The International Day of Women and Girls in Science was established by the United Nations National General Assembly to help achieve gender equality and support the empowerment of women and girls in STEM. We’re celebrating by shedding a spotlight on one of our amazing employees, Monica Ruttle, a Senior Software Developer, and learn more about her experience as a woman in STEM.
How did you get your start in software development and what made you want to join the field?
I first got into computers when my parents got WiFi for the first time! It was constantly broken, and there were only so many times we could call up the family’s go-to IT friend. After fixing (and probably re-breaking more often than not) the family computers over the years, I realized how much fun it could be. I signed up for any computer-related course or summer camp I could find throughout school, and eventually settled on studying Software Engineering at Carleton.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I showed up to career day in grade three dressed as an Accountant, not that I had a clue what that was. My mom is in finance, and worked on the computer all day, so that must have looked pretty appealing!
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by the amazing people I’ve worked with throughout my career. Most, if not all, of my colleagues have taught me something unique over the years that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. It might have been someone writing a harsh review of my code that taught me numerous different best practices, watching a superior give a presentation that left the room speechless, or even getting invited to coffee every morning by a colleague that showed me how to foster a supportive team. Everyone’s got something to teach you.
What is your favourite part of your job?
Every day at CIRA brings a different challenge. The landscape of programming languages and frameworks we get to work with is broad, so I find I am always learning something new. I try to avoid jobs where each person is siloed into specific technologies, as that can get boring and isolating. Working on a cross-functional team always keeps me learning from my colleagues.
Any advice to women who want to work in STEM-related industries?
My biggest piece of advice to anyone who wants to work in STEM is to not be afraid of breaking things. Specifically in IT, I find the best way to learn a new system or debug a problem is to just start trying and failing over and over again. Eventually, you’ll learn exactly what works and what doesn’t, and sure, something might break in the meantime. If you have a pre-conceived notion that you’re not “good” with computers, then it can be scary to dive in and start pressing buttons for fear of breaking something. I know how embarrassing it might seem to need to go to someone and ask for help fixing a problem you’ve created (shoutout to all the system administrators who have recovered files from backup after an accidental deletion), but it’s how we learn. So don’t be afraid of accidentally corrupting your operating system beyond repair! That’ll teach you both how to corrupt an OS, and how to re-install one. Most IT professionals have had catastrophic failures in the past, and I strongly believe that if you’re not breaking something every once in a while, you’re not doing anything.