Alison Falk is currently a UI developer who dabbles into modeling, fashion-tech, and cyber security. With a 1,000+ Instagram following to photos of her life as a woman in tech, Alison’s tech journey is as bright and exciting as the colors in her feed.
While she was attaining her master’s degree in brand and fashion management at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan, she was a digital marketer handling the social media and design for a nightlife startup. At the same time, she consulted a startup in mobile app development, which re-sparked her interest in computer science after being told “it wasn’t for her” while struggling to get by in a CS course during her undergrad.
After moving back to the United States, Alison was at a crossroad in deciding on her next job. She then recalled her programming experiences in high school and her previous consulting work and decided on becoming a freelance web developer.
“I enrolled in a Udemy total web development boot camp and got hooked. From there I became determined to change career paths and started freelancing to build a portfolio. After a few months, I decided to enroll in a Skillcrush blueprint to solidify the foundation of everything I had been soaking up and gain access to their awesome vault of resources. Before even finishing the Skillcrush course, I applied to my first full-time job and was hired within a week of the initial phone screen as UI developer for web applications with one of the largest health insurance companies in America,” said Alison.
“I was feeling very alone and all of the harassment I had faced in tech — whether it be at a cyber security conference, hackathon, in what I had thought were professional friendships — had bottled up and exploded.”
When asked about whether being a woman affected her career in tech, she responded with a resounding “YES” and further explained how sexual harassment is sadly prevalent in many women in tech narratives–including her own.
“Sexual harassment is alive and well. I recently went on a long Instagram rant about how men need to be responsible when a woman tells him that he is crossing the line with her and to stop attempting to normalize and justify their inappropriate behavior. I was feeling very alone and all of the harassment I had faced in tech — whether it be at a cyber security conference, hackathon, in what I had thought were professional friendships — had bottled up and exploded. I was uncomfortable and starting to worry about my safety. After my online rant, many women came forward or messaged me privately to tell me how they relate to this every day and some of their experiences were horrifying and utterly unacceptable. As a result, I created a slack as a safe space for women and nonbinary people to discuss their experiences with sexual harassment in tech and seek advice and support. If anyone is interested in joining, they can DM me their email address on IG to be invited,” she shared.
“I would like the future of tech to be more open about listening to the struggles that women may face in the industry…”
From her experiences, and that of the women she has met, Alison wishes to see a more inclusive tech community–especially in having important discussions on preventing sexual harassment.
She added, “Based on what I previously mentioned, I would like the future of tech to be more open about listening to the struggles that women may face in the industry, particularly sexual harassment, and have the dialogue about what can be done to prevent it. I constantly have doubts about coming forward due to perpetual gas lighting and derailment of the actual issues at hand. Besides this, I have found that women often find themselves having to choose between staying silent and living with the anxiety and gross memories or coming forward and facing repercussions like slut-shaming, losing promotions, being labeled as a tattletale, etc. I hope that in the future, women in tech won’t have to go through so much emotional labor because those doing the harassment will be willing to listen, acknowledge and correct their mistake while working to prevent and educate others.”
“‘It’s easy to find someone who can just do the job and just wants a paycheck, but it’s remarkably difficult to find someone who’s motivated and has a willingness to keep learning…”
In order to celebrate and promote women in tech–as we do here at WiTech–it’s incredibly important to be inspired by women who are breaking glass ceilings and sharing their stories. These women, to Alison, are the ones that she discovers on Instagram.
“When I first dipped my toes in the coding water, I searched through the hashtag and was blown away by what I saw. The community was strong and women were doing awesome things and breaking stereotypes. I wanted to do that, too. I have made several friends on Instagram via the #womenwhocode tag who are so supportive. Their creativity always gives me the push I need when I’m having a rough day,” she shared.
Upon being asked for advice for future #womenwhocode, Alison said, “If you are thinking about or in the process of changing your career to something in tech, your biggest assets will be networking and doing everything you can to portray how hardworking and excited you are to achieve that goal. My close friend recently gave me some advice that his mom always tells him: ‘It’s easy to find someone who can just do the job and just wants a paycheck, but it’s remarkably difficult to find someone who’s motivated and has a willingness to keep learning and improving their skills in that field. That’s what’s impressive to employers.’
“After a few months at my new job, I am happy to have found a place where I finally feel comfortable and not constantly on guard. My new colleagues are friendly yet respectable and I look forward to seeing them every day. They treat me as a professional and I feel valued by the contributions I make to my team. I’m so thankful to have found a company like this.”
The author, Audrey Pe, is a 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.