For part three in our series on women in tech, we hear from
Emmy Gengler (@emmygengler),
(@Softjourn), an international custom software engineering and IT outsourcing
company headquartered in Silicon Valley.
Emmy's tech career spans more than 30 years and two continents. After starting out as a developer in the 1980s, she went on to serve as
president and CEO of an IT and business consulting company in the Ukraine before ultimately cofounding Softjourn, Inc., in 2001.
Emmy shares some of her early career
experiences, how she navigated the challenges of working in a male-dominated profession, and what changes she thinks would make the tech industry
more welcoming for women.
The following has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How Did You Get Started In Tech?
I had my first programming class in high school, writing code on a DECwriter. From the beginning, I was intrigued by what could be created and
being able to understand what it took to match data, process transactions, and create reports.
In college I had some of my first classes in Fortran, BASIC, and even chip design with a wonderful female instructor. I can't say that she was
the reason I continued in tech, but I will always remember that she encouraged all of her students to explore as many topics as possible and gain
a wide background of experience.
In later college years, I believe what confirmed that tech would be a good career choice (for me) is that many of the most interesting
instructors, the ones who made the topics interesting, were developers themselves. They could talk about what they did all day and the power
behind what we were doing.
Did You Face Any Challenges While Working in a Male-Dominated Industry?
I do not believe that I faced any particular challenges more than any other "outside" group might have faced. Certainly as a woman I may not
have been immediately included in the conversation, or I felt that I was not included. So I went to extra lengths to be able to hear what might
be happening with a project and be included in discussions about what may need to be done to save a project or make it better. Those steps
included inviting myself to a lunch or after-work event, taking up golf, and going to the shooting range.
I also went to extra lengths to be heard in meetings. And yes, there were situations where I expressed my idea, and it was then taken up by
someone else before everyone jumped on board. I took that as a challenge to become better at expressing my ideas and framing them so that they
were easier for the audience to accept. I did not take it as a particular male / female issue. I saw it more as an issue that there is always
someone in a group who will take advantage that way, so it was up to me to stand up for my ideas.
In my first developer job, a male colleague was promoted above me, even though he started after me. I asked about it and was told it was
because I had not yet provided 24-hour, seven-days-a-week support. Even after I started providing that support, that promotion still took more
than a year to come through. Were there other things that he was doing that I wasn't? Perhaps. I had nothing against him; he was very good at
what did. But by the time the promotion came through, I was already looking for a new position and gave notice shortly thereafter. I learned a
lot at that job and had no hard feelings at leaving. I have always felt it was up to me to provide the right situation for myself.
Other comments / remarks were made at companies where I worked as a developer, including, "I wish I could hire more female developers; they
work for less money." But over the years, I have heard this comment applied to other groups of people and to other professions as well.
What Needs to Change to Encourage More Women to Choose Careers in Tech?
What I would like to see is the ability to help women return to the tech workforce after they have been out for a while. Even when I started
out as a developer, I saw how difficult it was for women to come back, even if they were only out four to six weeks after having a child. It was
not that they couldn't pick up any new technology, but there is that perception that they won't be able to put in the hours that are "necessary"
and that the rest of the team will have to pick up the slack. It added stress to their work environment. [The question is] how do we make it
easier for women to return, even ones that have been out for an even longer period of time?
Editor's note: For more profiles of women in tech, read our previous interviews with Jigyasa Chaturvedi and Leia
Shilobod, and check back next week to hear from even more women in the trenches of tech.
About the Contributor
Emmy Gengler has over 30 years of experience in information technology solution development. She started Softjourn in 2001,
initially working through a network of partners. The company opened an office in the Ukraine in 2005, followed by an office in Poland in 2015.
Prior to Softjourn, Ms. Gengler served as president and CEO of a venture-backed IT and business consulting company based in Kyiv, Ukraine. She
has an MBA in international business from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and a bachelor's degree in information technology from
the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.