Pull Quote: Do not let your gender, your race, or any of your biases define you.

There Are No Shortcuts

My name is JC and I make things for the web. I wear a lot of hats but my favorite one is as a WordPress developer. And I am here to tell you about my journey. It was not easy. There were no shortcuts. I had to crawl my way up every single step of the way. And I still have to, it did not become easier – not by a long shot. But I’ve accepted that in order to succeed I have to take the long way and that is basically two words long – WORK HARD.

When I was young, I wanted to be and do a lot of things. I wanted to be an astronaut, a lawyer, a geophysicist. I wanted a pet unicorn or a tiger or a lion or a snake. I wanted to be the first woman to roam the solar system, I wanted to be a world-renowned author. I never became nor did any of those but I did get a pet snake named Yudi and I have a lot of “pet” unicorns.

I studied engineering because it was the “IT” course during my time. Did I like it? Let’s just say that I had a lot of fun, a lot of heartaches, a lot of sleepless nights and leave it at that. But if you really want to know – what I really, really want to be right now is to be a TimeLord STAT, but I digress. I think, the main reason I took that course was because I didn’t want to be with a lot of girls. I didn’t want to compete and I was not really into all that girly-girly stuff. It all changed, by the way. I graduated and took the board – I did not pass. Much to the horror of my engineer dad. I never really wanted to be an engineer so I did not bother taking the board again, instead, I worked in a call center. My first work was as a tech support for Dell computers. I got to tinker with laptops and help seniors fix theirs thousands of miles away and I even got to experience them happily shouting telling me that I do not know what I am doing. Fun times.

I did that for a year and I decided that that was not the life for me nor the life I wanted my daughter to see me in.

So we went back home to Iloilo and had my second job there, this time as a Search Engine Optimization Analyst. Fancy title, but all I did was search Google for stuff and write stuff for Google to digest. My boss’ site was built on WordPress and I created content for him. That was my first contact with WordPress.

Working in that position for a few months bothered me, I know I am capable of more than just that (I am impatient and hard-headed and can’t keep my mouth shut – the perfect combination). So I read about web development. I didn’t know how to code – give me mathematical equations and I’ll solve it right away but all these HTML, CSS and whatnot were alien to me.

But I persevered, I never took a shortcut.

I studied for about a month and decided that I was ready. Plus, I’ve heard about this online job site where you can register to be a freelancer – it was quite new at that time but I gave it a go. If you’ve heard of oDesk (now Upwork), I was one of the first freelancers to join and I had the shirt to prove it. I don’t have the shirt now, but they sent it to me when they ran this contest for the freelancer with the longest work record.

I applied to one job and one of the requirements was WordPress. I didn’t know WordPress aside from using it as a blog, and I know HTML/CSS (in theory). Lucky me, the client who eventually turned into my longest online friend, took a chance on me. I did not exactly tell him that I did not know WordPress, instead I told him what he wanted to hear – That I CAN DO IT. And I did. I worked on designing and developing his website while studying WordPress.

And that was when my love affair with WordPress started. I continued to learn and gain experience throughout the years.

There are NO SHORTCUTS. Believe me, I tried looking for one and I failed. In order to succeed, you have to work hard and not take the easy way out. Learn, read, listen – do this every single day for as long as you can.

Although, my first client never really knew until now that I never had any idea what I was doing when I started working for him, I did get the job done (Dr. T, if you’re reading this – Thank you! I won’t say sorry, because that will denigrate all the things I’ve done and all the things I’ve learned over the years I was working with you). I persevered, I didn’t quit when the going got rough. Plus, WordPress has an amazing community and they are more than willing to help you out if you ever get stuck and I used them as a lifeline more times than I can remember.

Let me say this again, it was not easy. I went through a lot. Moving forward, all of my clients were from abroad, most of them naturally assumed that I am male because of my name. And I think that contributed to how they were responding to my emails or chat.

They treated me as an equal and responded in a way they wouldn’t had they known I am female.

And once they knew, it was really hard for them to back out since they know that I am capable of getting the job done.

I was brought up to always question the norm, to not back down simply because I am part of the so-called “weaker gender”. I speak my mind when I have to and when and where I choose to. Working in a male-dominated industry is pretty hard, gender bias is palpable in this industry. Plus, there are not a lot of women developers and that is really sad because without women – computing as we know it would not exist.

You see, women have a harder time getting into the world of information technology because it has become male-dominated. I have a first-hand experience in this, imagine me – a woman, an Asian and a Filipino at that working in a space where men are the be-all end-all. I will say it again, it was not easy.

Have you heard about the competence/likeability dilemma? The Heidi/Howard Roizen Case Study concluded that when women exhibit characteristics associated with leaders – like assertion, authority, and dominant behaviors – they tend to be disliked. Hence, women cannot be both competent and likeable.

So according to this study: My competence is inversely proportional to my likeability. Meaning the more competent I am the less my colleagues like me. I may completely and vehemently disagree with this conclusion on a personal level, but there is truth to it. What can we do about this? I guess the first step is to acknowledge that it exists and work from there. But do not just be aware of the problem, acknowledge it and make a conscious effort to see when you are unconsciously adding to the problem and act on it. I don’t have a magic solution, what I can do is help empower girls to realize that they are stronger than they think they are and that they can do more. I did it without any shortcuts, I studied, I persevered, I worked my ass off to get where I am right now and I am not done yet. I still have to study, to preserve and to work every single day.

My journey doesn’t end here, I still have a ways to go. I will continue to love what I do and I assure you, once you love what you do – you’ll work your ass off to make sure you continue to have and experience the joy of being able to do that thing that you love. Do not let your gender, your race or any of your biases define you. It is not a walk in the park, sure, but you have to always, always do your best to not regret doing something because you think you can’t. The only limit is YOU and nothing or no one else.

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