Even coming from a family full of engineers, from a young age, Florencia Bonansea has seen how stereotypes and misconceptions impact the technology sector.
Growing up in Argentina, she saw how technologists were portrayed in popular culture.
“Hollywood movies usually refer to software engineers as hackers that work self-isolated behind a computer, however, my brother described software engineering as team collaboration to solve problems with logic and creativity,” she tells B&T.
A keen interest in technology soon ensued, with Bonansea studying at the Catholic University of Cordoba, Argentina and eventually landed a job at Globant – a billion-dollar company that has been selected as one of the best places to work in Argentina.
“Technology is limitless, that’s what called my attention,” she says.
Bonansea’s days working with Globant and then Mercado Libre in Argentina ultimately led her to Australia.
Seeking an opportunity abroad, she had just been accepted to do a Masters at the Imperial College of London and was about to make the move. After a catch-up with a former team lead, she learned she’d been referred for a job at Atlassian. Following some research and an interview process all done remotely, Bonansea made the brave decision to relocate countries and to join Atlassian – a country she’d not visited and a company she knew little about, until conducting her due diligence.
“I was surprised by the numerous products they owned, and how fast the company was growing. I saw this job as a splendid place to learn and expand my career path, and was equally impressed by the strong values and the company culture.”
Today, she is a Senior Software Engineer with Atlassian working on one of the company’s most important products, Jira.
“I’m aiming to progress, provide value to more teams and collaborate with other women in tech,” she says.
Alongside her personal development, Bonansea understands that working on a product the size of Jira is all about collaboration.
“It requires innovation and ingenuity to re-architecture Jira for the current requirements but also thinking on the next 10 years of growth,” she says.
“Having a role as feature lead in this project is a huge motivation for me to work and aim for progress. I’m not only focused on my personal growth but also the people that surround me, as the only way to make this project succeed is through a team effort.”
Dispelling tech’s misconceptions
Much like how she noticed Hollywood films perpetuated misconceptions about the technology industry at a young age, today, she sees the way in which stereotypes are holding women back in the space.
“When trying to understand why women are less likely to choose these careers, I believe there are opportunities lost due to stereotypes and misconceptions about tech,” she says.
“I can tell from my experience how people react with surprise when I mention what I do for work.”
So how can we start to shake these stereotypes? Demystifing what it means to be a software engineer and celebrating diversity and creativity in the space would help remove some of these stereotypes, Bonansea explains.
“Moreover, women might not find this career attractive due to the misconception about it.
To name one of them, people believe that writing code requires structured thinking which doesn’t involve creativity. This is one that I disagree with the most,” she says.
“There is a lot of creativity in trying to figure out how to design solutions for complex, real-world scenarios. It requires cleverness to put together the right tools and combine them in the most efficient way.”
Feel comfortable with being uncomfortable
When asked what Bonansea wishes she’d known before joining the industry, she points to the idea of feeling prepared for what’s ahead.
While a university course encourages students to study and be exam-ready, in the real world – and especially in technology – there is rarely this much order and structure.
“I wish I knew that it is fine to not know things. I remember being so stressed when presented to a task that I didn’t know how to solve, and I was scared to raise my hand and ask for help,” she says.
Research from Hewlett-Packard found that women only applied for a promotion when they believed they met 100 per cent of the listed qualifications for that role. Men, meanwhile, would apply if they thought they could meet 60 per cent of the requirements.
Accepting a level of uncertainty and risk could ultimately help address this confidence gap.
“There is always a level of uncertainty and risk that you need to manage. You need to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is a very agile world of rapid changes, you can’t expect to be prepared for the next challenge and know all of the answers,” Bonansea says.
“I believe success is about accepting the uncertainties, but having a plan to address them. You will learn and improve as you advance in the project, therefore you also need to be flexible to change when something goes wrong – adjust, revisit and continue.”
Be the change you seek
After joining Atlassian, Bonansea was soon impressed by the company which carries “be the change you seek” as one of its ingrained values.
Now, more than three years into her time with Atlassian, she’s seen that these values are embedded into Atlassian’s DNA.
“To be honest, so far Atlassian has delivered on all of my expectations, and is one of the best places to work at. When I researched the company I liked the values. But when I saw the company values in practice and how serious we are about them, taking the company to the next level of openness, innovation, and working with heart and balance, it’s such a pleasant experience,” she says.
“As a woman in tech, I feel free to work with others and collaborate. Every opinion is listened to, no matter the job position or background, and there are countless growth opportunities.”
Now, the “be the change you seek” value is something that she can live by in her day-to-day life at Atlassian.
“I like to encourage others to improve their career and if there is something that you don’t like, let’s grab a whiteboard and brainstorm on how to improve it. This is how great projects are made, encouraging passion and excellence,” she says.
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