Books for software engineers and managers

Women in Tech

Take Your Career to the Next  Level

by Tarah Wheeler

Categories:
Engineering Manager,
Tech Recruiter

It’s more important for a developer to be friendly than  genius

Our industry always looks for the 10x developer or genius programmer going on marathon coding sprees.

But we’re usually better off trying to build 10x teams and good coworkers represent the foundation of those teams.

When I interview software engineering candidates, I do look for a baseline knowledge level but I’m equally looking for people smarts and emotional intelligence.

Technical skills are sometimes easier to teach than interpersonal skills.

Women need to think about their appearance far more than men during  interviews

The author devotes whole sections to physical appearance during interviews and it felt a bit shocking. Women just need to think about their appearance and the potential consequences.

For instance, previously I never considered how for female engineers, there is a threshold level for makeup where you start being perceived as a marketer or receptionist.

Wheeler has very specific suggestions for women like don’t wear skirts or dresses, but do wear shoes that make you look tall. Or making sure your nails are done because people will stare at your hands if you’re at a keyboard, but avoid acy

Being the first woman on a team often comes with the implicit expectation of making the team act  professionally

When a manager senses a team is getting too bro-y and casual, the idea of bringing a woman onboard quickly enters their mind. It feels like a natural protection against inappropriate behavior. In a way, it also represents a cop-out. The manager avoids confrontation by hoping bad behavior will just disappear.

Women sense this during interviews. Every engineer interviewing them is a guy, the manager is a guy, and they know they’ll be the first woman and it probably comes with the expectation of being the “mom” on the team – discouraging bad behavior and keeping rambunctious guys in check.

Small skills like how to give a proper handshake are often not taught to  girls

The author gives a detailed description of how to give a firm, professional handshake. Amazing detail. Something I’ve never consciously thought about.

Handshakes are a good example of how small differences in child rearing impact professional lives later on.

Many girls feel discouraged welcome being competitive or  ambitious

Parents and educators often discourage girls from being competitive and ambitious.

As a software manager, you should consider that when hiring and managing people. Your job is to understand what motivates people and part of that requires understanding their previous life experiences.

You don’t have to be perfect to mentor  someone

Even with +15 years experience, I struggle with imposter syndrome. Like there’s some threshold I haven’t met yet. That’s fine for driving my personal growth, but I’m actually hurting other people by not sharing my knowledge and experiences.

No matter your level of skill and knowledge, you still have something to teach.

Many women are uncomfortable acknowledging their power and  authority

Job titles don’t automatically grant authority. Social pressures still play a critical role in how we interact. For instance, a male Engineering Manager may unconsciously expect a female VP of Engineering to act deferentially and she may do so, both behaving according to social norms that transcend job titles.

Women in Tech

How strongly do I recommend Women in Tech?
5 / 10

Women in Tech provides some solid advice to women joining the tech industry and offers a few considerations I definitely had not thought of. But I have two issues with this book that explain my low rating:

  1. The author gives some career advice that I strongly disagree with like recommending 6-8 page resumes filled with keywords, under the belief that only machines and not humans evaluate resumes. I spoke with one veteran tech recruiter specifically about this to check my understanding and she said, “The biggest myth in recruiting is that humans don’t read resumes,” and that an 8 page resume is only something you’d see in consulting and even then it’s strongly discouraged.
  2. About half this book is biographies from women in software engineering, which is a cool idea but poorly executed here. These bios just list facts and fail to tell a story or offer real perspective.

Overall I expected more based on the high ratings on Amazon, but finished this book feeling disappointed. My recommendation is that managers read this book, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to more junior level individual contributors.