Savannah Ryan is a software engineer at Smarty – a US based location data intelligence company – and she’s celebrating International Women in Engineering Day today because it was other women who encouraged her to pursue a career in software engineering some years ago.
As Savannah says: “It’s time for our society to broaden our minds and see the very real contributions of ladies like Sophie Gill, Ivy Barley, Tracy Chou, Elissa Murphy and countless others. These should be household names, just like the men in the industry.”
“I feel so fortunate that so many women paved the way for me to become a developer,” Savannah adds. “I never questioned that I would be able to have a career in tech, because they fought for equality and to make that path more open.”
“I would love it if more women were featured as the face of the industry,” she says. “Right now, when you think about software engineers, everyone thinks immediately of people like Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg. We even tend to call them ‘tech bros.’ In reality, there are thousands of women doing amazing things in this industry.”
Here at Women Love Tech, we asked Savannah what led her to a career in software engineering?
“I come from a family of math lovers,” she answers. “My grandpa was a math teacher and my mom and two of my uncles had degrees in accounting, so I was definitely encouraged down that path. I always liked math, and I was good at it all through school, but I knew I did not want to be an accountant. I love computers, and coding involves a lot of numbers and problem solving, so computer science was a natural fit for me.
“I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science with an emphasis in software engineering. And a minor in math. Because how do you pass up a family legacy like that?” she adds.
What are some of the professional accomplishments you are most proud of?
“Currently, I work for a company called Smarty, which takes huge volumes of location data that has to be standardised and verified in order for companies to use it for things like shipping, market research, risk analysis, and many other applications.
“Obviously, consumer privacy is a huge issue and something we take very seriously. While we don’t collect private data, consumers sometimes unintentionally include those details. In my role here, I wrote a program that redacts all of that sensitive data from our logs. So no one’s credit card information or other private information is neither captured nor accidentally released. I’m really proud of that contribution to the evolving issue of protecting privacy in tech,” says Savannah.
In a male-dominated industry, how have you found ways to thrive?
“In the beginning of my career, I tried really hard to relate to my male counterparts. I watched all of the Star Wars shows, bought Pokemon cards, learned more about Lego, read fantasy books, and did anything else I could in order to have things to talk about with the people around me,” she says.
“One day, I realised I was spending so much energy trying to fit in. Why was I putting so much effort into trying to be someone I wasn’t? I slowly started bringing back parts of myself to work. For me, that looked like getting a manicure, getting my hair done, dressing up when everyone else was in their PJs, adding pink stickers to my laptop.
“As a result, I found a lot more confidence and actually developed better friendships, because I was being myself. I would definitely encourage other women in engineering fields to stay true to yourself and focus on the things that bring you joy,” she adds.
What would your advice be for tech companies to be better workplaces for women?
“There are so many talented women out there, you are missing out if you don’t give them the resources to thrive at your office. At Smarty, a full third of the developer team is female. The CEO goes out of his way to support women and give us all a voice. Other tech companies can emulate this model by hiring more women to begin with, giving them a comfortable culture to work within, and advancing them to leadership roles,” says Savannah.
What do you want to say to other women in engineering careers?
“Keep supporting one another! When I was in college, I had the opportunity to participate as a volunteer counselor at a programming camp associated with the Girls Who Code program. Spending the week with 11 year old girls who were so excited to create their projects on Scratch and show their parents at the end of the camp was incredibly rewarding. I realised what a difference it can make when we all work together.
“That camp also connected me with a broader network of female developers, and I found an ally in one of the mentors from the Inclusion, Diversity & Equity mentors program in the CS department at my university. She started checking in on me weekly, and introducing me to other programmers who helped me get through some of my most difficult classes. This support was the main reason I stuck with software engineering, and I try to pay that forward and help other women in the industry any way I can.
“The bottom line is, when we support each other, we all rise together,” Savannah adds.
What do you think the future of developing looks like for women?
“When you have more diversity, amazing things happen. I am excited to see what kinds of problems are solved, amazing products are produced and where technology can take us as the industry embraces the contributions of women!” says Savannah.
For more from Women Love Tech on women in engineering, visit here.