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Profile: Marta Vasconcelos, software engineer at SingleStore

Women in Tech: “I assure you there are places worth being”

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 Marta Vasconcelos, software 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 Marta Vasconcelos, software engineer at SingleStore.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Marta Vasconcelos, software engineer, SingleStore

With an academic background both in design and software engineering, I’ve been working as a software engineer for almost 4 years. I’m Portuguese but I’ve recently moved to Dublin. I’m passionate about sports, books, and tech. Currently working as a software engineer at SingleStore, where I contribute to building our web-based tools for users to manage their databases.

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

I believe I’ve always been interested in technology. My father is an engineer and I still remember him offering me a kid’s engineering kit to get a radio and a motor working. As a kid, I spent hours on my computer creating PowerPoint presentations with animations, interactive buttons, images, and music. I had so much fun! I also remember joining a robotics club when I was 8 years old and I just loved to create the robot in Legos and then connect it to the computer to have it moving around the classroom. That was a real deal for a 90s kid!

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

My initial choice was to study design and multimedia. I was passionate about video, photography, and web design so it felt right for me. I really loved this experience, but as soon as I started to know how to code, things have changed for me. As I discovered programming and web development, I understood that this was the path I wanted to take. The bachelor’s degree program I was taking was designed to have a lot of computer science courses such as Databases, Artificial intelligence, Programming, and Software Engineering. When I took the Software Engineer course, I completely fell in love with the whole process of software development – going from requirements, tests, coding, and delivering the product.

As I finished my studies, I decided to enroll in a Software Engineering Masters degree program to get deeper in the computer science field. That might have been the first and the biggest obstacle I had to overcome. Because I did not have the “traditional” background of a computer science student. In fact, I remember the main teacher saying, “This Master’s is not for you,” and suggesting I apply to an initial programming course, without even looking at my resume. After a lot of sadness and questioning my future career, I applied anyway. I wasn’t expecting to get in, so I was thrilled when I received my acceptance email.

Fun Fact: Winning that teacher over was hard, but she ended up being my Master’s thesis advisor and even invited me to a PhD.

I don’t think I have just one role model, but I sure learn with the people I have around me: my parents, my boyfriend, friends, and coworkers. They all shape me into who I am.

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

Yes. I have always been supported by my parents and friends throughout my journey. I don’t think I have just one role model, but I sure learn with the people I have around me: my parents, my boyfriend, friends, and coworkers. They all shape me into who I am.

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

No, I don’t think I ever experienced that. I was always supported by my managers and coworkers.

A day in Marta’s life

I am a software engineer at SingleStore. SingleStore is a very performant, all-in-one database that is growing a lot in the market. I work mainly in the two dashboard applications we have for the customers to manage their databases, analyze their state and run queries to retrieve data. My workday is usually divided into implementing new features, reviewing my peers’ code, and some occasional meetings. I also work a lot with customer support by analyzing customers’ problems, investigating their issues, and providing them with detailed explanations and solutions to improve customer experience with our product.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Not giving up on computer science, and pursuing what I really wanted to do. Even if that meant learning a lot by myself and going the extra mile. I’m proud that I have never been accommodated and stopped to search for a better place to be.

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

I think the main reason is that there are not a lot of female role models – yet. When little kids grow without thinking about gender attached to jobs, I believe that we will have more balanced workplaces.

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

Although we have been facing a growth in the number of women in tech, it’s still not the norm. We still have to deal with heads turning because you’re the only woman in a big group of men, or unwanted questions from people who are not used to seeing a woman as an engineer or in the tech field. Once, a colleague asked me why, being a woman, I was a software engineer and if I really liked it. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. No woman should ever be asked such a question about her job.

Apart from these unfortunate social interactions, I consider myself a lucky woman. I didn’t ever feel that my career progression was prevented in any way or that I was treated professionally differently. Actually, at SingleStore, I was already asked if I was ever treated differently inside the company. This shows that the company cares and wants to be a nice and comfortable place for women. But unfortunately, I know that a lot of women still are slowed down on their career development because of every possible reason – from pregnancy and family to the social bias of not believing they are capable enough.

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

Everyone has their point of view, influenced by personal beliefs, opinions, background, culture – everything that shapes a person. The more diverse groups we achieve, the more different points of view we have. That can only enrich the business and bring a lot of new energy and ideas to the table. I believe that this can not only apply to women but also to any other kind of profile. We need diversity in the business.

Go ahead and ignore the ones who still think you don’t belong just because you’re a woman. Prove them wrong.

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

I think we already are. Most people are aware of this discussion and a lot of companies are already addressing this. Of course, changing social bias takes time, but I believe we’re at the right pace to achieve a more inclusive and diverse workplace.

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

Go ahead and ignore the ones who still think you don’t belong just because you’re a woman. Prove them wrong. Not every place in this industry can be the perfect place to be, so if you find yourself in a place where you are treated differently, just move on. I assure you there are places worth being and where you won’t be treated differently. You will find one too. But after all, be proud to be a woman in tech.

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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