Women in Tech is a Nexton series where we chat with the brightest women in the tech industry about their careers, stories, and more!
For this Women in Tech interview, we sat down with Aldana Laura Quintana Munilla, an experienced software developer and Team Lead, to discover her insights on the global tech community. Learn about her day-to-day life as a woman in tech and explore her take on diversity, imposter syndrome, role models, motivation, and more!
Nexton: Why did you decide to pursue a career in the tech industry? What first caught your attention?
I love creating things. Living in a world where software is so intertwined with our lives and knowing how to build these applications gives you a tool to shape reality in a very impactful way. That’s why I think understanding software is so powerful and will become more important every day.
Nexton: Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
That’s an interesting question. I’m not a fan of strict schedules but I think that having structure in my day helps me feel more confident about my work and achieve a good work-life balance.
On a typical work day, I’ll have a daily meeting to catch up with the team in the morning, but I’ve discovered that having a little time for myself prior to that helps me feel like I’m taking care of myself. So I’ll try to go to the gym early, watch a little TV or listen to a podcast with my breakfast before jumping into work.
Mornings are when I have the most focus, so I try to tackle most coding before lunch. If it’s possible, I hold meetings and reply to emails after lunch. I work from home, so it’s important to sometimes leave the house for a change of air.
On not-so-busy days, I enjoy an occasional cup of coffee at a coffee shop near my house. If I have time, I bring a book or a journal with me, which gives me the opportunity to enjoy human interaction. It also gives me a chance to be in a different space than my desk, which I find very refreshing.
Nexton: That sounds like a super balanced day. Switching topics a little bit: as a woman in tech, we’d love to get your perspective on disparity and inequality in the industry. In the past few years, have you seen positive changes in this matter? How do you see the DEI initiatives developing in the field?
I think that the tech industry is changing in a positive way. This subject has many sides to it. On one hand, awareness is very important and I think the conversation on diversity and inclusion is more important now than ever. This is a very good thing, but of course, at some point, that alone isn’t enough.
However, some companies are putting their money where their mouth is and have started doing something about it. One interesting way of approaching this issue I’ve seen is companies giving scholarships or hosting programs to teach programming to women.
Equality policies like granting equal parental leave for all genders are also a big step towards equal pay and inclusion. Some companies are also implementing non-gendered resumés to combat bias when screening online applications.
In addition, I think having protocols in place where violent or abusive situations can be denounced and handled should be a top priority for any company that wants a diverse and healthy workplace.
Nexton: In your opinion, how can tech companies boost the participation of women in tech?
There are entire companies built around training teams on these subjects. I think a good starting point is consulting with these companies and hiring one that helps teams stay committed to this issue. They help get the conversation going at a company level, bring innovation to these aspects and help revise the processes and protocols in place to make sure people will feel welcome and safe in the workplace.
Another reason why this is so useful is that when you’re trying to attract a group of people, it’s only logical to ask them what they need in order to feel compelled to join. Teams dedicated to diversity and inclusion are led and managed by the kind of people you as a company are trying to reach.
Nexton: In your experience, does being a woman in your profession come with extra mental challenges that you have to overcome, i.e. imposter syndrome?
Yes, of course. I think that we’re all susceptible to imposter syndrome, but more subtle biases can get internalized for us women in tech. For example, in the early years of my career, I often felt that when I attended a work event and wore a dress or something associated with being feminine, that people would think that I wasn’t very good at my job.
At the moment, I didn’t even realize this was an internalized bias against myself. No one had ever told me this, but for some reason, I thought that was the way things were.
You’ll hear endless experiences of women in tech where they were assumed to be designers or HR people when they were really developers or even technical leaders. Of course, I’m not saying there’s anything bad about being a designer or working at HR. But these examples speak to the biases we all face every day when talking in a meeting, getting interviewed for a new job, etc.
This doesn’t only affect the work environment, but it also circles back to your life at a personal level, as your expression as an individual. And at a company level, it’s also detrimental. We live in a world where “masculine” qualities such as taking action, having a go-getter personality and following extremely logical thinking are celebrated and encouraged. Yet, “feminine” qualities and expressions such as pausing to evaluate options, considering emotions and respecting the creative process aren’t.
In reality, we actually need all these traits. Every one of us needs them. If we accepted the fact that not everybody is cut from the same cloth, we would be able to value true individuality in the projects we work on.
Nexton: That’s very interesting. When difficulties arise during a project how do you stay motivated to achieve the best results? How do you handle self-doubt?
I think that motivation is often considered a prerequisite for doing something, but more often than not, motivation will kick in once you start working on the task. This is like the classic chicken or egg scenario. You can get into a spiral where the lack of motivation is damaging to your work and not getting work done means further demotivation. Or, you can try to break that cycle somewhere along the way.
For me, I think the most actionable part is just to start doing the thing. I read somewhere the phrase “trust the process, hold the vision.” I think this means that there’s no better way to freeze motivation than to expect perfection. At some point, you have to trust the process and get to work.
Of course, having a good group of support at your workplace and at a personal level is fundamental for those times we doubt ourselves and need a helping hand. With coding, in particular, I think that pair programming is a really good, underused practice that can help us get started on something, build better quality code, and promote team building and collaboration.
Nexton: Do you have any pearls of wisdom for women considering a career in the tech industry?
There will always be those who try to make you doubt your place in the industry, but there will also be a lot of people in your corner. Try to ignore the haters and rely on those you can trust. I myself have been lucky enough to work with team members and leaders that helped me feel welcome and made it a point for me to know that my voice matters.
I wish I’d known earlier how important it is to speak up. Of course, the burden of doing so shouldn’t be solely on us, but we have to lead this conversation if we want things to be different for the women in tech that come after us.