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Profile: Erica Tanti, Software Engineer

Diversity talk: The biggest obstacle we currently face is the idea that equality is here already

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Last year, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Erica Tanti, Software Engineer and a speaker at JAX London 2018.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Women in Tech — The Survey

We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!

Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce Erica Tanti, Software Engineer and a speaker at JAX London 2018.

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Erica Tanti will deliver one talk at JAX London 2018, in which she will teach attendees how to improve your speaking skills, how to build up your confidence, how to prepare presentations and more.

Erica Tanti, Software Engineer and a speaker at JAX London 2018

Erica TantiErica Tanti is a software engineer at a Fintech company in Malta. Additionally, she is a committee member of the Malta Toastmasters Club which has opened doors to a number of other speaking engagements, the highlight last year being representing Malta at the JCI Public Speaking European Committee in Basel, Switzerland.

What got you interested in technology?

When I was a kid I loved playing games on my father’s commodore 64. However for most of my childhood I had always looked at computers as a thing with applications in it I could use. Aged 14 during the summer I decided to pick up my computer studies text book and learn how to code ahead of learning programming at school. I was instantly hooked and told everyone I knew I wanted to be a programmer when I grew up. They told me I might change my mind as I grew older but I haven’t turned back since.

From that moment on I studied for a B.Sc., then a M.Sc. in computer science from the University of Malta. Whilst doing my B.Sc. I got an internship at Ixaris, a Fintech company with offices in Malta. I have been there ever since.

Role models and obstacles

My family was always super supportive and I also had a super supportive Computer Studies teacher at school, Ms. Pam, who put up with my million and one questions and was always there to help. As for role models, I distinctly remember the first time I read an article on Ada Lovelace. I remember being so surprised that the “first computer programmer” was a woman. Before, I had always seen and heard of men pioneering the computing industry. Now that I’ve educated myself a lot more on the history of software development, I realize the irony of that statement but back then I had no idea.

Regarding obstacles, earlier this year I attended and spoke at a career day for young girls which focused on STEM careers. The career day had a panel (which I wasn’t on) where a number of women spoke about their experience being a woman in the STEM industry. I was dismayed to hear the number of stories of difficult situations these women had to encounter because of their gender. I am not one of those stories. I know that I am in a position of great privilege to have had such an easy time in the industry. However it is important for me to tell my story as it happened. I think that if I had been an attendee at that career day I would have felt discouraged rather than filled with enthusiasm. So I hope that my story of “actually not that bad” fills people with hope that a STEM career doesn’t necessarily have to be one filled with a lot of obstacles.

A day in Erica’s life

I’m currently a Software Engineer at Ixaris, a Business to Business payments solutions company, at their offices in Malta. At Ixaris, I work on a variety of technologies and systems, from front end to deep within our transactions engine.

On a typical day, I am building new features with my team, alone or pair programming or working on initiatives like improving performance or code quality. I also organize weekly tech talks giving everyone an opportunity to share new and exciting knowledge.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

This is a really difficult question as a woman who is in tech and has always liked tech and wanted to be part of this world! I think the problem starts with young girls (and their parents, teachers etc.) seeing past the stereotypes and seeing tech as something which could be a good fit for them. I can honestly count the times that people have been negative about my being a software engineer on one hand. Out in the industry, I’ve found a supportive community which believes in my abilities (sometimes more than even I do) and pushes me to grow and be better year on year.

I think the biggest obstacle we currently face is the idea that equality is here already. The fact that we’ve come so far in the past few decades doesn’t negate the fact that equality isn’t here yet. Yes, it might be true that, in Europe at least, girls have an equal opportunity to education and women are treated well in the workforce. However, women are still underrepresented in STEM and leadership positions and we need to actively help change that. This isn’t something which will just magically happen overnight without lifting a finger. I’ve had to explain this more times than I can count.

The benefits of diversity

I believe that STEM in general, and software development in particular, is the future. I believe that because of this it is of vital importance that there is equal representation of women and other marginalized groups in STEM in the same way there should be equal representation of women and marginalized groups in politics. Knowing how to use computers and code already holds a certain power and will continue holding more power in the future. That might seem excessive, and if so I suggest you read the following article as I have very similar thoughts on the subject.

Change is slow. I don’t know when we’ll see results but I know we’re not there yet and the next generation won’t be there either, despite the increased awareness on the importance of STEM. I say this from my experience participating in career days for the 16-18 age groups where we are still far off from an even split.

Tips and tricks

If you’re just starting out: There are many career options in tech so make sure to see what your options are and what sounds interesting for you! If you’re interested in being a software engineer specifically, then start coding – practice is the key.

If you’re in the industry already: My motto is: “Do no harm, but take no shit” – There’s nothing special needed to be a woman in tech and don’t let anyone tell you differently. At times I will suffer from impostor syndrome and I counteract this by pushing myself to try things out and I believe this technique has opened the door to many opportunities.

Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:

Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is editor of JAXenter.com and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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1 Comment on "Diversity talk: The biggest obstacle we currently face is the idea that equality is here already"

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Ian
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I work in IT too. Since birth baby boys look at things more than girls, baby girls make more eye contact. We have less women in STEM, but that is not because the system suppresses women in any way (although, I am sure there are some social assumptions based on stereo types). Women bare children, men don’t – women choose more naturing roles, work less hours and have a more work life balance.