“The fact that you aren’t a male like most of your colleagues is what makes your perspective as a woman so different and so valuable for the company,” said Paloma Rivera Vilceus, Yellow Tail Tech co-founder, in a recent interview with Career Karma.
We don’t need statistical information to know that the tech industry is dominated by men. We can just look around a room of tech professionals and count how many women there are. Still, if you must know, AnitaB.org’s 2020 study found that only 28.8 percent of the US tech workforce are women.
And part of that select few is Yellow Tail Tech’s co-founder, Paloma Rivera Vilceus. Read on to find out how Paloma jumpstarted her tech career and overcame the challenges that women in technology often experience.
Yellow Tail Tech is an edtech company committed to making tech training accessible to everyone regardless of experience and background.Learn more about Yellow Tail Tech.
Meet Paloma Vilceus: The Woman Behind Yellow Tail Tech
Before she even co-created Yellow Tail Tech, Paloma Rivera Vilceus had already been a cloud and Linux systems engineer for many years. It’s through this role that she gained extensive experience in cloud engineering and architecture, allowing her to design, test, and debug complex IT systems. On top of being an experienced tech professional, she volunteered at her daughter’s elementary school and taught girls how to code.
Her impressive portfolio of achievements wasn’t built overnight. Like the majority of Yellow Tail Tech’s student body, Paloma had a nontraditional start to a tech career.
Breaking Into Tech
Unlike many career starters in tech, Paloma didn’t have a related bachelor’s degree. In fact, she studied social work in her home country. She also learned about statistics and data, eventually leading her to work as a census intern. It was this continued exposure to data that led to her fascination with systems and tools. As her interest grew, so did her desire to shift to a tech career.
“Nine years ago, when I was transitioning into a different career, bootcamps weren’t really a thing yet,” Paloma recalled. She had only three options at the time: self-study, college, or what she called “a wonky four-day training format.”
Since she did not want to get into serious debt by returning to school and she believed she would not learn much in four days, she chose to self-study. “I had to consume a lot of information and learn about things that didn’t even have a practical application,” she shared.
Her husband Jubee Vilceus, who would eventually become her co-founder at Yellow Tail Tech, supported Paloma’s decision. He told her that going to school wasn’t always the best option. He and his peers were unable to secure desired jobs despite completing a four-year degree. With that in mind, Paloma researched tech jobs that required a certification rather than a degree.
Jubee bought her books, from which Paloma learned the basics, and “I fell in love,” she shared. Despite her passion and the support she received, Paloma’s journey to tech had not been easy—an experience shared by many women in the industry.
5 Tips on How to Succeed as a Woman in Tech
Somehow, society expects women to play many roles, with motherhood being the biggest one. Motherhood is perhaps the concern of most women trying to get into a career in tech. But that’s not even a quarter of the whole picture. There are more challenges for women who are pursuing career advancement. but all of these are surmountable, as Paloma proves.
1. Build a Strong Support System
Motherhood is hard, and adding a career into the mix makes it even more challenging. Paloma’s daughter was only eight months old when she took her first certification exam, but that didn’t stop her. She sought the help of her husband and a nanny, so she could have one to three hours a day to study.
She also took advantage of slow seasons, meaning “seasons of the year where you have fewer things going on,” said Paloma. For her, these were fall and winter, when she would be home most of the time and so would her husband. So she could allocate time to study.
2. Be Patient
“One thing that helped me at the beginning of my parenting journey was understanding that there were going to be different stages in both my career and my parenting life,” Paloma said, adding that there will be times when climbing the career ladder will be difficult. “But those years are probably good for you to acquire experience and even deepen your knowledge,” she said.
Focusing and taking your time will be vital. “We have to choose one career track and commit to that,” she urged. Her advice: focus on learning one programming language or study for one certification before moving to another goal.
3. Learn from a Mentor and Your Peers
Paloma suggested networking with people at various professional stages. You need a mentor or someone with more expertise to learn from, but you also need people to whom you can convey complex concepts. They can help you articulate your ideas, a skill that Paloma considers vital for work. She also said students who led study groups were the first to secure the best-paying positions in the most fascinating organizations.
4. Don’t Let Doubt Get in Your Way
The imposter syndrome, or the feeling of doubting oneself or feeling like a fraud, might be a universal experience. For Paloma, this feeling was strongest when she was looking for a career opportunity in tech. Back then, she didn’t find a community of women, especially in the Linux world. “I was never interviewed by a female, and I never heard about other females in the teams that I could join,” she recalled.
Nevertheless, she quickly learned “being different from the rest of the team isn’t necessarily a bad thing.” Instead, it was a plus since companies were starting to build a more diverse workforce with women having a more active role in their daily operations.
5. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Paloma also said women should not limit their exposure to other colleagues and should also meet people from other teams to feel more connected. While she admitted that often women think “we don’t quite fit in the bro culture, so we’re like, I’m not part of this,” she added that “there is always a bigger network inside your organization.”
She also suggested meeting women in tech outside of your firm to make up for the lack of females on your team. To do this, Paloma suggested joining meetups, networking events, talks, or just meeting people next to you at these events. “You won’t always make friends immediately, but at least we will feel that there are others like us out there,” she explained.
If you’re still in doubt about how you can start a career in tech, Yellow Tail Tech can help you make that seamless transition.
How Yellow Tail Tech Supports Women in Tech
Yellow Tail Tech observed that most women in their programs are career changers. So, in addition to their seven to nine months of training, Yellow Tail Tech works with talented women individually to find transferable skills from their prior professions. “Sometimes, this even defines their career path,” Paloma remarked.
There was always a place for every skill they discovered. They noticed that teachers, for instance, were excellent with documentation, an essential skill for many tech companies. Learners who had experience in retail leveraged their leadership skills. A student who knew how to speak in Spanish was even hired as a support engineer in Latin America by a cloud provider, said Paloma.
Yellow Tail Tech also does community building. Through such activities, they discovered that a high percentage of women struggled with self-doubt when they joined the male-dominated tech world. In response, Yellow Tail Tech connected these women to their alumni so they can hear firsthand from fellow women who have successfully secured a place in the industry amid doubts.
“It’s a very gratifying work,” said Paloma.
Aside from training, career support, and community, Yellow Tail Tech also offers learners a way to fund their education: the #WomenCanTech scholarship. Women who are interested in starting a tech career through Yellow Tail Tech can apply for the scholarship. For more information, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Word to Women Who Want a Career in Tech
The tech world lacks gender equality, but “we can’t let that stop us from taking steps in our career,” said Paloma. Being a woman lets you bring new inputs to a table filled with male ideas. As Paloma put it, “every person is unique and brings very specific skills and experience to an organization,” and knowing this, Yellow Tail Tech helps women leverage their strengths.
There are several tech career paths you can pursue through Yellow Tail Tech such as that of a Linux DevOps system engineer or an AWS DevOps engineer. Whichever path you choose, know that Yellow Tail Tech will be with you every step of the way.
Ready to take the plunge into the tech industry? Schedule a career strategy session with Yellow Tail Tech today!
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.