days
0
-11
0
hours
-1
0
minutes
-3
-8
seconds
-2
-9
search
Profile: Irene Lopez, software engineer at New Relic

Women in tech: “Having a diversity of viewpoints makes for a more accessible and educated industry”

Dominik Mohilo
women in tech

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Two 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 Irene Lopez, software engineer at New Relic.

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?

Two 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 Irene Lopez, software engineer at New Relic.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Irene Lopez 

Irene is a software engineer at New Relic, working on building reliable services to support evolving business needs. She has a bachelor degree in Electronics Engineering, a Master in Computer Engineering and worked for a few years in the automotive sector as an embedded software and hardware developer before leaving to work on her data science thesis in a research laboratory. She likes to ask a lot of questions, learn new things, and solve problems.

What first got you interested in tech?

I have always had an interest in science ever since I was a kid. Once I graduated high school, I considered going into the technology field to work with robots and prosthetics. I ended up working in electronics instead, which eventually led me to computer science.

How did you end up in your career path?

I decided that engineering would be a good match for me based on my interest in science. However, once I graduated from university, I realized that I was more passionate about computer science over electrical engineering. I came across a very fortunate opportunity for a developer internship in Barcelona that jump-started my career!

When I was in high school, an alumnus came to our school one day to talk about her experience choosing a career. Ultimately, her talk was about how she decided to quit because the ratio of men to women studying her career was too unbalanced and she felt out of place. While this might be the reality of the industry, I found this presentation to be discouraging for women looking to start a career in STEM. I wish my school would have brought in another speaker who had a more successful experience and overcame discrimination obstacles as that would have been much more motivating, especially to young women.

Do you have any role models?

Both of my parents are doctors, so it was expected of me to go to medical school. When I eventually decided to go into computer science though, my family still supported my decision.

One of my role models is my mother. She was one of the first women at her university to graduate as a traumatologist, as well as the first-ever woman in her residency program. She had faced a lot of obstacles in her career, but I knew that if she could do it, then I definitely could too.

What would help make the gender gap better would be mentoring programs with women in technology acting as role models to get girls interested in computers and technology.

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

I am naturally a quiet, introverted person and I don’t like to get sidetracked when it comes to achieving my goals. I had to learn early on how to hold my ground and value my work without getting brushed aside for someone who was louder or more aggressive than I was.

A day in Irene’s life

Right now, I am a software engineer at New Relic in Barcelona. I am currently working on our recently launched observability platform called New Relic One. Usually, I spend my mornings to get organized for the day and determine what must get done. This will normally consist of preparing for daily stand-up meetings to provide status updates and flag potential problems to my team. The afternoons are typically more collaborative as my team and I work together on code releases and reviews.

What are you most proud of in your career?

One of the privileges I value most in my career was the ability to try and progress in many of the areas I was interested in. Throughout my career, I was able to work and study electronics and computer science. I am grateful that I have been given many opportunities to try new things and I always took them. In fact, the reason that I am at New Relic today is because I happened to connect with them while I was pursuing my Master’s degree!

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

I believe that girls are discouraged to enter the STEM field and engage with science, math, and technology at an early age while boys are more encouraged. Young girls and women are more susceptible to the influences of discouragement from their peers and the stigma of the tech field.

What would help make the gender gap better would be mentoring programs with women in technology acting as role models to get girls interested in computers and technology.

Could you name a few challenges women in tech face?

From the beginning, women are discouraged to enter the field and are influenced by the stigma of the tech. Because of this, many women are under the impression that this career will be much more challenging and could be susceptible to burning out. Additionally, tech companies are trying hard to become more inclusive and welcoming, but the reality is that there is more pressure to perform well and stand out when you are different from everyone else at your company. This can lead to high levels of anxiety at work, another factor that could contribute to employee burnout and a decrease in overall well-being.

Would our world be different if more women working in STEM?

The gender gap that we are seeing in technology now has also already happened in the medical field. As research has shown, having a diversity of viewpoints makes for a more accessible and educated industry. Teams can find different solutions to problems based on opinions from a variety of different personal experiences.

Ultimately, technology is unique in that it is flexible to balance work and personal lives. It actually is very suitable for women who have other priorities in their personal lives, such as managing a family, becoming a caretaker, pursuing other career interests, or anything else. Remote work, which is led by the technology industry with almost 30% of software and technology roles being remote, is becoming more and more mainstream, which can sometimes better benefit people fostering their priorities outside of work.

My biggest piece of advice is that it is never too late to start a career in tech. You will eventually become better if you go at your own pace.

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

I believe that the diversity discussion and its progress vary among different nations, but I would hope that the efforts that we have achieved thus far would result in more universal encouragement for girls to enter STEM fields and more young women deciding to study computer science. As more women enter tech, the better and easier it is to bring other women to also join, as they are encouraged to follow a path that someone like them has followed.

What advice would you give to women who want a career in tech?

My biggest piece of advice is that it is never too late to start a career in tech. You will eventually become better if you go at your own pace. It is not a competition and there are many roles open, so learn slowly but surely and you will be surprised about how well-prepared you are to enter the field. If you think you are interested, I believe that you can do it and you should too!

Author
Dominik Mohilo
Dominik Mohilo studied German and sociology at the Frankfurt University, and works at S&S Media since 2015.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!