Story About Becoming a successful Women Engineer
My name is Barbara Rodeker, and I would like to share my professional history, mistakes I made, what I learn from them, and what I did right. Since I got my first job at the age of sixteen, my journey of selling cocktails on an Argentinian beach to my current position as a Software Engineer in Berlin, Germany. I aim to focus on tools, strategies, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and resources to make you achieve whatever you want in your profession or in any new field you want to approach.
The mentions to be made are not, of course, universal, neither I believe anyone has the same path in life, and I’m convinced each person has a unique development story; that’s what makes us so interesting. I hope at least one of you to find a spark of new ideas, discover a modern twist, get some motivation, fire that creativity that is already there within you, and finds a seed of change.
My working life has evolved gradually, sometimes smoothly progressing, sometimes with big jumps. While at secondary school, I learned the value of making your own money, from your sweat, and then spending that money on whatever I needed or wanted. Since I lived close to the beach, I took some short-term jobs during summertime, where the city became lively from the mass of tourists arriving. I worked at the beach, making sales, as a waitress and as a receptionist. In secondary school, I got a bachelor’s in Business and Administration.
I dreamed of being a lawyer since I was around 12. The truth is that I was too young to know what I wanted. So after going to a coach and doing some orientation courses for teens to decide their future careers, I marked to have good skills in Social and Communicational sciences, administration, and mathematics physics-related jobs. As you probably realize, the tests were beneficial (insert sarcasm here :)).
I was even more confused than before. At that moment, my heart told me to go to Social Sciences, and I signed up for a Degree in Psychology at a public university, 200 kilometers from my hometown. The story changed three years later when going to classes was becoming very heavy for me, and I lost interest in the topics and started to be critical about some learnings I was receiving.
With my family’s support and despite feeling too guilty about all the money invested, I quit. It was a hard decision for somebody like me, who find it challenging to give up, but I learn a big lesson back then. The mother of a good friend told me, “don’t worry, you never know about the future. Everything you do prove to be useful at some point. I have a cousin, who was a priest for 20 years, it was hard for him, but now he’s the best psychologist I’ve ever met”.
I learned that sometimes you need to give up, see what’s inside you, not stick to fixed decisions you made, and realize that sometimes only the choice you thought was right for you turned out not to be. Yes, she was incredibly fitting. Having done three years of psychology prepared me for my next career choice and is still a great resource. I come back to and keep developing over time to analyze myself and analyze dynamics around me.
While attending the program, my favorite subject was GRO, Groups Reflection, and Observation, which consisted of spending three hours per week and observing and engaging in group dynamics and analyzing how conversations, topics, feelings, thoughts, interactions develop in a group. I keep having a deep interest in that.
It has helped me innumerable times to see the dynamics around me, contributes to the flow of a good conversation, unblock specific conflicts in others also inside me, see tendencies, and fight for power. I try to ease the situation, contribute to resolutions and negotiations whenever I’ve got the opportunity to do so, see how certain groups are not suitable for me, and take the necessary actions.
After quitting Psychology, I was unsure what to study, just if I’ve applied for an English Translator Degree in another branch of the same university. I needed to go through an initial exam writing essays about Kafka and some humanistic topics. Despite that, somehow, I was not sure if that was the right choice. One morning, after being some days thinking about it, I went to the internet to find what other careers would give me an excellent chance to land a job. I was still with this “I’ve spent so much money all these years” sensation that I wanted to support myself as quickly as possible.
I was always good in many areas, so I had the confidence that I could study anything. Exactly one hour before the registration office closed for the calendar year, I traveled to another city that I had never been before and run with all my papers to sign for the Software Engineer Degree. I made it just in time. The same day the initial mandatory course started some hours later.
I did not have a place to stay for the night, and it was not easy to find one in a city with so much demand from many students. I was allowed to miss only five classes. That Monday, after spending 1 hour in the initial course, with only a pen and a paper, with no calculator, trying to solve Bhaskara by myself, not remembering how to add fractions, I started panicking just a bit.
I met one of my best life friends, the guy right to me, who told me, “are you leaving? really?”. “Yes, I don’t remember anything, and the bus to return to my home is about to leave. See you next week,” – I said. I returned 200 kilometers that night, thinking about how I’d get a place to live and being able to catch up with the rest of the class.
In three days, I quit the job I’d taken, made some phone calls, found a shared room close to the center in the new city, packed my stuff, grabbed the money I had made this summer. I discussed a bit with my mother over my last minute crazy idea and decided to invest the money to try this mandatory introduction course.
Next Monday, I sat there, this time with a calculator and a lot of determination.
The course was approved in two halves with at least 65% of its content, algorithms, polynomials, derivation, linear, quadratic, cubic, and higher-order functions, differential equations, logarithmic operations, function limits, integral calculus, physics, and software principles. You can imagine how amazed I was by all those concepts. I read about paradigms, Lacan, Freud, Pavlov, epistemology, sociology, therapeutic techniques, and behavior analysis. And now BOOM, jump into other waters, girl.
My friend Juan, the guy next to me the first day, told me, “I thought you’d never return here.” He was generous support during my course, as well as other guys around me. Hugo helped me a lot, who spend a lot of time helping me with equations, the auxiliary teachers, the professors, one of the girls I met in the shared accommodation, Sabrina, who is now one of my best friends.
As well as friends, I made this one and a half months during the course and are still part of my life, Agustina, Alejo, Damian. And others I keep in contact with from time to time. Years later, more names were added to companions and friends, such as Matias and Carlos. I reached out to many people. Many people reached out spontaneously to me.
There were also, of course, obstacles and bad influences from other people, things like “Oh you look like the thinker statue” (it was, of course, my position during many hours, I sweat hard these months with work), “engineering is not for women,” “I never thought you’d make it.” In the first of the two halves examinations, I was into the small 10% of students that approved. In the second and final exams,
I got one of the top 10 grades among the hundreds of students. I made it on time between the best scores. I finished my course in six-years when it takes, on average, ten years to complete. Many good and bad things happened in my life in the meantime. I started working full time at the beginning of my third year, financially supporting myself during the rest of my career. In 2010 I had my degree finished, and then other parts of the story continued.
I learned many lessons in those years and reinforced some attitudes I had been developing before.
No matter how crazy people or even yourself believe something is, you cannot rely on what you think. You must give it a try in real life, not in your mind. No matter how hard or how easy, you must sit down, do the actual work, spend hours, use the time, sweat. Nothing will come to you from the heavens.
There is no innate, fixed ability. You can develop any ability you want. No matter your past, what you learned before, even if distant from what you’d like to learn next, is always useful. It can be translated or transferred to new disciplines and areas; tonnes of research about neurosciences and how our brain works prove that in the last decade.
The brain is not a fixed structure of cables and connections. We can always develop new techniques and master any subject. We can and should make changes. No matter how difficult you think, something will be, take baby steps, make a plan, follow it, assign yourself achievable steps, do the stuff, sit down, whatever time you can, 10 minutes? 1 hour?
Whatever it is the time, don’t let it stop yourself, you can now start with 5 minutes per day of learning a new language for example, yes, it will take longer, yes, you need to be constant, yes, you’ll see results just after maybe years and then, what? What’s the problem?. It’s none. Better to speak French for five years than being your whole life screwing yourself with phrases like “I wish I’d do that” “how happy I’d be if I would have that.” Despite what our parents told us when we were kids, we all know that babies are not coming from Paris.
Everything starts super little. Everything requires time; everything requires work; everything requires waiting; everything requires learning what you want and preparing yourself to achieve it. In a fast world like ours, we should start focusing more on enjoying the processes and not making the results’ admiration.
Do that with yourself and do that with the people around you, think how much effort they are putting in what you see, think about the work they do behind the curtains, be more compassionate about yourself and others, don’t go for perfection. Go for sustainable reality and improvement.
I was not born a successful Engineer. I became.
Thanks a lot to those people who supported me in and to those who threw stones in my way. Both have made me a better person.
If you want to know more about other resources I used in the past, or I’m using at the moment, please contact me. Or if you’re going to talk or ask any question.
here are my social networks: https://www.facebook.com/barbbbb