Profile: Gina Contrino, Frontend Developer at Lisk

Diversity talk: Tips from Lisk’s Gina Contrino on how to succeed in tech

Gabriela Motroc
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also 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 Gina Contrino, Frontend Developer at Lisk.

Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.

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 Gina Contrino, Frontend Developer at Lisk.

Gina Contrino, Frontend Developer at Lisk

Gina Contrino is a Frontend Developer at Lisk and a skilled JavaScript coder.

Gina, who is originally from Berlin, moved back to Germany after spending time abroad working in Seoul, South Korea. It was there where she began her career in development. Blockchain technology first grabbed her attention when she realized its potential to dramatically disrupt every sector.

What got you interested in technology?

I first became interested in technology in 2014. At the time, I was studying abroad in South Korea and got a job at an accommodation startup. My friend was a programmer there and convinced me to consider coding. At that point, I didn’t know anything about tech, I didn’t even have a laptop.

When I came back to Berlin, I decided my life needed a major change, as I was no longer satisfied with pursuing Korean Studies. When my previous startup offered me the chance to stay on as a remote developer, I grabbed the opportunity. It was a big move — I dropped out of uni, I bought a laptop, found some online courses and taught myself JavaScript and PHP.

Everyone was skeptical of my decision to drop out of university, to be honest. I had almost finished my studies, so my family said I should stay and get my degree. My friends also saw me as the last person who would be into tech, so the decision didn’t make sense to them either. I think some of my friends even felt somehow threatened by this radical step in my life. Luckily, I had a great mentor at the startup who supported me through this journey. Looking back, it was the best decision I could have made.

Many people tried to discourage me from getting into tech, but when I make a decision I don’t let anyone stop me. I think people didn’t see just how serious I was about this career shift. One thing I am proud of is that I stuck with programming. In the beginning, I found it really frustrating. I studied every day but it felt like it would take ten years until I would be good enough to call myself a “programmer”. For a long time I didn’t feel like I was learning anything, but in fact, I now can see that I was learning so much.

I am also proud that I picked math up again. I was terrible at it when I was in school, but the better I got at programming, the more I wanted to immerse myself in computer science. I started taking online courses on algorithms but I quickly realized that my math was holding me back. I ended up discovering Khan Academy — which is just so awesome — and finally, after much effort, I am making progress.

A day in Gina’s life

Currently, I am working as a Frontend Developer at Lisk, a platform that aims to enable developers to build their own blockchain applications in JavaScript. A normal day for me begins with our standup, where we discuss what we are working on that particular day.

After the standup, I get straight to work adding new features or writing tests.  Right now, the team is mainly preoccupied with the beta phase rollout of Lisk Hub, our new dashboard combining our cryptocurrency wallet and blockchain explorer.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

I think this is something that is finally changing. I am slowly seeing more and more women in tech these days, but of course, there is still a big gap. I think many women might have the wrong idea of what it means to be in tech. In my experience, it has been very rewarding and empowering and I hope more women get to experience it as I have.

Luckily, I haven’t suffered any real problems because of my gender — in fact quite the opposite. These days, companies are supporting women more than ever. When I receive criticism for my work, I just assume the best and take the feedback and try to improve myself. I try not to assume the criticism comes simply because of my gender.

However, I know that not everyone has had the same experience as me. I am following many women in tech and I can see many of them struggle to have their male colleagues and social media audiences take them seriously as engineers. This needs to change.

We need more female role models in STEM for young girls to look up to. I worry about the message it sends when young women grow up only seeing men as leaders in STEM. It is okay if you want to be a princess when you grow up, but not if that is only because you had no other role models to choose from. It is simply not balanced right now.

Tips & tricks

Try to get yourself a mentor. Having someone who knows their stuff and who can always help and point you in the right direction was so important and helpful in my journey. You still need to put in the work because this field can be hard. But it is rewarding, and certainly possible. I was the least likely person to get into tech — if I could do it, anyone can do it.


Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:

Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of 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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