The tech industry is simply booming. With more governments like Singapore pushing for digitalisation for the future economy, the demand for digital tech talent has been higher than ever. The government reported in 2020 that saw a growth of 4.8% in the ICT sector despite the economy shrinking by 5.4%. Yet women are missing out on this entrepreneurial success. In Singapore, the proportion of female ICT graduates has fallen from 36 per cent in 2010 to 34 per cent in 2020, according to a TODAY article.
Ainul is one of the very few, and what’s even more surprising is that she’s a double minority: a Malay-Muslim woman in tech. The 23-year-old currently works at a local tech consultancy Thoughtworks after graduating from Singapore University of Technology and Design. If that isn’t cool enough, she’s one of the very few coding and tech career content creators in Southeast Asia, where she shares her story and advice on breaking into the tech industry. This is Ainul’s story, in her own words, that is truly an inspiration to us all, especially this International Women's Day.
For The Love Of Coding
I was born with a sweat allergy and eczema, a skin condition where my body overreacts to allergens. This meant that I had to restrict myself from many outdoor activities in hot sunny Singapore. When I first learned how to code, I was amazed at how much I could build just by writing code. I felt empowered and relieved that my skin condition would not be a barrier to my career, and that coding skills would keep me employable for a long time. I went into Information Systems to pursue a coding career, but eventually realised how overwhelming and intimidating it was to be one of the few minorities to do so.
Being the first in my family to become a software developer, I felt lonely and lost. I had to build my career network from zero, and struggle with the lack of representation of people like me in my field. Thankfully, I had a lot of support from my schoolmates and colleagues in my learning journey, and my parents allowed me to pursue my passions in tech. I also made many friends who were already working in tech through lots of networking.
Sharing Her Story Online
Credit: Courtesy of Ainul
While I felt that I was blessed with such support and access to opportunities, I am well aware that this isn’t the case for many girls and women out there. After a sharing about women in tech in university by Nurul Hussain, the founder of The Codette Project, I felt empowered to share my journey as a tech student online, and inspire more minorities like me to pursue tech careers! It began on Instagram, and I continued sharing my story on Tiktok in May 2020. As I posted more about my journey across the years, I started becoming more of a mentor and role model as well!
The Journey Along The Race-Gender Road
I rarely get negative comments, apart from some who accuse me of being a “diversity hire” for being a minority, but I felt that I’ve worked too hard to get upset at strangers. Furthermore, I keep a positive mindset towards these comments, so I’ll take them as advice for me to improve myself.
Of course, the strong support network I built is important to helping me manage the negative comments I do get on social media as a Malay-Muslim woman in tech. My favourite reactions on my TikToks are commentators saying my videos inspired them to pursue a coding boot camp or tech degree. Some say my videos even helped them get tech jobs! coding, or even managed to land jobs thanks to advice from my videos.
The Future Is Female
We need more women in coding because we need more diversity and people involved in the tech building process. It is not just having more programmers to meet a rapidly growing demand for coding skills! When the tech industry is more diverse, it opens up more discussions to ensure people of all identities feel safe and welcome in the tech space. Having more women in tech also means that more women have better and higher income-earning opportunities, better financial power, and more independence.
Plus, computers don’t run code differently if they are written by a man or a woman - so why not have more women who code? Coding and tech are empowering fields that welcome everyone who has the passion and drive to learn - regardless of age, academic background, and gender.
Any woman, especially my fellow minorities, are capable of pursuing a tech career. There are many people who can guide them, and many free and affordable resources to teach the skills they need to thrive in tech. However, it only starts when they take the initiative to reach out for advice and guidance.
An Empowering Message This International Women’s Day
Start as soon as you can! You are allowed to feel intimidated and afraid of pursuing a field you are completely unfamiliar with. However, you can only build confidence and experience when you actually take a step forward.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and advice! It is incredibly difficult - and even unnecessary - to figure out your learning and career journey all by yourself. You will learn faster and build friendships simply by asking for advice. As long as you also put in the work, there will be people who would be happy to guide you on your journey!
Check out Ainul’s social media links right here:
Here are more stories of inspirational women from our community: