”I was lucky to find my passion in the IT industry!”
False beliefs about one’s own capacities
Haneen Saleh is a Software Engineer at Elektrobit in Oulu, working on various projects in a development team. She has recently graduated from university in Jordan, where she studied Electrical Engineering before changing her major to Computer Science. She undertook an internship last year in Joensuu at Arbonaut for three months, and after that she started to look for a job in Finland and received an offer from Elektrobit. It took four months for her to get a residence permit, so she had to go back to Jordan during that time, but luckily Elektrobit was willing to wait for her.
At high school Haneen did not like programming at first because she was convinced that everyone else understood everything and that she was incompetent with IT related tasks. Then she realized that she was the only one who had not participated in the mandatory summer course that provided an introduction to programming. When she finally took lessons, she realized how fun IT was and how she was unbelievably good at it. Now, when Haneen feels that she is the only person with little experience while everyone else is more senior, at least she knows that she is capable of learning. Haneen may lack experience, but she is more than eager to learn, and not afraid to ask questions. The industry is changing all the time and shaping the world like no other. It is powerful to be a part of it, but it is also challenging to stay up to date.
Gender inequality in Jordan and a lack of women in Finland
In Jordan there are many more women in the field than there are in Finland, but women are treated much worse there with sexist comments and jokes being common. On the other hand, in Finland there are so few women in the field that even though no one makes her feel different, Haneen feels that she does not belong because she differs from other employees by being the only woman.
In Jordan, where poverty is high, you do not choose your path because of passion, but because of a secure financial future. Even though many girls would be good at graphic design or art, they choose more secure paths. Haneen’s family wanted her to be a doctor, and it was difficult to them when she changed her major. Computer Science was not seen as secure option, but it was what she wanted to do, and now her family is very proud of her.
In general, people tend to stigmatize IT professionals as mathematical nerds and engineers who are only interested in video games, which is partially true. On the other hand, this may put people off joining the industry, even though the field is very open and versatile. Haneen would have loved to have studied Social Sciences if she would have been born in a more financially secure country, but she was very lucky to find her passion in the IT industry.
IT industry is full of united women
IT industry needs more women. Society encourages boys to be ambitious, and teaches girls to care for other peoples’ emotions and thoughts, but is not empowering them enough to trust themselves. Many talented women do not even try if they are lacking one part of the requirements, but many men are lacking many more areas and still keep trying. Society should encourage women to continue trying despite rejections and challenges. Women should rid society’s perfect expectations and accept that everyone is going to make mistakes, and that is the way you learn. Not understanding something the first time does not make you stupid, you just have to work more to get there. And you don’t have to do it alone.
It is amazing, inspiring and empowering to be surrounded by welcoming, capable and powerful women to whom you can relate. Last year Haneen participated in Grace Hopper Celebration 2018, which is the world’s largest technology conference for women. It was touching to listen to the speeches of amazing successful women who have changed the industry and the world even though they have faced similar struggles as Haneen. The field is extremely versatile, and it is full of different women with whom to discuss different technical topics, new technologies and career path possibilities. There are also a lot of amazing men in the field, like Haneen’s male mentor in the programming community, who was one of the first people to encourage her to continue. Men have a very important role in empowering women. The best thing is to be able to work with a lot of different and interesting people, and those people who believe in you really make a difference.