By Angel Tian
Software Engineer, Microsoft
Systers is a close-knit, diverse, and global community for women involved in the technical aspects of computing. Founded in 1987 by Anita Borg together with 12 other women as a small electronic mailing list for women in “systems,” it now comprises more than 6,000 women technologists from more than 60 countries. In honor of Systers’ 30th anniversary, we’re sharing the stories of 30 members who represent the community’s breadth and depth.
In 2014, I went to the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) for the first time, and learned about Systers. I joined the mailing list, but at the time, didn’t know how beneficial it would be or how much information I would get.
As I read through Systers’ emails, I discovered scholarship opportunities, mentorship opportunities, and a lot of other opportunities I didn’t know existed. You can share information, ask questions and get answers, and also do something like be a mentor for Google Summer of Code or host different workshops. It’s not just a mailing list. You’re actually creating impact.
One of the threads that stopped me when I was reading it was a discussion about being older and unconscious bias in your job. That conversation hit me very hard — it’s not just a battle of bringing young people into the industry, but how we can help women stay. It was incredible how long that thread was, and how many different kinds of help and opinions and tips and tricks people offered. This is such a huge mailing list, but we still have that safe space to ask that question or talk about that fear we might have. All the other people on the list give me the courage to not give up when I get a rejection.
I have gotten a lot of resources from information shared by other people. It helped me with everything from negotiating my first salary to dealing with hard things at work to giving technical talks. How to handle insecurities, new opportunities–it doesn’t matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find it.
Sharing information through that list helped me get a scholarship to SRE CON. The first time I went as a student. I was still learning. But it led me onto this career path. That first experience inspired me to re-apply for the travel grant, and I am going this year as a scholar again. But this year, I’m also going as someone new in this field.
I got to speak at the Grace Hopper Celebration because of Systers. Google’s Women Techmakers asked me if I wanted to be a panelist and speak at their International Women’s day Summit. Speaking at highly prestigious conferences is one of the perks of being a member of Systers.
As a woman, we have to work really, really hard to become one of the best. Systers showed me a lot of opportunities I didn’t know existed, and a new career path, too. There are lots of impressive women there.