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Profile: Rafaela Ferro, frontend engineer at SingleStore

Women in Tech: “Look for a team and mentor that respects your work”

Sarah Schlothauer

Four years ago, 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 Rafaela Ferro, frontend engineer at SingleStore.

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?

Four years ago, 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 Rafaela Ferro, frontend engineer at SingleStore.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Rafaela Ferro, frontend engineer, SingleStore

Rafaela lives in Coimbra, Portugal, where she works remotely as a frontend engineer for SingleStore. Previously, she was a digital designer at Deemaze, a software development agency. She co-founded The Zain Talks, a design meetup in Coimbra with a community of 400 designers and enthusiasts from other industries. She’s passionate about bringing to life creative projects that everyone can use, by being an advocate for accessibility, ethical design, and thoughtful user experiences.

When did you become interested in technology? What first got you interested in tech?

One day, a week or so before college applications finished, my uncle, a software engineer, challenged me to write a very simple software program after explaining the programming basics to me. I was hooked. On the last day of college applications, I changed my application to a degree that included programming.

Let’s talk about your background. How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

I studied design and multimedia at the University of Coimbra, which included both art/design and programming classes. While I worked as a digital designer for some years after college and still design for side projects, I knew since then that I would eventually focus on frontend development because I enjoy the challenges involved.

The main roadblock I remember facing was a self-imposed one. I had the belief that I had to get very good at programming before applying to jobs in the field, which kept me from taking that leap sooner. Now I realize that there’s a lot we can learn on the job, and I get a lot of mentorship from my team so I’m evolving much faster than I would have if I had kept waiting for the perfect timing.

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

I’m lucky to say that I have an extremely supportive family that has always motivated me to invest in my interests, and I’m certain they would have cheered for me regardless of what I had chosen for my career. That being said, I do have some software engineers in the family who always showed great enthusiasm for programming, which certainly piqued my curiosity.

Did anyone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?

I’m privileged to say I can’t remember any situation where I felt this happen actively.

There are companies all around the world re-evaluating how inclusive their policies are, and taking measures to ensure diversity is embraced as part of company culture.

A day in Rafaela’s life

I’m a frontend engineer on SingleStore’s web team. We are responsible for developing and maintaining all public-facing properties at SingleStore – this includes our marketing website, documentation website, blog, etc. – and our projects range from creating new pages to a variety of improvements (SEO, accessibility, performance, etc). We collaborate closely with the design and marketing teams, holding weekly checkups and feedback sessions.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I’m proud that it constantly challenges me to learn and grow, and I really welcome the challenges. I can’t imagine going to work every day knowing exactly what I had to do and how to do it.

Why aren’t there more women in tech? What’s your take on that?

I think it might be related to the fact that, in my grandparents’ and even my parents’ generation, women weren’t encouraged to pursue careers in tech (speaking for myself, I grew up surrounded by teachers), which means there are often no women role models for us to associate with tech jobs and the vicious cycle continues. I do believe that this is starting to change and hope it will have a positive impact on the next generations.

Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?

Speaking from experience, a perceived lack of credibility (I’ve had people go double-check my technical decisions with my male coworkers), having the extra effort of needing to defend our work more often as it gets questioned more (even by people without the technical knowledge) and a tendency for having our suggestions or concerns be overlooked.

How would our world be different if more women worked in STEM? What would be the (social, economic, and cultural) impact?

I believe that every team benefits from bringing a larger variety of perspectives to the discussion, so I think the quality and user experience of products being developed in any area would be improved. Additionally, I risk saying this would have a ripple effect and there would be more and better career opportunities for women and minorities.

I’m proud that it constantly challenges me to learn and grow, and I really welcome the challenges.

The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current discussion?

I don’t know when we’ll reach the “final goal” as we still have a long way to go, but I believe that we’re already starting to see results. There are companies all around the world re-evaluating how inclusive their policies are, and taking measures to ensure diversity is embraced as part of company culture. At SingleStore, just to name a few, we have an amazing diversity book club; we have office hours directly with our CEO to discuss suggestions and feedback about diversity, equity, and inclusion; there are frequent events led by women about leadership, career advancement, etc.

It’s important we participate in these initiatives to make sure the discussion stays on the radar and doesn’t lose momentum.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career? What should they know about this industry?

I would say look for a team and mentor that respects your work, that pushes you to grow, that gives you guidance and cheers for your success. And take every opportunity to be that person for someone else.

More Women in Tech:

For even more Women in Tech, click here

Author
Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for JAXenter.com. She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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