Meet Dorra, Computer Fan

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  • Tell us a bit more about your professional background.

Since I was little, I have been passionate about computers, machines. I was part of a computer club also, so it goes back to a long time ago really. My mother told me a little anecdote about my love for machines, one day she found me (I was very little at that time) taking our VHS to pieces on the floor of our living room. She thought I was being messy but instead of yelling at me she told me to put it all back, and that’s precisely what I did! 

Given my passion, I naturally decided to follow studies in computer science and chose a research master at the University of Versailles.

I thought I would stick to research and during an internship, I realised that what I really liked was developing and that I was truly made for this.

So I didn’t finish my thesis and started working in the tech industry. 

I found myself among the rare female software developers and several times, professionals in hiring and career orientation found that I had an agile mind to work as a business analyst or project manager, but I knew that I really wanted to do development. I was a bit stubborn, or rather persistent and I think it is one of the most important skills if you wish to work in that industry. I am also the kind of person who is always looking for more information on the profession, on new technologies and I tend to challenge the status quo. 

I found the perfect job opportunity in Arolla, a consulting company specialised in software craftsmanship in Paris. I have been working there for over 4 years training clients and giving conferences about methodologies and best practices such as TDD, BDD, clean code or refactoring and even team coaching. I also had the opportunity to work over a year with some of our clients’ teams as a craft coach in order to follow up with them on the skills the 2-day training program had given them access to. 

  • How did you come to work in the industry of software development? 

It was my passion but I must admit I’ve had my share of doubts. When you find yourself the only woman on the team you wonder if you are going to be able to get over the masculine clichés. I have actually written an article on the topic where I talk about my life as a woman and a software developer.

Eventually, doubts are easily set aside because it is your true passion and you cannot consider stopping what you love doing. But I understand that some women can get discouraged and change jobs. 

  • According to you, how is a woman bringing something different to the profession?

In general I don’t think so, but I believe women are more compassionate and it helps them to find and solve the issue encountered by clients. Once again, it is not common knowledge and men can be as compassionate, even more than women. 

I once heard someone telling me “you code like a man”, which is quite peculiar and made me laugh actually.

Afterwards, I asked the person what it meant and he answered that he thought my code was good, different from other women’s way of coding… In his experience, he observed a kind of vicious circle here: women keep hearing that they have nothing to do here writing code, so they do not make any efforts and are less careful in their research regarding frameworks, languages, etc. So this person came to the conclusion that men tended to code better than women, hopefully he changed his mind since then.  

  • Have you had difficulties finding your place in this tech world? Thought it was not for you maybe? 

Not really, I wasn’t paying much attention to it at the beginning, I’d rather ask myself: “am I able to learn fast enough to make my place in this job?” or “what should I do to become Tech Lead?”. It was more about professional skills and performance. 

The gender issue came up much later in my experience, after about 8 years when I finally realised that there were not enough women in this domain and that it poses a serious problem.

But then again, computers and machines became a hobby quite early in my life and I learned to evolve in a more masculine than feminine world, it’s easy to adapt yourself and you end up used to it really. 

  • Are inclusion and diversity a topic in your company? What are the actions taken to address it? 

It is an ongoing subject indeed and we are taking several actions to try to solve this lack of diversity at our level in the company. 

Firstly, we strongly encourage female co-optation. Then we noticed there weren't a lot of skilled and senior women in software engineering, consequently we focused our efforts on hiring juniors. 

We even opened a subsidiary dedicated to juniors from 0 to 5 year experience in order to train them and teach them development best practices.

We make sure that their first mission on the market is with “kind” clients, so that after a first successful experience, we are able to keep them in the company and help them grow. 

  • How do you explain the scarce presence of women in the industry? 

I would say it’s because computer science is not sufficiently present in education programs. We don’t properly raise awareness on this very interesting job from primary to high school. 

Moreover, if you haven’t had the chance to discover it during your childhood, there’s little hope that you will discover it later. Girls are less likely to grow up in an environment where they’re encouraged to take an interest in computers, machines and other IT stuff. 

  • What would you say to a woman wishing to work in the tech industry and culture? 

I believe that first, you need to be very curious because it is a job in which you keep learning everyday. The industry is evolving at such a fast pace that there are always new tools, languages, frameworks and such. You also need to be patient because you are going to face technical issues that are quite complicated to solve and you will have to be persistent to solve them, but that is true for other jobs as well of course. 

To evolve in this industry and job, I can only recommend that you turn to people with a kind and watchful eye to provide moral and technical support if need be. There are valuable initiatives like the "Duchess France" who have a peer to peer system which is precious I believe or the "Ladies of code" also. 

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