How Women in Tech Are Navigating COVID, Remote Work, Parenthood & More
For decades, women in tech have faced their fair share of challenges in the workplace, whether it’s overcoming impostor syndrome, having their voice heard or simply getting their foot in the door. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the struggles have become more pronounced than ever — yet women across the country are finding ways to support each other despite the new social distancing protocols.
At San Francisco-based RocketLawyer.com, which provides users with affordable access to virtual legal services, many of the leadership positions have been filled by women who serve as powerful examples of support and advocacy. During a recent Women in Tech Fireside Chat Director of Product Nicole Nelson and Victoria Galvin, a recruiter for the company, shared their experiences and helpful insights with attendees, many of whom have recently completed a tech boot camp through UC Berkeley Extension and are looking to transition their careers.
After nearly six years with RocketLawyer.com, Nicole was excited to take advantage of her maternity leave and bond with her second daughter at the start of February 2020. By the time she was ready to return to the workforce, however, the company had gone fully remote. While the flexibility was a welcome change for the new mother of two, there were a lot of moments that Nicole felt disconnected from the world due to the “invisible workload” that includes mental to-do lists, appointments and troubleshooting toilet paper shortages on top of her career responsibilities — as many working women have experienced.
But, she wasn’t afraid to reach out when she needed support. After rejoining the RocketLawyer.com team in August, she set up her home office and hired a nanny to assist with her children. “I’m grateful for the help,” she proudly told attendees.
To wrap the conversation, Nicole and Victoria held an open forum to answer questions about the state of the industry and how women can best position themselves to transition into a role they’re passionate about. Keep reading for our top takeaways from the discussion that followed.
Don’t be afraid to address COVID-related career gaps in your resume when talking with potential employers.
Just about every industry has been impacted by COVID in some way, so the first step is to be strategic about your job search. In fact, in many circles there has been a rallying cry for resources for people whose work has been affected by the pandemic, and there is massive support for people who want to be seen. Not sure how to get started? Join LinkedIn groups or drop your resume into Google spreadsheets — people are willing to help others who put themselves out there.
Keep in mind, employers aren’t viewing these employment gaps in the same way as they might have pre-COVID. There is a lot more understanding and empathy in the job market, so don’t be afraid to explain the gaps in your resume over the last few months.
If you’re going to make a career change, move toward an industry you’re passionate about — and keep learning.
If you’re coming back from any time off work or away from your usual field, use the time to reflect. Ask yourself, What am I hungry to learn about? Make a change toward something you’re passionate about. Nicole’s recommendation? Start searching for upskilling programs. “There are great…programs that are becoming ubiquitous and accepted,” she explained. There’s no one-size-fits-all path into tech, so don’t feel pressured to take one.
Victoria added that because so many people have been impacted by COVID and are pivoting careers as a result, it’s never been a better time to leverage your personal network and see what’s out there. Share your skills and resume with your connections — don’t be afraid to reach out.
Networking during a pandemic is possible — you just have to know who (and what) to ask.
Strangely enough, COVID has lowered the barrier to entry to having a conversation. “Before COVID, there was a lot of complication in meeting physically,” Nicole said. Schedule conflicts, location confusion, you name it. With people spending more time at home than ever before, they’re more likely to accept the invitation to have a conversation.
As a recruiter, Victoria always gets on the phone with anyone who has taken the time to reach out to her personally via LinkedIn or through email. “Do a LinkedIn search for someone who works at your target company,” she advises. Even if it’s not a recruiter, it’ll increase the chances of chatting with someone who can put you in touch with the right person.
The top piece of networking advice? Have a specific ask in mind when you request to chat: Can you introduce me to the hiring manager? Would you take a look at my resume? It helps the other person understand the value they can bring to the table and ensures that everyone is getting something out of the conversation.
Convey confidence through clear communication that matches that of your audience.
We’ve all been there: not being able to speak up, having to manage objections from male counterparts, explaining a concept in a new language. Nicole gave the audience a piece of advice that was given to her: Match the confidence level in the room. “Don’t go above and beyond,” she says. “What you have to say matters. You should speak up on a topic that is near to you.”
Victoria added, “You can come off as confident and professional by being precise, basic and to the point.” If you’re not sure that an idea has been communicated clearly, ask for information in written form to make sure you’re on the same page with everyone involved.
Keep learning so you can make the career transition you want.
It’s absolutely possible to make a transition into a field where you lack experience; it all comes down to your approach. Get your foot in the door with the skill set you have, then ask for what you want. Find the leader of the team you want to work on and tell them your career goals — they’ll be able to help you determine whether it would be a good fit.
Hiring managers are also looking for individuals who are continuous learners. Even if you’ve been unemployed, showcasing your commitment to keep learning shows that you have initiative and dedication. Take LinkedIn Learning courses and explore other free tech trainings to expand on the skills you’re lacking, then convey what you’ve been doing through your cover letter and resume.
Do your homework before the interview.
These days, most companies follow a similar interview formula: recruiter call, hiring manager call, technical assessment and a panel interview. Before you speak with the hiring manager, look them up on LinkedIn to see if you have anything in common and to come up with questions you can ask them. Rather than simply asking “What do you like most about working for this company?” cater your questions to that person specifically. For instance, “Looking at the product roadmap for this year, what are you most excited about building with your team?”
You should also educate yourself on the business itself: visit the website, test out the mobile app, look them up on the news. In the end, it’ll help you craft more impactful questions and stand out from the crowd.
Learn how to sell yourself, whether you have a boot camp education or a four-year degree.
“A lot of people are scared of the question ‘Tell me about yourself’,” Victoria told the audience. For women especially, it’s easy to shy away from accomplishments. Fight the urge — instead, portray your excitement about moving in a new direction and how you want to contribute in a new role.
Nicole added, “It doesn’t matter if [a candidate comes from] a boot camp or Harvard.” What matters most? Whether you’re a good fit for the company. “What is your why? Are you putting your best foot forward?”
If anything is clear, it’s that now is a unique time for individuals across industries. For women in tech, there are more possibilities for remote work than ever before. If you’re interested in learning skills to transition into a technical career, explore our boot camps in web development, UX/UI, data analytics, cybersecurity, digital marketing, fintech or tech project management.