Meet Morgane, Software Engineer at Alan
- Tell us a bit about your professional background.
I discovered programming through my studies in biology, so not in an engineering school, and quite liked it.
After 2 years managing a bar, I wanted to get back to computer science. To facilitate the transition, I followed a 3-month training programme with a part about web development. The enormous asset of this training was that it came with a job at the end and this is how I joined Capgemini, a large consulting company, and started my mission in Enedis — a well known electricity distributor in France. This is a very large company with a lot of processes and a strong sense of hierarchy and I was just a development consultant in a team of non-tech people. It was a good experience because I got to develop a range of customised tools to help the team internally and worked closely with all of them. Being so close to my clients was quite nice also.
Following this, I wanted to work in a job related to data so I joined Kpler, which is a company that tracks containers in real time especially for oil so it was particularly interesting for traders and those sort of profiles. I came in as a Data Engineer Support and took care of any technical issues regarding the platform. The problem was that in this kind of job, you never have time to focus fully on the reported problem, so, I started looking for another position.
I went to a meetup organised by the Ladies of Code Community in Paris, where I met a developer from Alan who talked to me about the company and the job and it sounded great! I knew I wanted to continue my career there but they have the reputation of hiring only experienced and high profiles. So I thought I would have to wait before applying but eventually some friends convinced me that I was the right person for the job and I found myself submitting an application. Next thing you know, I was hired and now I’ve been here a year now! Alan is a health insurance company but their ambition goes beyond and is to be a partner in health for everyone, starting with parents with the Alan Baby app. I am a Software Engineer and there are around 60 of us now on the team!
- How did you come to work in the software development industry?
By chance really, during my studies in biology where I followed this programming class which was part of the mathematics programme. We had only one or two hours per week and everything seemed logical, even natural, that’s why I liked it and wanted to follow that path.
If I hadn’t taken that class, I would never have discovered computer science and as I wasn’t following specific studies in this field, I would probably never have heard of these jobs.
Originally, when I wanted to change career and go back to programming, I wanted to be data-oriented because we would do a lot of data analysis during my studies. But as maths wasn't really my thing, plus I felt it was difficult to get back to it despite of online courses, I ended up choosing programming with the idea in mind to come back to data afterwards. Now, I’m glad I made this choice and I actually don’t want to move into data anymore.
- Do you think that women are bringing something different to the overall profession in any way?
I rarely had the opportunity to work alongside women and I suspect most of the differences come from a person’s character rather than gender. I would say that women tend to be more open and disposed to dialogue unlike some men who may seem arrogant. But then again, you find arrogant women and open-minded men also.
- Have you had difficulties finding your place in the tech world? Or maybe thought it was not for you?
It is not easy to convince yourself that you belong here. I sometimes experienced impostor syndrome and was reluctant to apply for a job at Alan. This was partly due to their high standard requirements and the fact that they tend to hire more experienced profiles.
It happened sometimes when I thought to myself that I was the only woman and I think it is a pity, for me as a coworker belonging in a social group, but also for the industry.
- How do you explain the scarce presence of women in the industry?
You have to look back to the 1980’s to see that women have been progressively pushed toward the exit in the tech world. Before that you could find women programming but this job was not very highly considered and when its status began to increase, men took their place and since then it has been viewed as a male job. Just look at how computers and computer games were marketed: you would always see a father and his son in front of the computer.
This is strongly rooted in the culture. In Malaysia, for example, these jobs are not stereotyped as masculine but rather feminine. This is because it is a practical job and women can stay at home, it is not physically tiring and the technical part is more related to women as the user part is more for men because they will have to go and talk to the users.
This is a matter of representation and culture in the end. There is an excellent French book called Les Oubliées du numérique by Isabelle Collet* on this topic.
The first image you have in mind when thinking of someone working in tech, software development, etc., is the one of a man alone playing video games in a dark room but this just isn't the case anymore! It's not attractive, less again for girls and women, and it wasn’t actually an option in my eyes until I accidentally found myself enjoying the subject during a class.
However, more and more companies in the industry are starting to take an interest in the matter of diversity and they are looking even more for female developers, which is very positive and shows that things are moving forward - but I find it is still limited to certain environments, like startups for instance.
- Are inclusion and diversity topics in your company? Are there any actions taken to address it?
Yes, I would say that it is a subject at Alan. The company is transparent, we see what is happening in other departments and we have access to all figures. The goal is to recruit enough women to reach 20% across the company. There was a time when we reached that goal, but since then the company has grown and this percentage is now below 20%.
In the tech industry, this is quite an achievement to reach 20 % women in the team, but in general, it's simply not enough.
I have made my interest in the subject known and I've been taking part in all meetings regarding this topic, so, I can confirm that today inclusion and diversity are very priority for Alan.
- What would you say to a woman aspiring towards a career in the tech industry or hoping to immerse themselves in the culture?
Do it! It’s not complicated if you give yourself the means to go through with it. I would also add that it is very important to surround yourself with a strong community like the great group Ladies of Code, for instance, who will provide help and solidarity.
Plus, in general, before taking a job, look at the team; try to meet them because the team has a lot of influence. Your co-workers will change your experience and encourage you to move forward.
* The Forgotten of the Digital Era (Editor's note)