Being Female in a Male-Dominated Team

For those of you who do not know, I am currently part of a 2-year IT rotational program. A little over 3 weeks ago, I started my last rotation on the IT architecture team. And man… it’s like a whole different world than anything I’ve experienced.

My Career Trajectory

My drive to learn technical things came because I didn’t like my dad’s reaction when I told him I was going to take a Java programming class in high school. He kept going, “Really, honey? Programming is hard. Are you sure you want to take that class?” It wasn’t that my dad didn’t believe in me because I was a girl, it was because he didn’t want me to quit halfway if things got too hard. He was right – programming is hard. I cried so much senior year of high school because of that class.

Then I took another Java programming class in college. I cried a lot because of that class as well. Sure, I tried and failed twice (Asian fail, not real fail), but I enjoyed the feeling of having the code to this secret language.

Which brings me to present time. My current career plan is to be in roles where I can be the translator between the technical and non-technical folks. In order to be successful in those positions, you should be able to communicate to both sides in their own terminology. On the technical side, it’s important to have a basic to intermediate level of knowledge on whatever technical product or group you are going to be working with.

My third rotation was more business-facing, and I was itching for a challenge that had more of a technical component. I did warn my manager that I didn’t know much about the world of architecture, and he said this would be great learning experience. So here we are… and here I am.

Only Need 1 Hand to Count the Number of Females in the Room

I arrived early for the first team meeting I was a part of. As all these guys filed into the room for our team meeting, “whoa” was the only thought that came to my mind. When the meeting started, I counted: 2 females versus 18 males. Previous male-dominated teams that I’ve worked on did not have this bad of a ratio. Afterwards, I went up to the other woman and told her, “Thank goodness you’re here.” She said, “I’m actually moving over to another team.” Darn.

The first thing the director mentioned during our one-on-one meeting was that he is quite aware the lack of gender diversity in the team. Oh good, because I didn’t want to be the one to bring it up. Then he said that they were all a bunch of really nice, nerdy guys. Perfect, because I love connecting with people who are passionate about what they do.

Architects are of a Different Breed

Observations I’ve made about architects so far:

  • They have a vendetta against paper. During one-on-ones with both my manager and the director, they both stopped me when I started to write on my notepad. Why?! Why are you stopping me?! I don’t have a good memory – hence, the writing!
  • They dislike formal meetings. I tried to set up weekly one-on-ones with my manager and he stopped me in my tracks. I’m slowly getting used to walking into his cube whenever I want and casually have hour-long meetings. Friends, this goes against all the fibers in my body that loves to plan. I even plan to be spontaneous! Sounds like an oxymoron, but makes a little bit of sense the more you think about it, no?
  • They love to roam around and huddle. If they aren’t in a formal meetings, they roam around to each other’s cubes and talk about stuff, or have group huddles near stairwells and doors. I wonder what they talk about…
  • I’ve always been the person who believed that if I finished my work and there’s nothing for me to do today, then I’m gone for the day. At one point, I must have seemed like I was waiting for my manager’s approval to leave, so he said I could do whatever I want because he trusts that I’ll finish my work. Thanks, but it felt weird that my manager said that to me because that’s not the image of corporate America.
  • They love to talk about technical stuff and go off on tangents.

I thought I was a pretty chill gal, but these guys are flexi-chill to the max.

I’m a little overwhelmed by the sea of men on the team. However, I won’t let it stop me from achieving my goals: learn as much as I can about the worlds of architecture, big data, and cloud; earn their respect and my seat at the table; and make a positive impact on the team.

This will be a series as I wade through the most male-dominated team I’ve ever been on. Stay tuned!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: