We are continuing our coverage of women who made a move into technology careers later in life and are thriving in their new fields. We believe that focusing on the positive stories will attract more women to an industry that is sorely lacking in diversity. You can read our first story here.
Meet Marieke Bednarczyk!
Marieke Bednarczyk hails from Holland. She is a web developer at Psybizz, the software development team of LTP Business Psychologists.
After studying Russian language and literature, working as a system administrator and having a job in the field of electronic assessments, she found her passion in programming.
Marieke lives in the Dutch town of Nieuwegein with her husband, her youngest daughter and two cats. She is 48 years old, likes going for long walks in nature and enjoys Zen meditation.
Yuliya Falkovich: Why did you leave your previous career? What needs weren’t being met? And why did you choose to enter a career in technology later in your professional career?
Marieke Bednarczyk: My previous job was perfect for that period of my life. I needed time to grow as a person, to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. My job was nice, my colleagues were great, but after a couple of years, it became routine. For quite some years, I was convinced that I would find my destiny in a helping profession. I even started to study psychology. But after a while, I realized that that wasn’t the right path for me. I still felt an urge to learn and grow, though, and there weren’t many opportunities for that in my previous job. Then I realized that I was most happy when I was programming. I didn’t get to do that very often, but when I did, it gave me tremendous satisfaction. So I started to teach myself PHP, going to meet-ups and grabbing all the opportunities that came along.
Yuliya Falkovich: What was your experience like once you entered the technology industry?
Marieke Bednarczyk: I can compare the experiences of two separate periods in my life when I was working in tech. When I was a young woman, working as a system administrator, it was hard for me to keep my knowledge up-to-date. I chose to spend most of my time and energy on raising my two daughters. I could only study in the few moments when I had time for myself. When I was studying for a certification, I got burned out. In the end, I lost my motivation for tech a bit because I had the feeling that I couldn’t keep up, that I was always lagging behind my male colleagues.
Now, my experience is totally different. My daughters are grown-ups, and I have a lot more energy for self-study. Also, I have grown as a person and focus more on what I love to do and learn, instead of what I think I have to do to stay employed, like getting certified.
Since I decided I wanted to be a programmer I received a lot of encouragement and help from the maintainer of phpDocumentor, the open source project I’m involved with, and he introduced me to my current employer Psybizz.
I feel fully accepted and respected by my colleagues and my age and gender aren’t an issue at all. The atmosphere is very good and I very much enjoy being part of this team.
Yuliya Falkovich: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a woman that is about to embark on her career in technology?
Marieke Bednarczyk: Don’t focus too much on the negative stories you hear about discrimination and harassment. These stories made me hesitate to step into this career because my expectations were colored in a negative way. I do acknowledge that many women have these experiences, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Focus instead on all the reasons you are passionate about working in tech. This industry needs female engineers, and the atmosphere is changing. Diversity initiatives pop up everywhere and are also supported by men.
I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of my open source friends, my managers, my coworkers, the guy at a free workshop organized by AmsterdamPHP who sat with me all day and taught me how to write unit tests, when I was just starting to learn PHP.
I’m glad I chose to follow my heart instead of my fear. It worked out very well for me. Be aware of your power to influence your environment in a positive way just by being yourself and bringing a positive and empowered attitude. And most importantly, have fun!
Yuliya Falkovich is Advisor and CTO of Garnet News. She is a fan of unix and open source and deeply cares about diversity in tech. She is active in NY startup scene and women in tech organizations.