During my summer internship, I was featured in a Twitter initiative that brings awareness and support for diverse females in the tech industry. Although the disparity in men and women in the tech and entrepreneurship scene sounds all too common, it wasn’t until I moved out of California when I realized what how relevant this issue was and how discouraging it can sometimes feel being the odd one out.
During my year abroad, I caught a glimpse of the international tech scene as I attended local events, connected with industry leaders and created side projects. During one of these experiences, I began working for a tech startup. At the time, I was the only girl amongst an office full of men, the only Asian in a room lacking racial diversity and the only college student in a company full of 30-something year olds. To be frank, I felt unique; but sometimes, I also felt out of place. I loved the projects and strategies I was able to implement, but I also felt subtle disconnects when it came to office gatherings and team outings.
It was a strange feeling because it wasn’t that the culture wasn’t welcoming or friendly (they were anything but) nor was it a job that stifled what I loved to do – it just felt different. Maybe it was the fact that I was in a foreign country; or maybe it was the fact that I was at a different phase in life than many of them; or maybe I just needed to work on my social skills; whatever it was, I felt more intimidated in a work place that lacked diversity than past environments where I could connect with peers with through our similarities in being different.
Sometimes, I would second guess my ideas because I was afraid that the team wouldn’t be able to see my point of view. There were moments I felt “out-of-loop” because it seems like everyone knew each other so well from boys’ night out. Maybe it wasn’t the gender ratio; maybe it was. But moving forward from the experience made me realize how productive I became when I transitioned into a new environment with various backgrounds and perspectives.
Months past this internship, I began a new role in a group where diversity was the premise of the program. It was interesting to compare and contrast the stark differences between office culture and dynamic. Surrounding myself with such different people made work and social relationships much more interesting. I felt like there were more things to talk about, more ideas generating and consistently interesting conversations around the office. Working in a team of unique backgrounds pushed me to think in different ways and allowed me to be more adaptable. I began to take part in more initiatives and produced more insights than what my projects would call for.
With my personal experience working in two polar tech cultures, I now realize how beneficial it is to work in a space with different types of people. Not only does it provide a more open culture but also encourage creativity and progressive thinking. It encourages internal growth and also fosters the ability to innovate in multiple industries as the workplace becomes increasingly more global.