“There are very few people who look like me in this field. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed when everyone is male.”
This is a quote from Medalis Trelles, a 26-year-old software engineer currently working in Washington, D.C. She, like many women, is speaking out against the lack of diversity in the IT and engineering industry workforce.
The ever-expanding field of information technology (IT) is comprised of various facets, including network administration, design, telecommunications, computer support, computer science, software programming and system analyses. And while there’s no questioning that there’s good money in the industry — a typical engineer’s salary can vary widely, from $50,000 to $150,000 — the latest report by the National Science Foundation cites that only 2% of employed engineers are Hispanic women.
Unlike many of those in the industry that were exposed to the wonders of technology at a young age, Trelles’ journey to becoming an engineer has been “a circuitous and difficult one,” says NBC.
“I had no introduction to programming in high school, or college,” said Trelles.
Trelles says she often feels a victim of ‘impostor syndrome’ because of her late exposure to technology. Impostor syndrome is characterized by an inability to internalize accomplishments, which results in feelings of inadequacy or ineptitude, regardless of sufficient past experience and qualifications.
Trelles emigrated to the U.S. from her home land of Arequipa, Peru when she was nine. In 2012, she graduated with a Labor Economics degree from Cornell University.
After working in finance for several years, Trelles decided to take the leap and start a business of her own. Upon doing so, however, she realized that her lack of technical knowledge would be a major roadblock. That’s when she took fate into her own hands and used the Internet as her biggest technology education resource.
“I basically taught myself through a series of online courses, and community college courses,” said Trelles.
Trelles didn’t fully grasp the seriousness of the tech industry’s lack of diversity until she was 25 and started job searching on her own after attending a coding boot camp in San Francisco.
Ultimately, Trelles feels as though technology companies need to make an effort to work with programs that support more candidates from different backgrounds if they’re serious about incorporating diversity into the workforce.
“I think the apprenticeship route is the way to go for non-traditional people and also for people who don’t have a network built in for them,” said Trelles. “These will be game-changers for companies who really want to move the needle forward” in terms of diversity.