I am a female engineer. I was often the only woman, or one of a very small number of women, in my engineering, advanced science, and math classes. Even when I entered the workforce I was surprised at how few female executives there were (and are) in Information Technology. Which is why I was thrilled to read the Wired article, “This Is the Woman at the Heart of Everything Google Builds.”
It’s no secret that the world of high-tech, more so than other parts of the American workforce, is plagued by a gender gap. According to a National Public Radio report, roughly 20 percent of American software developers are women — and according to another study, the number of women receiving computer science degrees is in decline. At times, the results of this disparity can be extreme, but the gender gap also works in subtler ways. Because most computer engineers are men, they tend to define the culture.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. <Melody> Meckfessel isn’t just another engineer. She oversees the team that fashions the programming tools used by every other engineer at Google, the center of the engineering universe. “If these systems don’t work, then Google doesn’t work,” she says, before dropping a Star Trek reference — as so many engineers are wont to do. “There would be no Kirk without Scotty.”
The article talks about how Melody Meckfessel went through a process of starting out with two wardrobes: one for her professional life at Google and one for the rest of her life. And over time, she made the conscious decision to become her authentic self:
It wasn’t a statement. It was what she wanted to do. “I just wanted to be my authentic self, all the time, and that meant more changes at work than in my personal life,” she says. “It wasn’t just about the wardrobe. I wanted to bring my full set of opinions to the table.”
I can say as a technology executive I too went through a process of finding my brand: I had to figure out who I am and what I uniquely bring to the table. Once I became comfortable with myself, I became able to deliver the best results for my employer and clients.
I believe that when we embrace who we are, we can have real effects on the culture around us. I admit that Melody Meckfessel inspires me because she espouses the same value that we have at wHolistic Change, Inc: People are the key to success.
What this ultimately means is that coding is about more than just coding. It’s about people. It’s about understanding who those people are and what they can contribute and what they need, whether they’re in the majority or the minority. “If you focus on people, good things happen,” she says. “Software is written by humans. If you’re not taking care of the humans, you lose something.”