9 Women Share Their Advice on Breaking Into Engineering

by Justine Hofherr
August 15, 2018
women in tech
photo via shutterstock

Though statistics have improved from the 1980s and ‘90s, the number of women in engineering is still dismally low. Currently, only 14 percent of engineers in the United States are women, according to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee.

While the reasons for this imbalance are multifaceted, studies cite a lack of confidence, having fewer female role models in engineering and having fewer technical problem-solving opportunities in K-12.

Luckily, plenty of women are challenging that status quo and making names for themselves in STEM — including engineers from the following six Boston companies. Read on for their personal stories, as well as their top-notch advice to other women on breaking into Boston’s burgeoning tech scene.


Yihui Saw
software engineer

Yihui Saw, software engineer at Formlabs, loves bringing her ideas to life through coding at the 3D printing company.


How did you get started in tech?

I have always enjoyed math and was inspired to start coding in college when I learned about the things people around me were building. While theoretical math was fun, I love being able to bring an idea to life and that drove me down the path toward engineering. Besides taking programming classes, I took up a research position in college that had great mentors. It was helpful to be able to learn outside of the classroom and build applications that are continually used and supported.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about navigating the tech world as a woman?

I think this applies everywhere, but always continue learning. Build up your toolbox. When you know your work inside and out, you will naturally feel more confident.


What’s been your biggest accomplishment in your career thus far?

One of the highlights has been developing and shipping the Form 2 with the team at Formlabs. I started when the printer was being developed and took the factory software from the initial manufacturing phase through to shipping. The development didn’t stop there and lots of effort has been put into the printing process and surrounding software to make the printer one of the most reliable and best-selling 3D printers in the market.


Alyssa Venuto, Jess Morgan and Katie Langerman
senior UX engineer, senior software engineer, UI Engineer

Members of the CarGurus engineering team Alyssa Venuto, Jess Morgan and Katie Langerman provide a glimpse inside their blossoming tech careers at the car shopping website.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about navigating the tech world as a woman?

This is not woman-specific advice, but nonetheless I found it very valuable. Having emotion is not a personal weakness. Companies thrive when there’s a good mix of right brain, left brain, calculated logic and “gut” feelings. Every personality is different, and that’s valuable, especially when you are building a user-facing product. – Alyssa Venuto, senior UX engineer


How did you get started in tech?

As a kid, I really liked video games.  I wanted to know how they worked and how I could make my own. In seventh grade, I took out a BASIC book from the library and poured myself into it.  My initial focus on video games quickly gave way to a passion for solving a variety of problems through code. – Jess Morgan, senior software engineer


How did you get started in tech?

After I finished my degree in graphic design, I started taking on freelance work. I ended up working with a developer who designed a new site for a Boston real estate company. I was intrigued by his work, and he suggested I teach myself Bootstrap. With that knowledge, I built a static site for a new client, which turned into more clients. After that, I had the opportunity to move into a more tech-related position as a front-end engineer at a startup, designing new features and perfecting my CSS skills. – Katie Langerman, UI Engineer


Poonam Rana
senior manager of QA engineering

Poonam Rana, senior manager of QA engineering, and Judilyn DeLaCruz Hermida, principal software engineer, share their secrets to success on Agero’s engineering team.


How did you get started in tech?

I come from a family of engineers where it was common to have dinner discussions that revolved around technology, so it was only natural for me to pursue an engineering degree. In college, once I took an introductory course in computer science and saw that writing a few lines of code could make things move around on the screen, I was hooked!

Do you have any advice for women who want to enter engineering, or are just getting started in their careers?

If you love to create new things, and are open to new possibilities, this is a great career for you. It’s rewarding to build something from scratch and see other people use what you’ve created. Engineering is a profession where you can enjoy the satisfaction of learning and growing in proportion to the effort you put in. No engineer, male or female, succeeds without putting in hours of studying, training, coding, and trial and error. But as long as you’re striving to be the best in your field — and are confident of your ability — people will respect you and listen to what you have to say. There are more men than women in engineering, and this won’t change unless more women join the field and do awesome work. It’s a demanding career for sure, but all rewarding careers are. If you dream about creating things, go for it. – Rana


Judilyn DeLaCruz Hermida
principal software engineer


What's been your biggest accomplishment in your career thus far?

Working on the launch of MileUp and Spark, two products at the center of our digital transformation efforts. I served as both product owner and scrum lead on MileUp, a groundbreaking driver app that served as a crowdsourcing platform to collect over three billion miles of natural driving data. I was Operations manager for Spark, leading project management, tech support, analytics, and DevOps teams building an entirely new network management ecosystem that offers a single portal for billing, dispatch, performance and fleet management.


Ekaterina Prokopeva
software developer

Ekaterina Prokopeva, software developer at ERM software company LogicManager, said she fell in love with engineering after taking a couple of programming classes in college.


Do you have any advice for women who want to enter engineering, or are just getting started in their careers?

Find a company with the right culture! I believe that it’s essential to identify a company that has an inclusive, comfortable work environment where everyone treats others equally. In such an environment, people tend to ask more questions and participate in discussions since they aren’t scared to be judged by others.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about navigating the tech world as a woman?

Never to be afraid to ask questions and participate in discussions, especially if it seems that everyone else involved is more experienced and knowledgeable on a subject. People typically have very similar, if not identical, questions and challenges at the beginning of their careers, or when starting a new job, and asking questions is the best way to learn fast.


What’s been your biggest accomplishment in your career thus far?

I’ve been able to substantially expand my knowledge of software development and computer science beyond what I knew when I graduated from college. For example, I have begun learning backend development in Java so that I can become a full-stack developer. I’m also interested in AI and took it upon myself to take a certification course in machine learning; I’m excited to apply this knowledge at LogicManager.


Carmela Quintana
engineering manager

Carmela Quintana, engineering manager at SHYFT Analytics, said she transitioned from being a chemist for 12 years to the world of software development. Now, she helps build software used by pharmaceutical firms and other companies to translate clinical and commercial data into insights and intelligence.


Do you have any advice for women who want to enter engineering, or are just getting started in their careers?

Take the time to explore the vast tech domain so you can see where your interests take you. Be confident in your abilities. You will grow as you continuously learn and adapt to rapidly changing technology.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about navigating the tech world as a woman?

When I went to train to be a certified scrum master, I learned the “Agile Manifesto Value No.1.” Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.  I value people and communication more highly than anything.


What is your company doing to promote inclusivity in your organization, or within the broader tech community?

SHYFT continuously cultivates an inclusive culture that makes everyone feel comfortable and understood. Every voice matters. We are encouraged to contribute, which makes us feel valued. Our company has created the Women in Tech Group, an employee resource group which includes representation from all genders. It provides a space for open dialogue, advice and mentoring.


Kelsey Steinbeck

Kelsey Steinbeck is an engineer at Indigo, a company harnessing nature to help farmers increase their yields. Tech is a career she “fell into” by eliminating other career paths.


Do you have any advice for women who want to enter engineering, or are just getting started in their careers?

Please consider it as a career choice — or stick with it. The landscape is slowly (sometimes too slowly) changing for women in tech. Don’t get discouraged by the lack of diversity. It’s a high-paying, stable, exciting, innovative and rewarding career choice. I love coming to work every day because I learn something brand new and software engineering allows me to think in ways I wouldn’t normally get to.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about navigating the tech world as a woman?

There are many reasons that more women aren’t in tech and one of them is due to mentorship. There is such a small number of senior and executive women in leadership in tech that it feels like there is no one to get advice from. I will say, though, that the best pieces of advice I’ve received professionally are from “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg: “Take a seat at the table. Be assertive. Don’t feel bad for being bossy. Know your salary range! Take charge of your career and don’t be afraid to negotiate or ask for want you want.”


What’s been your biggest accomplishment in your career thus far?

I started out as a release engineer manually building artifacts for a release and copying them to servers. We only had one release per quarter, which was extremely painful, and all hands on deck. Each role I’ve taken has been to achieve higher success rates when automating build-and-release processes. Designing and implementing a build-and-deploy platform at Indigo and eliminating the pain points from past roles has been a career high. We have many releases a day, and it is no longer painful.


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