Women in Tech: Suz Hinton
Happy Women's Day to all. 🎉I hope you took out some time to wish the women who helped you in your life and career including your mom. If not, go ahead and tweet to them or send a message. My main intention to publish this interview is to spread awareness about women in tech and minority groups. And I think writing such articles is an essential stepping stone in spreading awareness globally and locally.
I am so glad that I was able to chat with the awesome Suz Hinton this week and ask her a few questions about the current health of the tech industry. Here's the gist of our interview.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you start coding?
Suz: I started coding when my family acquired a secondhand Commodore 64 from my uncle. I asked my Dad how to use it and he taught me a bit of BASIC and left me the computer manuals to pursue programming further. I particularly liked poking the registers in conjunction with Movable Object Blocks to make art.
Q: Like many developers, we love watching your Twitch videos. We don't have many women video creators who teach how to code. What are some of the challenges you’ve come across along the way?
Suz: I know firsthand that women aren't always treated very kindly on the internet in general, and live streaming is included when it comes to that. I have my fair share of trolls who either act like they can't believe a woman is live coding, or use slurs to try to upset both my viewers and me. The comments can be either really repugnant (eg. transphobia), or something as silly as bashing a programming language I'm coding in. I also have folks that comment on my looks unnecessarily when it has nothing to do with what I'm working on.
Q: What difficulties have you faced on your way in tech? Have you ever felt like you were not treated as equal?
Suz: I think the most common form of inequality I've been treated to is having my technical credentials doubted in a way that the majority in the field would not experience. It is very disarming and I regularly feel that I have to know everything about all topics, in order to avoid the potential confirmation bias people have when looking to prove that women are not as technical. I've been told that I don't look like a developer, which is incredibly baffling and close minded. I've also been accused in the most patronizing way possible of faking my hardware demos on stage, when the code I wrote for them was completely open sourced before I presented in true "POC || GTFO" style.
Q: What do you think needs to be done to encourage beginner developers to learn programming languages and coding? Pursue a career in tech?
Suz: Beginner developers need empathy from established programmers and good technical mentors more than anything. Knowing they're making progress via external feedback and validation will pull them out of the inevitable tough moments in their journey. They also need to be regularly made aware of the gains that lie ahead for them if they stick with their learning. Coding is a joy and it grants you a lot of power in several different ways. You can create your own solutions to areas of friction in your life, which can grant you more free time, save you money, and enrich your day-to-day routine. Inspiring beginners to consider the new world that coding opens up is important to keep them wanting to learn more. On the more introspective side, beginners also need to understand that their work will eventually have a multiplier effect on real people's experiences. Writing broken, inaccessible, or unethical code will negatively impact many people. Writing clean and performant code that works as intended and helps large groups of people is one of the most satisfying activities, and something that beginners should feel excited to strive for.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring programmers who look forward to working for companies like Microsoft or Google?
Suz: Large tech companies offer a lot of opportunity and it can be really worth the hard work to land a job at one of them. I think above all else these companies are generally looking for folks who ask great questions and are excellent problem solvers. Being in the mindset of putting the customer's experience before your own (in terms of the decisions you make and how your code shapes the product for them) will help you be successful once you've landed the job.
Q: I noticed your website's logo has a cat 🐈. Why do you think many coders including me, love cats? 😀
Suz: They're good purr programmers to work with.
Q: What are your favorite programming tools? 📦
Suz: I love using Vim in iTerm2. They both feel minimal but are also very powerful. The major browsers' built-in developer tools are the most amazing example of strong debugging tools I've seen in any programming space. Front-end development is complicated and having almost every aspect of the application that you're coding be explorable by these dev tools is invaluable to both productivity and understanding how browsers work. Lastly, Docker and containers in general are just so great to use for so many programming related projects.
Q: What does your development environment look like?
The color theme is called Dracula, and I use the font Inconsolata. I love using splits so that I can have all of the contexts I need in front of me that the project needs. In that screenshot I am working on an Azure Function to process a GitHub webhook for consumption by a "Developer Alerts" Twitch extension I wrote for use on my livestream.
Q: Thanks a lot for answering my questions, Suz. Finally, what would be your message to women trying to get into technology?
Suz: It's unfortunately going to be a rough ride but there are many of us here to help you find your foothold. You deserve to be here, you're deserving of the knowledge, and your perspective is very much needed.
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"It's unfortunately going to be a rough ride..." may be true in stupidly gigantic shops with aspirations to world domination. However, during my experience in the 1980s thru 2010s bein' "la femme programmeuse" made zero difference in major multinational corporations.
Over three decades, I worked under and beside as many women as men. Nobody thought it odd.
"Chicks code (and manage) - deal" was the model.
ADDED - - -
I mentioned this article and my response to my sweetie, and she reminded me of an in-house outsourcing case that led me to as this.
Brilliant young Indian woman coding COBOL as part of a team of contractors all from the same shop. She contradicted the team lead from her shop in a meeting some of the team members from my company's side of the project. She CORRECTLY contradicted an error of conception on his part that might been costly in time and energy. This woman was on the next boat home. My shop tried to override this petty poor action, and were advised it was none of our concern.
I should have been clearer about the fact that my direct experience with successful, admired and respected, fellow captive employees of the female gender was limited to shops housed in the U.S., either U.S. Head or Home Offices...mea culpa.
I feel like on the job there is probably less trouble for woman (harassment is cause for termination, people who have a job are likely somewhat competent socially).
It might be a bit more trouble for woman at tech Meet ups, school, etc where there is less control over who gets to be there. I can see a bit more harassment in those environments. I had read an article by a woman who was having problems being seen as a "real programmer" at tech conferences.
Generally though I would agree, "It's going to be a rough ride" is probably doing more harm than good.