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A Look Back at my First Year as a Female Web Developer

Sarah Breitschwerdt Team Photo
Sarah BreitschwerdtProject Manager

One Year Down as a Female Web Developer at WebMechanix

Female web developer illustration

Now I don’t usually do this, but since it’s my one year anniversary working as a Junior female Web Developer at WebMechanix, I feel like it’s time I share my experience with everyone! If you want to know about my first year at WebMechanix, what it’s like to be a female web developer, how long it took to feel at home, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve grown–then continue reading. Well here it goes…

WebMechanix is a sub-50 employee digital marketing agency — some would call us a “small business”, others prefer the fancier “boutique agency”, but coming from a much larger company was a bit of a shell shock.

I’ve been interested in computers since I was four years old. Growing up, I never imagined that I could potentially have difficulty in a career field because I was a woman; this news was brought to my attention in college.

Being one of three females in a computer cyber-security class was an eye opener for me. Graduation Day was even more of an eye opener, when there were about 15 females in my degree program out of 92 graduates. Universities are constantly trying to get the word out to recruit female programmers in the Computer Sciences/Information Technology programs. I guess I wasn’t aware it was such an issue because I was so interested in the tech field as it was.

It made me proud that I was able to say that I’m a badass woman programmer in tech, and I received my degree in something I love doing! Little did I know other people didn’t share the same enthusiasm as I did. With that being said it’s not the easiest being a woman in a field that’s male-driven. In previous positions, college courses, and even during interviews I was doubted, tested harder, and told that I would need to try harder than my male counterparts.

Getting Comfortable

Being the only female web developer on a development/design team, I felt like I had to work twice as hard to show my worthiness and gain their respect. This wasn’t 100% true. I still worked twice as hard to prove to them my eagerness to learn, but they understood that considering I was practically straight out of college, I still had much material to learn and absorb.

I was afraid that everyone had their niche and it was going to be tough to get comfortable with everyone; I’m an introverted extrovert anyway so it takes me awhile to come out of my shell. However, everyone was very welcoming and extremely helpful. I could tell that they wanted me to succeed in what I wanted to do, which was a huge relief. The vibe that this company gives off is one of a family.

I felt comfortable in saying that I didn’t know something, because let’s face it–I didn’t know as much as I thought. It wasn’t too difficult getting used to the way that my team worked because I didn’t have a set in stone way of how I worked, so I could be flexible. It was more a matter of learning new tools that I hadn’t used before.

Learning the Ropes

When I first arrived at WebMechanix, I thought that I would be making/mending websites on WordPress per clients requests; which was fine, I knew how to log into WordPress, upload photos, and change content.

I quickly learned that this company didn’t just do updates to copy, images, and colors. They create searchable staff directories, hello bars, event tracking, filterable resource libraries, form wizards, etc. As far as Content Management Systems (CMS) are concerned, WebMechanix  prefers WordPress; however, we aren’t afraid to take a leap of faith and learn a new CMS that a client might currently be using. Which just goes to show that we really are here to make sure our clients are happy!

Another thing that I noticed very quickly about WebMechanix is that we strive on learning, and love sharing new tools and ideas. We use Slack for internal communication. This is a great platform that really encourages the sharing of new ideas and tools within our team. It’s a great way to collaborate and for everyone to give their input on whether a tool is viable for us, and/or how it could be used.

I had one year of professional experience when I came to WebMechanix, which I quickly learned wasn’t much in comparison to the amount that I learned in my first year here. My previous experience equated to gaining some experience with CSS, HTML, and different software programs, but I had already learned those skills in college!

However, in my first year as a women in web development, I learned so much in so many different areas! It was a tough to keep up with at first, especially because the training set-up wasn’t organized the greatest. I could tell that my colleagues knew their stuff and thoroughly enjoyed what they were doing, which made me excited about learning the things that they were going over. In the beginning, I was doing training everyday, almost all day — which was a lot to take in for someone that was technically a newbie.  

Extensive Trainings

Technically speaking, I had little to no experience with PHP, WordPress, tracking, or creating custom themes in WordPress. My first project was creating a website using just about all of the main features of Bootstrap, which wasn’t bad because I had previous experience with Bootstrap. Then I moved on to JavaScript exercisms, which are basically small JavaScript exercises creating a game or a small program. They weren’t too bad, but my Google magic definitely helped me out. After that, I was challenged to create the game of Hangman in JavaScript. I think I made it about a third of the way through it and got extremely stuck and overwhelmed.

Another cool task I was asked to do was to create a custom WordPress theme using our base theme. At this point, I had some exposure to PHP and WordPress, so I felt fairly confident in doing this task. I used a plugin that we use on our clients websites as well which made things editable through the front-end of WordPress, which is called Advanced Custom Fields. I was really only having some issues with setting up certain elements so that they were responsive; I did it though! It was a great feeling being able to finish that task, and conquer things that I hadn’t done in the past.

To keep up with training, I began using Treehouse Training to increase my skills in PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Responsive Design, Databases, and WordPress. Treehouse Training was a great tool, it’s a series of training videos that lead into exercises and quizzes at the end to test your knowledge of what you just learned in the videos. I really enjoyed training that way!

Developing Project Management Skills

After I realized that I wasn’t very in tune with the analytical thinking side of my brain, I wanted to try to put my High I / High S to work and dabble in project management.

What’s a “High I / High S”?

Everyone at WebMechanix completes a DISC Assessment once they’re hired, it gives insight into our personalities, how we interact with others, and how we work the best. High I stands for Influencing, and High S stands for Steadiness. Essentially between the two of these I am people oriented, trusting, consistent, stable, convincing, optimistic, and enthusiastic; those are just a few descriptors among many.

I like staying in the know and I love to interact with people so that’s why I think project management is something I’d be good at. I’ve been the primary point of contact for a few projects thus far, and I think they’ve gone well up to this point–some had their hiccups, but that’s when you learn, right?

I would definitely enjoy expanding my project management skill set more, but it’s just a difficult skill set to gain in our company. I say this because no two clients are the same in terms of needs, budget, communication, etc. With that being said, you really need to feel out each client and make sure you’re proposing what they actually need. To this day I’m still dabbling in it and am quickly gaining knowledge in the realm of project management.

After I had my hand in a few projects and tasks, I learned, with the help of my team, that I am a mender, not so much a maker. I enjoy fixing the stuff that breaks, and adding new stuff to the existing websites.

Since figuring that out, I am now in charge of our “Dev-Queue” channel in Slack, which is where tasks are placed by anyone in the company. These tasks can vary from developing a landing page to developing a popup. There aren’t many project based tasks that go in there, they’re more task based, which I find I’m pretty damn good at handling! Being in charge of this has, in turn, help me gain the project management experience I wanted.

Each Day is Different

I absolutely love having the opportunity to work on something different everyday. Generally my day consists of checking my email in the morning, and going through the Dev-Queue to check for new tasks. I could be working on anything from a landing page, popup, site migration, or setting up event tracking for a website. I love the fact that every day isn’t the same as the last. It keeps me on my toes, and it keeps things interesting.

Final Thoughts

I can honestly say that my skill set has increased during my first year at WebMechanix. The amount of time that my team has spent training me and making sure that I knew what I was doing definitely paid off. Their training wasn’t always the most conventional, but neither are developers, so it works out in the end.

My original worries coming into this position at WebMechanix were quickly put to an end. I’m grateful that I work for a company that encourages their employees to be the best they can be and to never give up. I’m proud to be a female web developer at this company, they’re very encouraging, and constantly push me to be awesome at what I do; I’ve never once felt discouraged, or doubted.

Everyone here has a common goal, and we all want to see our colleagues succeed whether it’s in the position they currently have or moving onto something that suits them better. This is the first time I’ve worked for a company where I don’t dread going into work everyday. I love the people that I’m collaborating with, and our management team is great! I look forward to the new skills and tools that I will learn in the future. With all of that being said, I’m extremely grateful to be a part of the WebMechanix team!

Interested in learning more about WebMechanix? We’re a top places to work! See our employee perks on Instagram! Apply here!

About the writer
Sarah Breitschwerdt Team Photo
Sarah Breitschwerdt | Project Manager
Sarah is found keeping projects on track, delegating development tasks to the development team, and working on development tasks herself.

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