Dee Teal (@thewebprincess) is passionate about all things WordPress. She started out solo freelancing from home and has since moved into project management for a remote development agency. She actively contributes to the WordPress community by organising and speaking at WordCamps and meetups, and supports other community members in their similar efforts as a WP Community Deputy.
Dee has transitioned from freelance web development into project management and is currently leading a team of seven developers. She considers it vitally important to keep giving back to the network that helped her grow and she works hard to give others the same supportive experience. She’s grateful that the company she now works for (Human Made) actively supports these efforts.
Dee’s journey shows that it’s possible to work remotely while still being a big part of a community related to your industry. It also demonstrates the possibility of taking hold of your own destiny as a women in tech in Australia.
How did you get into programming?
I had shown an aptitude for it in school, but that was before the tech industry was anything like it is now, so I wasn’t encouraged. I circled back to it initially by having to edit HTML emails for a boss I was working for… I learned in that experience that this was something I was good at, and it was challenging and interesting so I pursued it.
What is your current work situation and what do you do in your everyday job?
Lately, I’ve transitioned out of ‘hands on’ programming into Project Management. I work remotely for a digital agency working on projects for enterprise clients, many in media and banking. I’m currently leading a team of seven developers building a custom CMS and newsroom management system for a news publisher.
Are you involved with the developer community outside of your job?
Yes! It’s one of the best things about what I’m doing. I am supported by my employer to contribute to, and participate in, the WordPress community, which usually means going to meetups, and traveling to WordCamps (conferences) but I’m also interested in other open source initiatives.
What’s the job market like for developers in Melbourne?
I’m actually not completely sure how to answer that as I haven’t been in the market for a really long time. What I do observe though is that companies seem to be looking more closely at their diversity and making more of an effort to hire minority representatives.
I wish things were easier, but it seems there’s no magic wand to change culture, and I believe that it can be hard here in Australia where gender lines are often more pronounced than in other places. I’m encouraged by the extent to which people are talking about gender diversity and working hard towards better representation of, and experience in the market for women, driven both by men and women in the workforce. I think the going is slow, but there are improvements. I hope that before long we see a tipping point where the speed of change picks up its pace.
Did you ever find it difficult to enter the tech industry as a female?
Again, this is a difficult question to answer as a lot of what I have I done or am doing I fell into, or has come about because I’m fairly forward, confident and well connected. I realise that not everyone has the same privilege or the same smooth path.
As I’ve freelanced for most of my tech career, all of my work has been on my own terms. This had its benefits and its challenges. I think the benefits were that I was shielded by a lot of the kinds of problems other women have documented because I work at home on my own and can pick and choose who I work for, and what I do. Working in an office, with a team may have other challenges where there’s direct competition for work, attention and to be taken seriously as a woman. I would love to see this change, especially given how much of the early pioneers of tech were women!
This may sound like an advertisement for freelancing but for balance, some of the downsides have been that working solo can be lonely, it’s harder to get sharper and more skilled if you’re always relying on yourself to go chasing new skills – working in a team environment makes that easier, and finally, freelancing means having to run a business alongside doing the code that you love… to grow that takes time and more business acumen than I was prepared to go after in the long term.
However, I’ve also found the WordPress community to be largely respectful and appreciative of my skills.
What would you like to tell the women who want to start programming?
If tech and programming is something you love, don’t let anyone else talk you out of getting in there and doing it. It will be hard, especially, because as a woman in a male dominated industry, it can be difficult to be taken seriously, but put your head down and pursue it. We can’t expect the numbers to turn in our favour if we don’t show up.
Get connected. It is a difficult field to navigate alone and there are strong networks available out there for support so tap into those, and be that support for other women around you. We’re in this together. We need to be together in this.
Speak up. If you see something, say something. I know this is really hard. Really, hard. It’s risky, from simply drawing attention to issues, to whistle blowing, we really do take a risk in raising awareness of where things need to change, because unless we do… nothing will change.
What do you think about the Google Manifesto?
I was dismayed by it, but not wholly surprised. For a whole host of reasons the attitudes behind the manifesto, and behind this society we live in are being exposed not just in tech, but in entertainment, government, in a lot of the industries that have been hugely male dominated. I honestly think that’s a good thing, because exposing it to the light means we can actually see it for what it is and do something about it. Resist, stand up, and speak up. I’m seeing more people do that, and while it’s really uncomfortable, I think some of the heroes of our children’s future will be those who did.
Who are your female developer role-models?
I actually take inspiration from all the women out there who have seen a space for themselves in tech in spite of the resistance, who are just getting out there and doing it. I’ve got a special fondness for those who are at home building tech businesses from their living rooms while the kids are sleeping. But I think if you want to look up some women who are passionately wanting to improve not only gender diversity but the whole spectrum of diversity in tech, start with following Meri Williams, the CTO of Moo, she has a lot to say and I’ve loved what I’ve heard. I am about to dive in to ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg, and I’ve followed her with interest for a long while. Can’t wait to read the book!
This article was originally published by Code Like a Girl.
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