Growing up poor, this 35-year old female engineer always dreamt of being a quality developer. “When I started out four years ago, there were no user guides, experienced engineers or instructions available. I learnt everything myself,” shares Nalee Jang, one of Korea’s leading experts in open source software.
But the lack of support did not deter her and she never gave up learning. Jang was one of Korea’s first software coders for OpenStack — an open source cloud operating system powering both open public and private cloud platforms, and providing tools to setup large-scale virtualisation environments.
Her hard work and determination paid off in February 2015 when she was appointed Senior Engineer at Cloudike Korea, where she now manages the installation of OpenStack in cloud storage solutions. Jang has been leading the OpenStack community in Korea since 2013 and has inspired many young female developers.
Need for a support network
Jang believes in community sharing and a drive for the inclusion of all – no matter their age, race, or gender. Whenever she was unable to find the solution to a coding problem back in 2011, she would turn to her peers. “When I was stuck, I asked the other OpenStack community members for help,” Jang explains.
Fast forward to 2014, Jang released The Art of OpenStack to share her experiences and knowledge with others in Korea starting out in the field.
She also helped in developing the country’s first OpenStack seminar, ‘OpenStack in Korea’, held in January of this year. Around 800 participants took part in the event, a big success considering the virtual absence of the industry in Korea just a few years ago.
To help ease the path for women tech contributors, Jang is also a mentor to young female software engineers in Korea. She believes that by creating a support network, more women will be able to make the transition into meaningful and successful careers in engineering. “Working together allows for varied views, insights and sharing of knowledge,” she says.
Opportunities are high for women in tech
It is no secret that the tech startup industry globally is largely a male-dominated field and the fact still remains that only one-quarter of the workforce is female. According to a recent study by Babson College, female tech startup CEOs account for just three per cent of the total. Many of the women who do choose to pursue tech-related careers report tales of workplace discrimination, harassment and unfair pay.
Jang says, “The working environment for women has been enhanced over the years. Opportunities are high for women in tech, but it’s the lack of encouragement that obstructs them to work actively in this male-dominant industry. We should engage role models and successful female engineers to promote and encourage women.”
It has been proven that companies with women on their board of directors consistently outperform those with all-male teams, and gender-balanced companies demonstrate superior team dynamics and productivity, she states.
“In a workplace, females have a different communication style, way of thinking and a different way of expressing emotions. We should understand each other and accept the difference,” she says.
Advice to entrepreneurs
Jang, who is fast becoming a pioneer for female engineers beyond Korea, is on a mission to protect, empower and promote OpenStack software and the community around it, including users, developers and the entire ecosystem.
Ask for help
According to her, many working women have the responsibility of taking care of their homes and kids while excelling at work. “You don’t have to feel the pressure to become the perfect mother. You should find a partner who shares core household tasks, respects and supports your career. And if you have already found (this) partner, ask him for help,” she says.
Work together and find the right mentor
“When I had difficulty in coding with OpenSource, I asked the community members to help me and I learnt faster and found solutions more easily. Don’t try to it all on your own. Working together allows for varied views, insights and knowledge sharing. Working together is always better than working alone,” she states.
Jang also stresses on the importance of having the right mentor to get proper guidance and support.
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