Navigating Imposter Syndrome as a woman in Silicon Mountain.
The fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are always perceived as a male-dominated throughout the world, and the silicon mountain (SM) community is no exception. Coming to Buea after my advanced level to study engineering at the University of Buea (UB), I knew ahead of time that I'd be in a class with mostly men. It wasn't surprising, as that was already the case when I was in High.
I'm Massabe Lydiane, a full stack developer and an open source contributor. I currently work at Afrovision Group ( www.afrovisiongroup.com ), a leading IT outsourcing firm located in the heart of Buea's Silicon Mountain community. This article narrates my story so far as a female software developer in a male dominated industry.
I came to UB to study electronic/ electrical engineering, but I ended up getting involved with computers and programming. I was living with my elder sister at the time and she was studying computer engineering at UB. Following her to tech events organised by the community and hearing all the amazing stories of what young Cameroonians like me were building/doing got me interested in tech. Of course, while finishing my bachelor's degree, I began learning the fundamentals of HTML, CSS, and everything I could do and see on a browser. This was in addition to the brief C and C++ programming courses we had to take as minors at the university.
I got an internship at my current workplace after defending my undergraduate thesis. I couldn't wait to fully immerse myself in the world of software programming and become a true developer. The experience has been fantastic two years later. I've learned a lot and created amazing projects and today I can call myself a full stack developer...hahaha. I am aware that there is still a long way to go and more boxes to check, but I am simply enjoying the process.
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry can be intimidating at times. I, like most women, experience anxiety from time to time. But, as a young woman in the industry, I am grateful for the efforts and work done by previous generations to bridge the gender gap in technology. We have communities such as the Women Techmakers (WTM) Buea, which is primarily composed of women who encourage and mentor other women to pursue careers in technology. This was the community that gave me confidence and motivation...I saw what a fellow woman like me could accomplish.
The efforts of feminists, NGOs, and communities such as WTM, are not in vain, as more and more women are entering STEM fields. I am optimistic enough to believe that at any given startup in Buea, there is at least one female developer, designer, product manager, and so on. We hope for more... why not have a large tech company tomorrow founded and led by a woman here in Buea, similar to Canva, which has as one of its co-founders Melanie Perkins. Rome wasn't built in a day, and we are well aware of this.
Our community's supportive and hardworking gentlemen must not be forgotten. They hold our hands, and we work together to accomplish great things. I experienced this support while attending conferences organised by communities such as the Google Developers Group (GDG) Buea and the Facebook Developer (DevC) Buea. Groups in which gender is irrelevant and everyone is free to express themselves. The Silicon Mountain community grows as a result of all of us and all of these organisations.
Overall, a female software developer should be bold, confident and most important of all patient. My not-so-small Silicon Mountain community has made me feel at home, and this makes me happy.