It’s no surprise that the technology industry has a long way to go when it comes to encouraging more women to choose a tech-driven career path. We know that only about 30 percent of the tech industry is made up of women, despite the fact that women make up 59 percent of the labor force in the U.S. Last year, we wrote a blog post focused on how we believe women can be more successful in the tech industry through mentorship. Here’s an excerpt from that post:
“...one of her professors took the time to mentor her, which she says is absolutely the key to her success in pursuing a career in this field. That fact didn’t come as a surprise to us. At The Iron Yard, our entire model is built on mentorship. Every campus has unique mentor relationships with tech leaders in their cities, every class is exposed to a number of mentors, and our instructors are chosen because they have a true passion for mentoring each student at The Iron Yard.”
We have an amazing group of women on our team, from executive-level leaders to campus directors to instructors. Every day, we work with Advisory Board members, hiring partners and tech industry leaders - many of whom are female, and most of whom want nothing more than to encourage other women to join this fast-paced, creative and opportunity-filled industry.
We’ve also had brilliant women come through The Iron Yard as students. These women have already taken a huge first step toward a career in technology. Most of them face the next big step after graduation: interviewing for their first job in the industry.
We recently asked three of the female leaders who are heavily involved in our career support program - an Advisory Board member and two Campus Directors - for tips about interviewing, specifically for females.
Their answers reveal the reality that tips for successful interviewing are, for the most part, gender agnostic. And that’s a great thing. While we know some biases still exist, at the end of the day the ingredients for success can (and should) be helpful for anyone who is facing their first interview in the tech world. All of these tips touch on subjects we discuss deeply in our career support curriculum. Read on, then let us know: what tips helped you land your first job in tech?
1. Be prepared to share your story. Be prepared to share your past relevant experience and your coding abilities. Hiring managers want to hear where you've been, where you want to go and why you chose coding. For women in particular, I think it’s important to remember not to apologize or use “disclaimers” for any part of your story (for example, don’t start an answer with, “well, I haven’t really done this before, but…”). Interviewers will take those disclaimers as a cue that you are insecure in your abilities. Instead, this is your opportunity to sell yourself in a concise manner and lean in with a follow-up question.
2. Be an active listener. Actively listen to the answers that your interviewer shares with you. Take notes so that you don't miss points you would like to expand upon later in the interview. A male mentor once encouraged me to, “ask, then stop talking.” When we’re nervous, it’s easy to overcompensate by continuing to talk - and researchers have pointed out that women are worse about this than men. Be conscious not to focus on asking your next question and that you stay focused on the current conversation.
3. Negotiate. Women sometimes feel it's too aggressive to ask for money. Take the time to research salary ranges for the position you are exploring. Have a salary range in mind when an offer is presented to you. Think about how you formulate your ask, and don’t feel the need to justify it. It's okay to give thoughtful feedback and state your range if the offer comes in lower than you anticipated.
1. Don’t be afraid to showcase your skills: In many cases, I hear from interviewees who believe that branding yourself could seem like bragging. As someone who has hired and talked to thousands of graduates and tenured developers, I can tell you - nothing could be further from the truth. Boost up your GitHub account, link to your portfolio, bring examples of your work, brag about any awards or recognition, update your LinkedIn, or even ask for letters of recommendation. You want to be different, so set yourself apart from the masses and exude confidence when describing your coding skills in interviews.
2. Make sure you are interviewing the company (while they are interviewing you): Gone are the days where a panel of suit-and-tie interviewers sat you down in a conference room and fired questions at you from across the table. Interviewing is, and should be, a two-way street. Be prepared to ask questions about the company’s goals, the culture, the career path, and more specifically, what you will be doing every day in this job. Ask to shadow the team, or ask fellow developers what they think. Any great company will willingly open the door to questions, and should offer an inside lense into their culture.
3. Professionalism is not a lost art: You know the old saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression?” That has always stuck with me, especially as a female professional. Even if the company you are interviewing with has a casual dress code (think board shorts and flip flops) and dogs running around the office, you should still dress like you are, well, going on an interview! Interviewers read a lot from confidence (be confident, ladies!), body language and how seriously you are taking the process. More importantly, dressing the part can do wonders for your mental state to take away those interview jitters as you’re meeting new faces, and give you the confidence to make that lasting impression.
1. Be yourself! For our female grads especially, don’t try to be something you’re not or fit some sort of preconceived mold. Creating opportunities for people to see your best (and real) self means preparation. Practice. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you're feeling your best for the interview. If you're not a morning person or you’re a zombie after 3pm, see if you can set up a different time to come in. This isn't the time to cut out caffeine or change up your routine.
2. Follow up. It’s always a good idea to send a follow-up email to each person in the interview, as well as others who were involved in setting it up. Personalize it to include something you may have learned during the interview that spurred you on to research more. In my experience, remembering people's names can go a long way!
3. Never stop learning. Every interview is a learning opportunity. Whether or not you get the job, you’ll learn something about yourself and about what types of companies or people you really want to work with. I try to remind ALL of my grads to reflect after each interview and to be honest with themselves - not only about how to improve their own interview skills, but also about how they feel about the opportunities they are reaching for. I encourage many of my female grads to work one-on-one with a mentor (I meet with them regularly, but it’s also helpful to meet with one of our female hiring partners or Advisory Board members) throughout the career search process.