What I’m Reading: Women in Tech by Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack

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This book came to me in a strange way. I was checking out my Twitter timeline and came across this tweet from an expert developer at Google. He basically said that he’d buy this book for anyone who DMed him, proclaiming it was essential for any woman entering the field of tech.

Now, I was a bit skeptical at first, but I went ahead and messaged him, asking if he was for real. He said he certainly was and asked for my address. Going against my natural instinct to withhold my home address from a complete stranger, I decided to trust the dude and gave it to him, hoping he wouldn’t send a bomb or come by and murder everyone in the house.

Thankfully, none of that happened. My book came in five days, and I decided to start reading it yesterday night, instead of continuing my binge of Sense8. Now, I haven’t even read a quarter of it yet, but I can confidently say that this book is definitely heaven-sent.

Women in Tech shares personal stories of women from a variety of amazing backgrounds while offering incredibly practical advice on getting a job, maintaining your sanity, and going above and beyond to become your own boss by starting your own company.

As a writer, I love a good story, so reading about Van Vlack’s journey from an introverted, precocious girl to stormy teenager to a powerhouse in tech was refreshing and eye-opening. Nothing in her story was predictable, and I found myself responding to her narrative with nods and little notes to her on the margins.

Inspired by her grit, struggle, and rebellious presence from beginning to end, I told myself one thing, “I can do this.” Meaning, I can excel in tech despite whatever doubts I or other people may have about my abilities. And the reason I can do this? Because I want it. 

I hate cliches, but this one is true: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” And I’m overflowing with the will to succeed as a web developer.

Before I let you go to hurry over to Amazon and buy this amazing book, I want to share some highlights I got from the section on resumes.

I’m just going to jump right in and tell you the sentence that made me the happiest in the entire chapter:

“One comment: Don’t bother with cover letters. It takes too much time to write one for each company, and I’ve never heard of a technologist being hired or not based on a cover letter,”(18).

Okay, those were two sentences, but I couldn’t resist adding the second one to drive the point home. Can we all just say amen? Cover letters are evil. That’s all.

Here’s a list of some other things she said that I thought was super helpful:

  • A good job description should have three things: minimum qualifications, job duties, and preferred qualifications. Usually, jobs list these in bullets. If you satisfy the first item listed in each category, apply for the job.
    • My reaction: Huh, I didn’t know that. I thought I needed at least 4/5 of the things listed in each part. Good to know!
  • Stay away from jobs that don’t list these three things. Also, be wary of buzzwords like “rockstar” or “ninja” because it usually signifies that the employer won’t pay you much because he/she thinks you should be grateful to work at their company. Other words that should set off red flags: “be able to work individually”, “chaotic environment”, or “odd hours.”
    • My reaction: Huh, okay, definitely need to keep these things in mind.
  • Your resume should actually be more than one page. In fact, developers usually have resumes that are 6 to 7 pages long. They list all their projects and describe them in great detail. Speaking of which, your projects and your skills are probably the only parts of your resume that will be read by a human, so make sure they offer valuable insight right away.
    • My reaction: WHAT?! 7 pages? And here I thought I’d have to keep my resume only one page long. I’m definitely posting all my projects and will be describing them in relevant detail.
  • Next, don’t include non-tech jobs in your resume, unless they connect to the job you’re applying to in some meaningful way.
    • My reaction: Woah, okay. That means my project section will have to be a lot longer since I’ve been working as an ESL teacher for the past five years.
  • Last piece, but certainly not least (See? This is why you have to get the book because there’s a ton more of great information about resumes), don’t include personal information about your life such as your religion, political affiliation, sexuality, marital status, number of children, and so on.
    • My reaction: That makes sense. I honestly don’t like having people know all those things about me anyway unless it comes up in a casual conversation.

And that’s it for now. I hope this was helpful to your as it was to me. I can’t wait to finish Women in Tech and share with you more of how it’s helping me on this path to become a tech boss.

What book have you read that has significantly helped your career? I want to know. So, please share!

Stay amazing,

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