Behind the Scenes Stories from the Must-Read Book for Women in Tech

Tarah Wheeler, Website Security Czar from Symantec opens up about the process of writing her book: Women in Tech.

W2: What inspired you to write this book?

I wrote it because no one had written it for me. I realized how much advice I needed that wasn’t available earlier in my career. Also, I had experience doing many interviews and short-term gigs in technology as a contractor in a way that not many other women had experienced. I had more data points.

I realized that women interviewing in the tech market needed to adopt a different persona and stance to get hired in tech jobs. What interests me is: Why did that happen? Why did I need to take an uncomfortably aggressive stance to get hired? I’m a social scientist, so I was fascinated by why women had to present themselves in this certain way to get hired in tech. I’m not saying it’s right, but it worked. It was effective.

I think that as we go forward, hiring managers are going to start respecting the differences in idea creation and ideation that women bring to technology. That has not yet happened enough in this field.

W2: What was one thing that surprised you during the process of researching and writing the book?

The biggest thing that surprised me about writing this book was how many women experience this deep emotional relief on finding out that they weren’t alone. I was writing this because I thought of it as an advice book from multiple perspectives. I didn’t realize how much women would emotionally connect in knowing that they’re not alone. No one is going to have everything completely in common with everyone else, but most people can find something to relate to in the stories from the book. It’s structured as a journey through a technology career--interspersed with quotes from different women along the way. Not all of us have kids or got a Computer Science degree. In fact, only two of the women featured in the book had CS degrees. There are so many different paths.

W2: What's a takeaway from the book that you would like to share with our community?

I definitely want women to understand that there are so many doors in and out of technology. You can step in and out of this field by doing marketing, art, programming, english, and math. Technology is not the bookcase; it’s the screwdriver. It’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s the method you use to get to your goals, whether you want to create beauty, poetry, math or journalism. Women should have just as much access to those tools as everyone else.

I also wanted to mention that Women 2.0 is blessed with a great co-founder in Angie Chang. [Angie is featured in the book.] She is an inspiration to me. All of the women featured in the book have very different backgrounds, but Angie Chang’s experience of coming from a Taiwanese immigrant family and of going to Berkeley--Her experiences here are just extraordinary to me.

The authors in this book need to be front and center. It’s not just about me. Each and every one of us has a different experience in tech. Your experience is no less valid if you don’t have a CS degree. Are there challenges? Absolutely. However, we want everyone to understand they are not alone.

This book is for everyone. It’s not just a story for women in tech, but a story of women in tech. I would love to see men read it as well. It can help the male hiring managers to understand why women aren’t making it through their hiring process. It can be for the employee who just got a diversity initiative dropped on their desk. This is how you learn.

It’s not just the straight, white, upper-class women in tech book. The book is about women of color, women from other countries, queer women, and transgender women. Women of every faith, belief, educational standard and family structure are featured. I’m deeply proud of it. You can find yourself in this book--Now go find yourself in technology.

"I recently spoke with young women at UC Berkeley who read "Women in Tech" the book in a class led by Aileen Iniquez. Many of the students felt reassured when I spoke about careers as non-linear. It's hard to plan a career in tech - you have to get an internship or first job at a company that may not be your 'dream company'. Maybe you have a goal of working for a consumer tech product like Fitbit. There are many opportunities in tech if you can open your mind to opportunities in enterprise companies, security companies, analytics companies, storage companies, hardware companies, etc. After a few years in the industry, you will be able to have a better perspective and network to find another opportunity. Perhaps a tech giant is your goal, or perhaps you will be ready to start a company! Providing students with the long view, as a mentor or guest speaker, is helpful in relieving the anxiety of a job search."  --Angie Chang, Co-Founder Women 2.0 and Contributor to Women in Tech.

W2: How can the Women 2.0 community support your work?

I don’t want you to support me, but do support each other. Now, go donate to Black Girls Code!

Editor's Note: For follow up reading, here are some other women authored tech books.


Tarah Wheeler (BA, MS, CSM, CSD) is Website security czar at Symantec. She is co-founder and CEO of Fizzmint, an end-to-end employee management company, and the lead author of the 2016 book "Women In Tech". She has led projects at Microsoft Game Studios (Halo and Lips), architected systems at Silent Circle, and holds two agile development certifications through the Scrum Alliance. She founded Red Queen Technologies, LLC (web development), Infosec Unlocked (initiative to add diversity in infosec conference speakers), the Women In Tech Council (to increase women's participation in tech conference speaking), and Hack The People Foundation (nonprofit mentorship initiative focused on underprivileged people in technology). She acquired her startup funds by cleaning out poker rooms in the Northwest and Las Vegas. Reach her at @tarah.