Empowering Women in Tech - Meet Ellyn, a Software Engineer and Lead Teacher at Le Wagon.
Diversity and a welcoming community are at the core of Le Wagon’s DNA. We sat down with Ellyn, a Software Engineer and Lead Teacher in Amsterdam and discussed her journey at Le Wagon and her experience being a women in tech.
Don’t be afraid of starting because it’s something that anybody can learn. You just need motivation, perseverance and audacity.
Hi Ellyn, could you please introduce yourself?
Hello, I’m Ellyn and I'm a Software Engineer and Lead Teacher at Le Wagon. I’m originally from France, but I’m actually half French and half Dutch. I entered the engineering team back in January 2021 in Amsterdam, but before that I did both bootcamps myself. First the Web Development bootcamp in 2017 in Amsterdam, and more recently, I completed the Data Science bootcamp in 2020 in Paris.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your background?
I actually studied Business Administration at HEC Montreal. After my bachelor’s degree, I took off on an adventure and began traveling across North and South American and this is where I really got introduced to the world of coding. During this time I began meeting developers and spending lots of time with my grandfather, who’s also an engineer, which really inspired me.
At this time my grandfather was managing a school thanks to a software that he built (which has existed for 30 years now). The school is located in Haiti and there he built the software to maintain the logistics, grading systems, accounting and everything in between. I stayed with him in Haiti for the duration of three months, where I taught mathematics to children. This experience opened my eyes to the good that developers could create and implement into the world as well as introduced me to teaching. After this, I came back to Europe in 2016, where I decided to enroll in a bootcamp to learn how to code myself. The rest is history!
What motivated you to join the bootcamp and learn how to code?
For me, joining Le Wagon was really the passport to the digital world. My drive for coding really stems from curiosity as it’s really important for me to understand what I’m using. I wanted to understand what was happening behind the screen that I was using every day. Finally, I loved the idea of being able to build things and create products thanks to coding.
I originally joined Le Wagon for entrepreneurial reasons. I knew that I wanted to change studies, but I didn’t really know why and what I would do after graduating. Actually, when I finished the bootcamp I launched my own startup, along with my team members, which was our final project at Le Wagon. It was called Citydotzen and we actually got selected and incubated by the government in Haarlem as they opened a startup incubation system.
Learn more about Citydotzen from Ellyn's Demo Day presentation (24:35):
Can you tell us about your journey at Le Wagon?
I’ve actually worked various roles within the company. After graduating from the Web Development Bootcamp, I became a freelancer. During this time, I was a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) at Le Wagon and working as a freelance developer. After this, I became a Teacher for Le Wagon and got to teach in many different cities all around the world including Amsterdam, Brussels, Bali, Madrid, Barcelona and Oslo.
Following my days of being a TA and Teacher, I took on a new mission as the City Manager in Barcelona, which I did for the duration of two years. I then decided to take on a new challenge and immerse myself into the world of data. After completing the Data Science bootcamp, I was able to switch in terms of teaching at Le Wagon from Web Development to Data Science. Most recently, I’ve made more of a switch to focus on the engineering side while still managing a bit of teaching. My current role as an engineer is to work on new features that will allow our educative platforms to scale and maintain the code. By this I mean that I maintain the platform that the students are using on a daily basis, including lectures, challenges, and tickets. I’m also a sort of teacher of teachers, meaning that I ensure that we’re training excellent teachers in order to maintain a level of excellence. I do so by transmitting the right pedagogical, public speaking and management skills to the new teachers that we’re training.
Having worked as a woman in tech for many years now, could you tell us about any difficulties you may have faced and how you overcame them?
I’ve been extremely lucky in this sense as at Le Wagon, I have always felt so much encouragement within the community. It’s amazing to see how the community of teachers and engineers at Le Wagon is very inclusive. I believe that the main reason for this is that we all share the same core values. When I actually started teaching, it was at in the early stages of Le Wagon. At this time, the majority of the engineering team was made up of men, but they really encouraged me to start teaching and take on the role. As a team, we’re all working towards diversity and balance and I truly feel that we’re all equals.
How do you view the world of tech through your gaze?
In a nutshell, I would say that there’s clearly a problem with regards to many women feeling excluded. Many feel as though they aren’t welcome or can’t get access to education or work when it comes to tech. With this being said, I really believe that coding bootcamps are changing the paradigm. As a female teacher, you make all the difference. This is one of the reasons why I work for Le Wagon, as when you’re a woman Teaching or TAing, you're enforcing a sense of reliability, demonstrating that it’s possible for others and it’s so important for students to feel this. You are shaped by your environment, so the more women that you see teaching, developing, or just around you in general, the more you can project yourself within the same role.
Do you face any obstacles working in tech? Do you have any examples?
I believe that stereotypes are a big obstacle when it comes to working in tech. I actually actively try not to focus on these stereotypes because I think it's the best way to go beyond them and build a new professional environment. When we discuss stereotypes, I think that it’s important to note that this goes for both men and women. For me, the best way to increase diversity in a tech environment is by melting away these gender stereotypes and work towards changing our mindsets to consider a person's competencies and skills above all else.
Do you have any advice for anyone who may feel reluctant to take the step into the world of tech?
I’d say a big piece of advice is don’t be afraid of starting because learning how to code is something that anybody can do. You just need motivation, perseverance and audacity. You can learn anything if you put your mind to it. Once you’ve learnt the new skillset, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you enjoy it. Being a developer requires certain personality traits and competencies and most importantly perseverance!
How do you believe that diversity makes tech a better place?
I believe that the balance of having diverse teams is very important. Women and men are different, so this inclusivity aspect creates a balance of profiles within the company/environment. It’s very important to also have a multicultural environment as we don’t have the same culture, education, customs, etc. This brings value, creativity, diverse perspectives and healthy debates when it comes to decision making, which in turn brings value to a company.
Let’s finish off on a positive note and discuss what you think the advantages are of being a woman in tech?
It’s important to have women who flip the other side of the coin and I want to be on this side. Diversity is about coming together. We hear a lot about environments that are not inclusive, but I believe that rather than regurgitate these stereotypes and systems, we should find ideas and solutions to these problems and become an example or pioneer in a world where we are underrepresented. It's extremely empowering to feel this sense of responsibility.
Overall, I’d say that my approach is a very positive one. I’ve always had the mentality of working together and encouraging each other no matter ones background or gender. Both men and women have a role to play in this and that’s the way it should be. Our role as women in tech is also to encourage and welcome people, both men and women, to learn and use tech as support to find solutions for the world we live in.