Written by: Gwendolyn Ang
“I have always believed that programming is a super power. The ability to build something, see it take form with the work of your hands and have it used by many people is amazing,” says Cleo Credo who hails from Cebu City, Philippines. A software engineer during the day, she also does freelance web development and spends her weekends teaching kids basic programming.
Despite juggling many roles within the tech industry, however, she didn’t always love programming. “I got two full scholarship offers in [the University of the Philippines] for [BS Computer Science], so I had no other choice but to take it or else, I won’t be able to go to college,” she shared. Not passionate about her course, she was content with getting passing marks in school, thinking that programming just wasn’t for her.
It was only in 2014 that this mindset was changed and she began to see meaning in her craft. Hired as a web development intern at TechTalks.ph, a community of business, technology and startup enthusiasts, she met the site’s founder, Ms. Tina Amper whose efforts in promoting the Philippine startup ecosystem inspired Cleo. “It was when she told me to join Startup Weekend that ultimately changed the trajectory of my life. She even paid for my registration fee,” she said. During the competition, she worked with a team of students and professionals in coming up with business idea in just 48 hours. “It was like a hackathon but unlike a hackathon, [in] which technical aspects of a product were given more importance, in Startup Weekend, you have to think of your product as a business venture. You need to have a business model, minimum viable product and marketing strategies.”
“My goal is to help the world become a better place, one source code at a time.”
This experience opened her eyes to the possibilities of tech in improving people’s lives and ultimately, solving some of the world’s biggest problems. “The very fact that you are building something that will be used by hundreds or thousands of people, that alone is very exciting,” said Cleo, “My goal is to help the world become a better place, one source code at a time.”
Thanks to this realization, she learned how to love programming and chose to pursue a career as a Software Engineer. Despite how competitive and challenging the tech industry is, she still sees it as a rewarding and exciting career. In fact, it is the challenges she faces along the way that keeps her motivated because it keeps her on her toes for new discoveries and learnings. “It’s true that every day in the life of a Software Engineer is never boring,” she shared. “You solve different kinds of problems everyday which allows you to grow in terms of learning and skill set that will make you even a better engineer. No matter what level you are in your career in tech, you are constantly learning and there are always new and interesting things that are coming.”
“It’s true that every day in the life of a Software Engineer is never boring”
For aspiring programmers like her, Cleo highlights the importance of growing with a community and seeking inspiration from role models. Even if she’s often the only female in the room, she frequents local tech meet-ups and conferences since they are great venues to meet like-minded people as well as relevant figures in the tech industry. “Not only geeks and techies wander around during these events, employers and company people too!” she shared in an interview with Girl Knows Tech. She added, “Some recruiters participate in these events to find skilled developers to join their team [while] some developers also look for other devs who can collaborate with them and work on a project.”
Instagram and other social media sites are also platforms to meet other developers. Scrolling through her feed, she gets a dose of inspiration from women who share their lives and expertise on various platforms. There’s Estefannie Dela Garza, who documents her DIY electronics projects on Youtube and GitHub on top of her a full-time job; Marie Philippe-Gil, a software engineering student who runs a blog called Girl Knows Tech; and even Laura Medalia, a full-stack developer and blogger who sells T-shirts for techies. Cleo shares that “[Like them,] I dream that someday I can also have more time to do other things that I love which is making IoT and electronics experiment projects.” But more than inspiring her to be a better programmer, these women are also breaking gender norms and encouraging more girls to pursue careers in the tech industry.
“…Don’t let other people tell you what you can do and can’t do.”
Cleo herself knows the reality of this gender gap. “In the company that I’m working, out of 15 engineers, only three of us are women,” she said. She has also experienced sexism and discrimination throughout her career, with people saying that women engineers are inferior to male engineers. “That was something I couldn’t accept. So what I did is constantly prove myself that I can deliver quality work in less time with less supervision… Don’t let other people tell you what you can do and can’t do.” On a larger scale, Cleo believes that the tech industry must foster more female engineers, giving them more opportunities and representation so they too can leave their mark.
From the college freshman with no interest in her degree program to a software engineer at a tech startup, Cleo has definitely come a long way in her tech journey, shaped by the people she’s met and the experiences she’s had. Paying it forward, she leaves aspiring techmakers with a piece of advice: “If you want to explore and find out if being in the tech industry is for you, then start now. Pick up that book, watch that video tutorial, start creating real world ‘projects, learn from your failures and constantly improve. Feel free to dream, work hard for that dream, be who you want to be and maximize your full potential.”
Gwendolyn Ang is a 17-year old high school student from Jubilee Christian Academy. Driven by passion and fueled by grace, she is a lifelong learner dedicated to self-improvement both in and out of the classroom.