Women in Tech at Climb Credit

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October 9 through October 15 is Women in Tech Week. And at Climb, we’re all about celebrating smart, talented women who are passionate about their fields of study. (After all, women make up 52% of our employee base — which is definitely something to be proud of as a FinTech company.) Alongside companies like CommonBond and Fundera, we’re excited to share these women’s stories. And if you want to share your own story, be sure to post why you’re proud to be a woman in tech along with the hashtag #2017WITW — for every post, CommonBond will make a donation to Girls Who Code!

We chatted with five of our employees in various tech roles, to learn more about their experiences. Read below to hear from Aarthi, Angela, Sara, Susan, and Thea:

Aarthi, data scientist

What first got you into data science?
I was always in STEM but didn’t really get into tech or engineering until I came to Climb. Before, I was very much into academic science and embedded in research. In fact — before Climb — I was doing my PhD in Neuroscience, and about three and a half years in, I transitioned out for a career switch. That being said, I’ve always been interested in data [and] deriving insights from numbers, and feel it’s a really powerful tool — really accessible, now more than ever.

Even though you originally went into neuroscience, were you always drawn towards tech roles?
I think so, especially as I have always been interested in research and data. It’s just so accessible; it’s a universal language. You can move abroad and still work on incredibly interesting problems, make meaningful change, and make connections with a lot of exciting people and industries. Data is really powerful.

What do you wish someone had told you before getting into tech?
You will never know everything. It’s less about memorizing concepts, which I was very much exposed to before. Things will always change, from languages to techniques to approach to design models. So being able to mold with the changing industry and techniques is useful and key. You will never know everything — be confident in the change and how you can manage it.

Why are you proud to be a woman in tech?
I like owning my background, bringing that here, and advocating for others who want to do that — who want a career change, or who want to enter a space that isn’t necessarily associated with them. I enjoy being in a position in which I can help others, advocate for change and advocate for hustling to get there.​

Angela, chief executive officer

What first got you into the tech space?
Computers have definitely been around for most of my school life, but I probably only knew one or two people who programmed computers. It was a very foreign thing that I didn’t really understand. But I was really good at math, and I had a friend who was getting an engineering degree. When she found out I’d done well in calculus first semester (I don’t even think I had a major, but I was thinking maybe psychology), she said, “oh, you should come be an engineer” … So I feel like I’ve had two different experiences in tech. I actually have an engineering degree and spent the first half of my career coding, but at big companies that aren’t considered tech, and then transitioned into tech companies but not to do coding.

Where did you learn to code?
I learned how to code in college [The University of Michigan], but all of my career, I’ve never really used programs I learned in college. And one thing that I think is really cool about learning how to code is it’s like learning other languages…once you learn one, it’s so much easier to learn the next. So, if you learn C++, going to learn JavaScript is going to be so much easier because you already understand some of the base concepts.

Who are your tech inspirations?
On the more technical side of things, the women in Hidden Figures — I saw that movie with my daughter, and I was like, “these women are amazing…” I remember when I enrolled in engineering classes in 2000 … there was definitely a stigma of “wait, why are you here?” I’ve had people who find out, even now, that I know how to code and say “oh, that’s so cute…” Today, another inspiration is Sheryl Sandberg. I love that she has a point of view, is out there with it, and seems to be really good at what she does.

Any advice for women who want to get into tech?
Don’t be shy or nervous that you might be the only woman in the room. Because you have a unique perspective that you bring to the table, and if people give you a hard time, or tell you that you’re “cute” ‘cause you can code, or this or that, that’s about them, not about you.

Sara, former chief product officer

Where did you learn Product Management?
It’s one of those things that I had learned on the job, and I’m still learning. When I was in college, I didn’t even know it existed. But I like thinking logically about stuff and ended up going to law school, and I did patent law. Through that work, I learned there were these people called Product Managers, who got to know a little code and be involved in product development and product strategy, which is also very logical, but then also got to talk to people on the business side. It’s a weird field because, if you asked 100 people, they’d give you 100 different definitions, so I just learned by reading and doing, more than any formal training.

Who are your tech inspirations?
One person who I think is really admirable is Deb Liu. She’s a VP of Product at Facebook, and although I didn’t get to work with her much while I was there, I was always really impressed with how she talked. I recently found out about this “Women in Product” group on Facebook and joined it, and it turns out Deb was the co-founder. And so even though she’s a VP at Facebook and could be doing whatever she wants, I see her on there — people are asking questions about Facebook’s Rotational Product Manager Program for new people, and I see her on there like, “Oh, I can take a look at your resume.” And I think it’s really cool that she’s willing to do that.

Do you think there are specific challenges that come with being a woman in tech? If so, what?
I don’t know that it’s specific to tech, but I definitely think people react differently to me because I’m a woman. People think companies like Facebook must be perfect because they have Sheryl Sandberg, but if you think about it she wrote that after being at Facebook for five years. So it’s also a survival guide for women in tech.

And you have Ellen Pao, who’s an incredibly strong person for speaking up about how she was treated. I’m hopeful that maybe this was a tipping point, as now you see more women talking about sexism in tech at companies like Uber, and people are finally listening. I don’t think the problem is solved though — Silicon Valley is a really homogenous place and with that comes a lot of unconscious bias that women have to face.

So if you’re a woman in tech, I feel like you have to be four times as good. It is hard, but it’s also doable.

Any advice for women who want to get into tech?
Don’t be discouraged. Find mentors, and find things like that “Women in Product” group, because women need to help each other. We are a minority in tech, and so we have to stick together and help each other. And talk about your experiences.

Susan, analytics lead

Where did you learn data analytics?
While I was in college, I studied East Asian literature and political economics. Right after I graduated, I ended up at an economic consulting firm, which is where I actually learned most of my skills to better analyze data. Many of my peers came out of college already having some semblance of technical training, whereas I had absolutely none. Still, there is beauty and value in having a broad-based education. I think the important thing is being curious about different facets of the world and wanting answers! If you’re looking to enter the field, don’t worry so much about not having the right technical skills. The internet is a wonderful resource, and there are all these coding bootcamps you can go to now to pick up those skills. The engagement and interest is much more important!

Do you think there are specific challenges that come with being a woman in tech?
I am very fortunate to be in a company where I do feel absolutely no pushback or stigma for being a woman. But I think that’s a somewhat uncommon phenomenon. You should be confident in what you bring to the table and not let anyone discredit you unnecessarily. But remember — you need to balance between being open-minded enough to accept constructive feedback, and also realize if the feedback you’re getting is not helpful or unrelated to the quality of your work.

Any advice for women who want to get into data analytics?
It’s a pretty male-dominated field right now … In my previous jobs, I’ve been in very male-heavy groups. And my advice would be to remember that, though that’s currently how it is right now, it’s up to you to change these things.

Why are you proud to be a woman in tech?
Tech is a very powerful, pre-eminent force, and it will drive a lot of the future. In fact, it’s already well on its way to revamping industry standards among different sectors in the US economy, whether it be through labor automation, processing efficiency, or new inventions altogether. And so, I think it’s important that women integrate themselves into these forces and guide it to issues we find most pressing, so that our voices continue to be heard, and that our political and economic influence grow.

Thea, software engineer

What first got you into software engineering?
Being born and liking math … I had an early interest in math and science, and I had moved away from that throughout college, and then in the intervening years realized I wanted to get back to it. But it was working here [at Climb] that I was able to do so.

Where did you learn to code?
General Assembly. It was really incredible — I’m continually thankful to have had that preparation. As I come across things on the job now, I can remember something the instructor or TA had given us as a tip, or told us to watch out for, or just general guiding principles of how to approach solving problems. It’s cool to see now how that’s playing out, and how it’s still a part of what we have going on here.

Do you think there are specific challenges that come with being a woman in tech?
I’ve been lucky not to first-hand come up against many of them. But universally, women are generally not going to be paid as much for the same amount of work as men … Women in general tend not to be trusted that they know what they’re doing, particularly in a tech field. There can be this feeling of a continual need to keep proving yourself, which can be tiresome after a while … But luckily that’s not something I’ve felt at all from Climb or on the job here. If I encounter it, it’s while meeting people socially, when it comes to the classic “oh, what do you do?” conversation.

What do you wish someone had told you before getting into tech?
It’s fine not to get everything immediately, and it’s fine to struggle with things. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. In a lot of ways, the source of your strength and your problem-solving abilities is being able to work through that and feel comfortable with what you don’t know. Because especially with programming, almost everything you aren’t going to know, and it’s always a matter of being able to figure it out and trust that you will figure it out, even if you don’t get it at all right now.

Editor’s Note: On 05/24/2018, Angela’s job title in this post was updated from her former title of Chief Operations Officer to her current title of Chief Executive Officer.

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