky that the client I’m consulting with has a technical team comprising of 12 people – 4 of them being women. You will struggle to find this ratio of men to women in many technical teams.

What do you think we should be doing more of to encourage more girls to consider a career in tech?

Make tech relatable

For me, it always feels like there is a big stereotype around men being tech leaders. Ask yourself this – can you name 5 women in tech leadership positions? I bet you can name 5 men in similar positions. I think this dominance of male storylines in tech – Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, to name a few, makes tech feel like a male industry. It alienates women of all ages, especially younger girls and women who don’t see someone they can relate to. If we want to encourage more women in tech in 2023, we must give them role models!

When I joined VIQU’s software development team, I moved my life across the world from the Philippines to Birmingham, UK. As you can imagine, it was incredibly daunting. But I felt at ease because VIQU ensured a Southeast Asian woman handled my entire recruitment process. When we first spoke, she told me about her move to the UK and how her husband was also a developer. I felt understood and like I had someone on my side who cared about my wellbeing. This trust allowed me to make the move to the UK.

Companies with technical departments need to reflect this in their own hiring processes. Do you think a young girl who is looking to make her first career step into technology can relate to a hiring panel of 40+ year old males?

Start early

We need to be instilling a passion for mathematics, science, and technology in girls and boys from an early age. I was lucky to have parents who encouraged me to play with lego as well as dolls. I think my generation is more aware of the importance of early socialisation than previous generations were, so I hope this will encourage more girls to grow up enjoying activities that involve building, counting, and exploring.

Who is your modern-day hero?

My parents. They have always supported my choice to pursue software development, even if they weren’t 100% sure it was right for me. They have always trusted my choices, and allowed me to make mistakes and grow.

Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?

Every expert starts off as a beginner. At the start of my career, I often became frustrated with my lack of knowledge. I had a lot of male colleagues and superiors whose understanding and level of knowledge made me feel overwhelmed and sometimes stupid.

So, I would tell 21-year-old Mary-Anne to allow herself time to learn and absorb, and not to put so much pressure on herself to be an expert from day one.

 

After kicking this series off with an interview with Software Developer Mary Anne, I will be moving on to explore the world of infrastructure, cloud and security through the eyes of women in tech in 2023. Keep up to date with my Women in Tech series, or find out more about VIQU’s recruitment services and our tailored approach to D&I here.

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