As the lead front end developer at Alkami Technology (a company that provides digital solutions for banks and credit unions) and volunteer at Women Who Code and Girl Develop It (organizations that teach women to code), it’s easy to dub Caree Youngman as a successful woman in tech. But before she got to where she is today, Caree had to overcome many obstacles.
When asked about how being female impacted her journey in technology, she shared that her gender has influenced her path “sometimes in the worst of ways.” Being naturally introverted, she said that it was hard for her to step out of her comfort zone and deliver her ideas. When she joined CS classes, she found that the environment didn’t help calm her naturally shy persona.
“Often being the only girl in a classroom, it’s intimidating. I couldn’t relate to anyone that I was going to class with. A lot of them were men, were hardcore gamers, built computers, and had been programming since they were 10 or something crazy like that. None of that was me. I felt like I was on a foreign planet; I didn’t feel like I belonged,” said Caree.
Despite facing tough circumstances, Caree is pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Software Development from Western Governors University. Now that she has a leadership position, this inspiring woman in tech is making it her mission to help other women in the said field.
“I volunteer for Women Who Code and teach for Girl Develop It. I organize a Women In Engineering group at my company. Sometimes, all a woman needs to hear is, ‘You can do this. It’s not easy, but you’re tough and you’re smart and you’ve got this.’ You see the fire in their eye as they start believing in their potential. And although I think it’s great when other men in this field try to get that message out there, when it comes from another woman, it’s so much more impactful. Because it’s coming from someone they can relate to, someone they identify with. It’s believable. It’s ‘Look at me, I’m like you. And I did it.’ So I guess since because I am a woman, I feel a duty to set an example and to help other women.” Caree shared.
On the topic of future improvements in the field of tech, Caree wishes to see higher levels of accessibility for computer science. She hopes that more elementary, middle school, and high schools will consider teaching programming to young students.
She said, “When you start Computer Science from scratch at the age of 18, or 20, or older, it seems like this huge mountain to climb. It’s scary and unfamiliar. The code looks like gibberish. I think if you’ve learned the basics already, even if it was a decade ago, it makes the field seem more inviting.”
Among the people who have inspired Caree throughout her journey in tech include her mother-in-law and the female developers that she works with. Her mother-in-law went from waiting tables to working in management in a corporate office, while her fellow female developers each hold unique stories. All of the ladies mentioned have resilience–a quality that Caree deeply values.
Upon being asked for advice for prospective women in tech, Caree shared, “It’s hard when you look around a field and see so few people who look like you and have your experiences. It can be easy to say “It must not be possible, or else other better, smarter women than I would already be doing it. Who do I think I am?” When you hit your first problem, you’re going to be tempted to see this as a sign that you can’t do this. But the truth is that every developer was once a new developer, and everyone hits those blocks, especially early in their journey. Being female in a male-dominated field, you already have external factors stacked against you. Don’t add to that by being your own obstacle. Don’t sabotage yourself. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.Another piece of advice I have is to build your network. You hear this advice all of the time. I used to roll my eyes at it, but now that I’ve been in the field I see the tremendous value that it brings. If you’re not coming across people who share your experiences at school or in your workplace, seek them out after hours. There are so many organizations out there, many of them especially for women in this field. Utilize them. Create one of your own. Find people who are in places you want to go and learn from their journeys.”
The author, Audrey Pe, is an incoming high school junior from the Philippines. Passionate about startups, programming, and women empowerment, Audrey advocates for more women in tech through this blog. She wishes for people to read her interviews, be inspired to pursue careers in the field of tech, and support women in tech everywhere.