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Profile: Sherry List, front-end lead developer at Nordea bank

How to get (and stay) into the tech industry: Sherry List shares her tips & tricks

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 Sherry List, front-end lead developer at Nordea bank.

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?

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 Sherry List, front-end lead developer at Nordea bank.

Sherry List, front-end lead developer at Nordea bank

For the past 15 years, Sherry has worked with a variety of web technologies and is currently focused on Angular. She lives in beautiful Copenhagen, where she works as a front-end lead developer at Nordea bank. Apart from her everyday job, she is a co-organizer of the ngVikings conference, as well as some meetups Meetups groups, such as ngCopenhagen and GDG Copenhagen. She loves animals and supports various non-profit animal protection organizations.

Follow her on Twitter: @sherrrylst

What got you interested in technology?

My parents say I was always the one who disassembled any electronic devices and tried hard to assemble them back, even though that it was often a failure!  They also noticed that I was very interested to see what my uncle used to do with the computer. So, they decided to send me to a computer course for kids. I think that was the beginning :)

When I was around 13, I was 100% sure that I wanted to become a Software Engineer. Therefore I decided to go to a technical high school. After finishing high school, I was lucky to have an older cousin who is an entrepreneur. He offered me a position at his company as a web designer. It was the best thing that happened to me. At his company, I managed to work with really amazing developers and engineers who really shaped my mentality to become a self-learner.

Instead of teaching me from A-Z, they gave me assignments and resources where I could surf and learn how to find my answers. After working there for a couple of years, I started my education at university as a software engineer and with a friend of mine, we worked on a side project, which became the first E-Learning solution for enterprise companies in Iran. I’m still proud of it! I would say compared to many around me, I knew what I want to be, and I just followed my dream.

I always consider myself to be very lucky to have all these amazing and supportive people around me. My parents and my brother have always supported me in what I wanted to do and totally respect my choices. My husband always encourages me whenever I get cold feet to do something that I consider to be totally outside of my comfort zone or when I feel like I’m not good enough to do it. He keeps up with the crazy schedule I build for myself with organizing meetups, conferences, workshops and also traveling and giving talks at different events… I really appreciate his patience.

My friends are also so amazing, I receive constant support and encouragements from Chris Norring, Kenneth Christiansen, Ana Cidre & Lars Knudsen. These people are always there to help me.

As for role models, hopefully, I have many of them. My favorites are  Tracy Lee, Ayşegül Yönet, Carmen Popoviciou, Shmuela Jacobs & Simona Cotin. These ladies are not only great developers, fantastic speakers and amazing human beings, but are also empowering people around them.

All of us (Women in Tech) have met at least one person in our lives who couldn’t see us shine. I met a few… I mostly either ignore them but one time I became so angry that all of a sudden, I just quit my job!

A day in Sherry’s life

I work as a front-end lead developer at Nordea bank in the beautiful city of Copenhagen. Next to my daily job, I organize ngCopenhagen and GDG Copenhagen meetups. I’m also one of the organizers of ngVikings conference, which is the only travelling Angular conference in the world. Recently, I also started to give talks at conferences mostly with a very good friend of mine, Ana Cidre.  A,h I forgot to mention that I am also Women Techmaker Lead of Copenhagen.

So my day starts with checking the news and my emails while drinking my morning coffee. Then I walk to the beach with my dog, Lance. Depending on the weather, we normally spend 30 minutes together there. Then I take public transport to my office and start my work. We normally have a stand-up at 9:30 and a coffee date with my colleagues at 11:30. During the day, apart from working on my tasks, I chat a bit with Ana, we mostly exchange articles or plan for our talks or events. I finish my day at the office around 5:00 pm and take public transportation back home.

I normally have at least one meeting, either related to my community works (Organizing meetups or conferences) or a hangout call with Ana about our talks.

I am super proud that I have been able to push myself out of my comfort zone and build communities and organize conferences and also give talks at international conferences. I see it as a big step in my career.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

As you know, it’s not an easy question to answer. In my opinion, it’s a result of various issues. First of all, at the moment, tech is mostly dominated by males. Therefore, there are not many role models for females. So, even though there is a lot of focus in bringing women in tech, many of them switch jobs, since they don’t think they can become successful in this field.

On the other hand, parents are also encouraging their daughters to choose other career paths, for example, economics, medicine, etc. At school, teachers mostly encourage guys to take more computer courses. As a result of all these, females don’t think that they do belong to the tech industry, so they don’t bother even to try to join this industry.

But I want to be optimistic and say that hopefully, it will all change soon.

For sure we still have a long journey ahead of us and not all of the statistics look promising… But yet, there is still good news out there. Bigger companies have realized that ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ is not a nice to have feature, they should adopt it. There are a lot of efforts out there to close all these gaps. Meanwhile, women around the world are fighting for this transformation. Many statistics show that 60% of global graduates are female, which I consider to be a good sign.

Women in STEM

Most consumer purchasing decisions are made by women! It would be great if they could take part in building those products. Diversity has a direct impact on the products that companies build; if they make it more inclusive for everyone, they will gain more customers.

On the other hand, team cultures at companies will change, we will hear fewer sexist jokes at work, so fewer women will switch jobs to join other industries which have more women.

Obstacles

Well, I have lived and worked in different countries. I believe women have different challenges and obstacles in each part of the world. But there are some common ones. For example, the stereotype of being a developer. I even remember someone asked one of my fellow female speakers at a speaker dinner: why are you here, which of these guys is your partner? Because of course it’s not expected to be a female and give a technical talk at a conference!

The other common challenge is that most of the time when you are in a meeting (of course as the only female member of the team), people don’t expect you to have any (technical) opinion or they don’t take it in consideration! Of course it’s different depending on the companies and countries. But it has happened to me a lot!  As a woman in tech, you should develop a very strong personality :)

Tips & tricks

  1. Always believe in yourself and your abilities and never let anyone discourage you. I read this phrase somewhere and I love it: ‘Be like a compiler and ignore comments.’ Of course, you need to always take constructive comments into consideration. But believe me, ignore the rest.
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of networking. Join your local meetups and conferences and once you are there, talk to people. There are loads of nice people out there and they can help you in many different ways or even one day you may apply for a job and see that the person who is sitting there is the same person you talked too a few days ago! (It happened to me!)
  3. Read and study and try to share what you learned with the others. Because once you share your knowledge, people will ask you questions and if you don’t know the answer, you will try to find it. That way, you expand your knowledge.

 

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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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