Introducing – Archana Patel

Tell us about yourself, and your journey into Tech/STEM.

I started studying electrical engineering back in India, and as part of the engineering program you have to do the first year with all disciplines of engineering, and so I had to take a couple of courses in computer engineering as well. As part of that, I learnt how to code in C, and I really liked it. So after that every opportunity I got I used it to learn more programming and coding. Once I finished my engineering degree I ended up getting a job in a software company, and I’ve been a developer ever since. Surprisingly, I learnt none of it in a classroom, and all of it has been learnt on the job.

I started as a developer in 2010, and have been learning new technology ever since. For example, I started as a mainframe developer, then I learnt how to code in Java, and became a Java developer, and then I got an opportunity to learn more about integration development and that’s where I started learning about MuleSoft. I worked as a MuleSoft developer for six years, and then I was finally hired by MuleSoft as a technical architect, and that’s where I am right now.

Why did you choose to go into tech/STEM?

I really liked coding, and I got more curious because I wanted to learn what else you can do with it and how you can do it. Programming languages, logic, playing around with things, and making them work the way you want them to work was something I really enjoyed doing, and so the curiosity and interest got me into the field.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in tech?

I guess when I started it was a bit difficult because you don’t see that many girls or women in tech – in both your classes and your workplaces. I’ve mostly been the only girl in my team. I’ve enjoyed working with male teammates – they’re definitely helpful and encouraging, but imposter syndrome still shows up. IIt’s just the way that men and women approach these problems differently. For example, when a guy sees a job description, they’ll think “ok I fit 50% of this, I’ll apply for this” whereas when a girl sees a job description they’ll think “oh, I only match 95% of this, I’ll have to pass”. Women feel we need to know a bit more to do what we’re asked to do. It’s about having that self confidence, which I definitely did not have when I started. It’s been a slow learning process to get there and understand that you bring as much value to the discussion as the next person, and that your opinions are valued just as much, you just need to express them.

Tell us about a highlight from your career and why it is significant to you...

When I was volunteering for She Sharp, we did these workshops at high schools where we were running code camps, and we would walk them through App Inventor. We would go to schools, and there were so many girls who didn’t know how to code or what programming was. We would give them an hour or two to work on these programs, and by the end of it they were so into it. 

Once when I was in these workshops I saw the girl that won the competition we had on the day, and she went on to pursue programming. It was so powerful to see that we were able to inspire someone to even consider this as a career option. I think that’s probably more of a highlight for me than anything else in my career. I never would have thought I would be a role model for someone else, but I have seen cases where just sharing my story was enough to inspire someone, and it’s very humbling and I’m very grateful to see that my journey can help someone else as well, no matter how small it is.

What are you working on now?

I work as a Technical Architect at MuleSoft – what that means is that I work with customers to help them get the most out of the platform. Because I have worked as a developer with the same product before, I have a lot of relevant experience that I can share with customers when I am talking to them about the issues they are facing.

Why do you think we need more women in tech and/or STEM?

That’s an interesting question, I think we need more women in tech to represent the society adequately – half of our society is female, and we need to make sure this is represented when we are building products and systems. We have seen instances where it has gone wrong because we haven’t had the right representation in the room – for example. Apple’s health app not having a period tracker until recently. They introduced niche things like silicon consumprion, before they actually had a period tracker in their health app, which is hugely important, given that half of their audience will use it. We have also seen biases in artificial intelligence in the way it categorises genders. Tech teams need to have that diversity of thought that matches the population.

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