We know we need more women in the tech field. And we know there are thousands of capable, qualified women out there who want to build meaningful careers in the STEM space. But what we may not know is how to land those opportunities. Vanessa Bridge, a Protocol Engineer at ConsenSys has some advice.
“It's vital for women to work in technology and yet, we’re not seeing that many apply… Apply to as many roles as you can and keep trying,” she says.
She also advises women in tech to share their views and speak up about things they’re uncomfortable with. ConsenSys’ “very open culture” and representation of women in various tech departments offer the support Vanessa needs to be — and encourage — the change she wishes to see.
She recently shared some additional advice with us on how to find success as a woman in STEM, plus the biggest challenge she’s faced in the space and how she’s overcome it.
Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role and how long have you been in this role?
I am a Protocol Engineer at ConsenSys and have been working here since 2017. I joined the PegaSys team when it was just four people and have been involved in many exciting projects working on different technologies since I started.
What projects or programs are you currently working on? What about this type of work most excites you?
I get to work on the cutting edge of this technology which is known as Web 3.0 — the new internet. Since being here, I have worked on enterprise products where I built a business process management tool which later won recognition for most innovative product. From there, my work morphed into research on data encryption and then building frameworks to test different protocols — all of which contributes to the wider blockchain ecosystem that is being built by engineers across the globe.
One of the biggest challenges we’re trying to solve in blockchain is the issue of scalability. If we want to have a system that millions of people can use daily, we need to be able to scale. I am working on rollups, a solution that uses zero-knowledge encryption to reduce the overhead by allowing block validation to be done by one participant which others can verify through its proof. My work is mostly focused on user interaction and showcasing how you would use this new tech from a user perspective.
What first got you interested in pursuing a career in tech?
I have always been interested in and good at math, so it just seemed like a natural progression to study engineering which my family also encouraged. I was born in Canada but grew up in El Salvador, so when I was 18, I decided to return to Canada for university and it was cool to see all the different types of technology that were available which got me more interested in tech.
As I continued studying engineering, I realized that I really liked coding and software development, so I continued along that path which was around the time I heard about ConsenSys. I really only knew about Bitcoin at that point and I thought it was interesting — a new technology that would probably grow — so I decided to jump into it and it’s been a very interesting ride!
What has been the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced working as a woman in tech? How can we overcome them?
There are so many challenges, including the low percentage of women in tech and the need for more equal opportunities. Most people assume that I work in a non-technical role such as marketing or sales and I think one of the most shocking experiences I have had was attending a technical conference of 2,000 people and seeing less than ten women at the conference!
This is a systemic issue which I think is amplified in blockchain. The industry grew really fast and we had a wide range of people who invested in the space early on and made a lot of money. They then went on to build companies quickly where diversity and inclusion agendas were not really part of their initial hiring strategies. That being said, though, there are companies that are more inclusive. My team at ConsenSys, PegaSys, has many women working in technical positions which is good and it’s a very supportive environment. I think women who are currently in tech companies should open up conversations and make it more inclusive for women who will join in the future.
What is your favorite aspect of the culture at Consensys?
It’s a very open culture. People are willing to talk and will volunteer their time to help you when you need it. And the remote culture is awesome! It feels good to be part of a global community. I have travelled to our different offices and met co-workers while traveling to conferences, some of whom have become good friends.
What are you trying to improve on?
I am always trying to learn more. Software development is really broad and the deeper you go into it, the more knowledge there is to be acquired so it’s important to continue to focus on that expansion of knowledge. It can be hard to balance with the demands of your current role but learning and keeping up with the industry is needed so you can do a better job.
What advice do you have for other women who are beginning a career in tech?
I think it's vital for women to work in technology. I think my advice would be three-fold:
Apply to as many roles as you can and keep trying. Research shows that women are more hesitant to apply if they are not hitting all of the prerequisites on the job description. I would say be confident, you probably know more than you think.
When you’re in the final interview stages, ask for what you want and think about what would make you comfortable.
When you’re in the role and you hear things that you’re not comfortable with, speak up and don’t be afraid to share your views.
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