Welcome to our new Tuesday Tech series, where we talk all things trending in the technology industry on the second Tuesday of every month! We’re excited to kick off this series with a topic that is very important to us and our company values—featuring and uplifting the amazing and accomplished female engineers and software developers we have at IntelePeer.
Sadly, even in today’s day and age, women are massively underrepresented in technology. With all of the steps that STEM organizations and institutions have taken to build up female representation in the field, it is frustrating to realize the huge leaps and bounds necessary to see more equality and progression in the future. One recently updated article from BuiltIn, “Women in Tech Statistics Show the Industry has a Long Way to Go,” has identified some of these inequities and barriers to entry, such as 22% of women are more likely to experience “Imposter Syndrome” in the workplace, 48% of women in STEM jobs report discrimination in the recruitment and hiring process, and women hold only 26% of computing-related jobs.
Nevertheless, IntelePeer as a company is not one to follow the herd—rather, we lead, outsmart and disrupt authentically! This tech series was created to show who we are as a company from the inside out and how we’re evolving as a market leader. We hope you enjoy learning about our star women who are not only mothers, wives, or fabulous and single, but also product managers, engineers, and software developers that problem solve, write code, fix and introduce new rich features/functionality that significantly contributes to building our award-winning products.
For our first Q&A, we sat down with Ethel Jerez, a software developer for IntelePeer’s Atmosphere CPaaS solutions. Read on to learn how she broke through the glass ceiling to become a developer in a predominately male industry.
Where did you grow up and go to school?
My family is from Nicaragua but I was born in Miami and lived there through middle school. I am the youngest with two older siblings and when I was 12, my family and I moved back to Nicaragua. I returned to the United States to attend Boston University for my undergrad degree, studying economics. After graduating, I went back to Miami working in finance. Banking was not inspiring or my cup of tea to say the least.
After learning banking was not of interest, you decided to go back to school. Why?
I always had a love for tech. I took a few computer science classes in college, but honestly, it was a bit intimidating back then. I decided to get my MBA in 2011 at the Instituo de Empresa, IE Business school in Madrid. I was over there for about two years. When I came back, I had my own idea, to create my own company. I won’t get into the specifics, but it was basically an on-demand scooter business that centered around a mobile application. I did the business plan, pitched it, did get some interest from Spanish investors, but quickly gathered that what they wanted for the company was not the offer I was searching for. Looking back at that now, I realize I was too young and in over my head for that venture anyways.
How did that experience help you?
Being a tech-focused venture, this forced me to reach out to different software developers. As months went by, I kept asking myself how exactly this app/technology works? Once I started researching more I thought, wow, I’d love to learn to do this myself one day!
Learning you have a passion for technology and curiosity around application and technology work, what motivated you to learn how to code?
A few years ago, my family partnered with a company from Spain called Mirto, a men’s and women’s clothing company, and we took it to Miami. After working with the family for a bit, I felt that I still had an itch for something more. At the beginning of 2018, as I was stepping away from my family business, I suddenly had more free time and I thought if there is ever a time to pivot in my life it is definitely now. So, next thing I know, I’m enrolled in Wyncode Academy, a coding boot camp, and boom, my coding journey began! I’m not going to lie. It was very tough. But I gave it my all during those months. At the end of each course, there is a coding competition. My partner and I got 1st place which was amazing and we took home some nice prize money. Luckily, Adam Klodner, my current boss, was in the audience! He reached out to Wyncode for our contact information and the rest is history.
Sounds like you really enjoy being a coder. Has that changed since you started working for IntelePeer?
I love it! Honestly, I’m still drinking the Kool-Aid. I’ll stay up some nights figuring out different approaches on how to solve an issue and/or reading up on how different areas of the development lifecycle work. If I could go back, I would 100% study Computer Science back in college.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love the people I work with – my coworkers, but especially my immediate team. I could not have asked for a better one. We work on the “front-end”/customer-facing side of the products, specifically with SmartFlows and Engage. My direct team is Adam, Subhash, and, most recently, Farah. I feel extremely lucky that I was given a chance to come into the team as a junior software engineer back in 2018. Having Adam as a leader and Subhash as the senior engineer/architect of the team has been the best learning experience for me. We all learn from each other, and I think that’s the most important thing in a team. I look back and I can’t believe how far I’ve come in only 3 years. So yeah, I’d say my favorite part of my job is working with my team! I also feel like I’m always learning something new, and I am challenged every day here.
How do you help deliver results?
The main products my team and I work on are Engage and SmartFlows. Being on the customer-facing side, we are constantly working on creating new features (for example, an action on SmartFlow’s, a new option for campaigns on engage) that users would like to have and making sure any bugs are taken care of promptly. Behind the scenes, we are also typically working on some new surprise projects or experiments. Stay tuned!
What are some of the biggest challenges you see and what have you learned from them?
As a developer you must figure a lot out on your own. This is both good and bad. For learning its great, but given the time constraints we have, you need to learn to become an efficient researcher. Its very easy to fall into a rabbit hole while you’re researching online! You eventually learn how to spot the important information from different sources and just use what you need.
Another huge challenge is something called “imposter syndrome,” or the constant feeling of not being good enough. As a developer, this is tough to get away from, but you just need to learn to push through it.
What advice would you give to women interested in computer science, app development/coder or becoming an engineer?
Try not to compare yourself to counterparts, forget who you are surrounded by – and yes, in this industry, it will more than likely be mostly men. But that’s OK. Remember that all developers struggle and suffer with “imposter syndrome.” You should come into this with a very open mind and be ready and willing to learn something new every day from other developers you work with. Programming, in general, takes a lot of time and effort. As a woman, learn not to categorize yourself because if you do, you might end up shutting yourself out. Don’t put yourself in a box – you are a developer, period. Don’t give up and ask questions! Be proud that you’re making steps, even if small, towards becoming the developer you want to be.
What do you enjoy reading?
I used to read a lot more when I was younger. Unfortunately, I lost that habit during my 20s. But one good thing that came out of the lockdown last year was that I started reading again! I mostly enjoy non-fiction, empowering stories. I’m big on biographies and I also enjoy books on entrepreneurship and personal development. My latest reads are “The Ride of a Lifetime,” written by the ex-CEO of Disney, Robert Iger, and “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup” by John Carreyrou. I’m currently reading “The 5 am Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life” by Robin Sharma.
Questions or comments? We’d love to hear from you. Also, stay tuned for next month’s column introducing another female rock star. To learn more about us visit, www.intelepeer.com.