The secret to getting paid in tech
By Michele Cantos, Gracehopper Program Director
Ladies Get Paid member Jamie Lau is like many women out there. She's just starting her career in tech--she recently got hired as a software engineer at PaintZen--and learning to navigate a notoriously male-dominated industry. But having come out of Grace Hopper Program, an all-women's coding bootcamp, she's going in with her feminist guns blazin'. We sat down with Jamie to talk changing careers, building community, and getting paid.
First, what got you interested in working in tech?
Prior to becoming a programmer, I was working at a nonprofit organization, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). Their mission is to fight for human rights and social justice for Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls.
While working at NAPAWF, I had the chance to work on the organization’s website. It was built on WordPress, and I was mainly responsible for making content changes, but once I learned the ropes a bit, I started making direct edits to the HTML. I was always excited to see the changes happen and to know that once I published them, it would be live for all to see!
This project sparked my interest in coding, and I eventually decided that I didn't want to just edit these sites; I wanted to build them myself.
That's a pretty big career move. Once you had that realization, what did you do next?
I knew as a coder I would be entering a predominantly male industry, so it was important to me to seek out an all-women's learning environment. I thought it was important to be in an environment where the faculty and staff were aware of the struggles we are facing and will face as women in tech. That led me to the Grace Hopper Program.
Did you find that going to an all-women's school gave you an advantage you might not have gotten at a co-ed program?
Absolutely. The school really works to build a supportive and empowering community, and I still keep in touch with the women I went through the program with. But even more impressive was that they really want us to get paid! They offer a deferred tuition payment model, which basically means you don’t pay full tuition until you actually land a full-time job in the industry, so they're truly taking steps to minimize the gender disparity in tech by providing women with opportunities, and they're putting their money where their mouth is.
That community-based support system sounds like a game changer.
It really was, both as a student and as a mentor to other students. After graduating, I was a fellow and was able to help other students through the program. A lot of questions I got were similar to or the exact same questions that passed through my mind as a student. Being able to pass on my experience and knowledge was extremely fulfilling for me; I loved seeing concepts click with students, and having the opportunity to help other women succeed.
It seems like the program you went to is helping shift culture so it's easier for women to thrive in tech. But what do you think can we do to penetrate other male-dominated industries?
I think, no matter the industry, it always comes back to building community with other women, so we can all benefit from each others’ experiences, without having to go through them ourselves, or if we are having a tough time at work, or if we’re scared to go into a salary discussion, we don’t have to face that alone. I find the Ladies Get Paid, Tech Ladies, and Women Techmakers communities incredibly empowering and supportive. I hope more people find these resources and know that they do not have to weather the hardships of being a woman in tech alone.
Finally, what advice would you give to all those LGP ladies out there who might be considering a career in tech?
I would say: Don’t wait until you feel ready! That might sound counterintuitive, but I’ve found that sometimes you just need to jump in and trust that you will learn as you go.
Big thanks to Jamie Lau and congrats on the new job! We hope hearing from her was inspiring to any of you ladies considering a move into the tech industry, and if you want to check out the Grace Hopper Program, go for it. (We hosted a salary negotiation workshop there recently, and it was awesome!)
About Gracehopper: The Grace Hopper Program at Fullstack Academy is an all-women’s software engineering immersive offering a risk-free education: We require no upfront tuition, and students who don’t find work don’t pay. Period.