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Johna Rutz also know as @jonesdoeslife is a technology consultant at Credera. We were lucky enough to be able to talk to her about her journey of being a women in the tech industry. 

What sparked your interest in technology, and drove you towards a career in the industry?

I initially fell in love with technology as an art and a medium of expression, not a science –  before I ever thought of it as a career I was making websites to promote futuristic biotech and talk about psychology, using R to make the reports for my Statistics class, and digging into editing tools to make YouTube videos in the pre-iphone era.

After a three-week university program in which high schoolers programmed robots to compete, I was sold. Before that I had never seen coding as a full-time job, found that I loved doing it, and wanted to learn more. 

What does your typical day look like as a Software Developer?

As a technology consultant at Credera, every day is different, but it follows the same pattern:

7:30 – 9am: The first thing I do is check emails to see if there are urgent issues or questions that need attention. This is also when I get a lot of my administrative work done and follow up on things from the previous day.

9:30am: We officially start the day with a team meeting (we call it stand-up or ‘scrum’) where everyone talks briefly about what they’ve been working on and what they’ll be working on. This gives me a list of things to check in on as the day progresses if people express struggles.

10am – 4pm: As a team lead, I typically follow up with people on any challenges they’ve encountered in their work and make myself available to work on anything people need help with; I’ll collaborate with different team members to debug code on their computers, clarify development requirements, do code reviews, talk through design approaches, and make sure everyone has the information and attention they need to be successful. A few days a week we’ll have team-wide planning meetings to discuss what work we’re going to be doing and make sure everyone is one the same page.

During the day I’ll also have conversations with our business partners and other teams that depend on us to make sure they understand what we’re working on, answer any questions they might have, and make sure that what we’re building is what they want.

4-5pm:  This is a designated social time for my team – everyone will jump on a call and talk about anything except for work. This has been a delightful way to stay connected throughout the pandemic where we’ll share what movies we’ve watched, plants we’ve grown, and learn about each other as people.

5-7pm: This is the other time of the day when I get my own work done – answering any final questions, putting my own code up for review, and planning for the next day.

What is your favourite part about your job? What drives you?

Building products and people up in ways that leave a tangible impact. I love being able to work with a client to implement technology solutions that make their employees’ and customers’ lives better – whether it’s setting them up with a content management system, redesigning a website so information is easier to find, or enabling a self-service HR platform for employees. Being able to work with wicked-smart people, help them grow in their careers, and help our clients in their businesses is a joy.

What challenges or obstacles have you faced as a woman in the industry? Have you ever felt that your you are perceived differently in professional settings due to your gender?

I have been lucky in my career to land in an environment that’s been overwhelmingly supportive of my pursuits. As a woman, when I walk into a room, clients are more likely to assume that I’m with the business rather than a technologist – I am often the only woman in the room with my peers, and usually the only technical woman.

With being an “only” comes the responsibility of having to speak up even when something seems blaringly obvious, and I’ve learned to find my voice in those conversations – e.g. if someone designs an application to rely on work email addresses staying the same, overlooking that women often change their last names and email addresses after getting married.

This concept applies to far more than gender, it also applies to things like:

  • Disability – holding peers accountable to creating accessible color schemes and tooling for the visually impaired
  • Race – questioning whether your facial recognition software picks up all skin tones
  • Age – making sure that someone who doesn’t have a smart phone or texting can use multi-factor-authentication

 This year the UN’s International Day of the Girl Child is turning its focus to gender divide in the digital world, how do you think we can encourage more women with access to pursue careers in technology?

I hope we can encourage more women with access to pursue careers in technology by tangibly showing how it can solve our problems, and by empowering women to create their own solutions – we’ve seen augmented-reality used to create virtual dressing rooms and makeup counters, wearables designed for safety, apps that track and predict different aspects of women’s health, innovations in technology to care for young children, social media platforms change the way we organize and communicate, and more in recent years.

Even something as simple as a recipe calculator on a website to make sure you have precisely the right amount of ingredients can make cooking and grocery shopping, stereotypically women’s activities, a little bit easier. The more people we have identifying and solving our everyday problems, the better our solutions become.

What advice would you give women and young girls who are interested in pursuing Software Development and technology as a whole?

Explore on your own to figure out what you enjoy doing and what you never want to touch again – you don’t have to wait for a class, a program, or college degree to start learning and experimenting with what you can create.

Lastly, you post about the books that you are reading on your Instagram and they all seem like such inspiring books! What is an inspiring book you would recommend for girls and women to read as they are setting out to begin their study and careers?

One of the earliest books I picked up was Code by Charles Petzold, it focuses on this history of technology and tells the story of how code started and evolved over time. It’s not the lightest of reads (Rosie Revere, Engineer is great for littles), but it’s a solid lesson for budding technologists considering a career in computers.

Interviewed by Josie-Lyn