Skip to contentSkip to footer

Blog Article

Breaking Barriers as a Woman in the Tech Industry

Mindera - United States - US Team

2024 Feb 29 - 1min. Read


Copy Page Url

Women in tech.

Ever wonder what it takes to make it in the tech industry, especially as a woman?

In our most recent Women in Tech session, the Mindera team hosted data analyst Cathy Handzel, who’s been in the tech industry for over 40 years.

Cathy's journey demonstrates perseverance, skill, and a bit of luck; our Mindera team was excited to hear her insights, lessons learned, and all the details about the highs and lows of her career.

In this article, we dive into her background, conversation highlights, and strategies for success that you can apply today.

A Geeky Beginning

When Cathy graduated from the University of Alabama with a double major in Computer Science and Foreign Languages, the engineering world looked much different than it does today. Her first programming job was coding in RPG on an IBM system, where paper coding sheets and punch cards were used to create and load commands. Mid-laugh, Cathy said, “if you know, you know.”

Handling Career Challenges

As she often found herself the only woman on her teams—Cathy faced the harsh realities of gender disparity in tech. At one point as she taught her team’s product to new engineers, one of her male colleagues turned to another male colleague, and said in surprise, “She really does know this stuff!”. From being the last person hired to the first person being laid off, she navigated through job insecurity and the challenge of proving her worth in a male-dominated industry. Her tenure at various big tech companies taught her the importance of resilience and articulation.

“You need to learn how to articulate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it,” she explains. She encourages us to consider these questions: why is your work important to your manager? Why is it important to the company? What is my manager being measured on, and how do you fit into that?

She notes that understanding the why behind the work you do showcases your contributions best and focuses your work. “A lot of effort can be put toward making something look perfect and beautiful, but are you just creating more work for yourself?” Taking time to reflect and understand your why in your work helps you take busy work off your plate.

Playbooks for Success

Asking for the promotion.

When asking for a promotion, Cathy encourages us to consider all things: pay, title, job duties, time requirements, stock, and benefits. You may find that a pay bump may be worth increasing responsibilities, or that growth in your job title will open new doors for your career. Ensure you understand your priorities and areas of flexibility before this conversation.

Be protective of your time by reviewing the metrics.

There will be tasks that will not be a good use of your time. Make sure you’re tracking your results and efforts for ongoing evaluation.

Find your allies and be an ally.

An ally is someone who has your best interest at heart. In the workplace, sometimes we get lucky with great managers or teammates who look out for us, offer guidance, and share relevant opportunities; however, this isn’t always the case. So, how do you find an ally? Find people you can collaborate with on projects to build stronger relationships. In group meetings, reach out to people you’ve never met and get to know them more. People need to get to know your character. And, of course, when you can be an ally, be one. Share knowledge and help lift the people around you.

On speaking to non-technical stakeholders.

Start with an analogy to something your listeners already understand. Give a visual to emphasize your points and be understood.

Step away from your biases.

“It’s necessary to step away from biases when facing something different or working with someone different from us,” Cathy notes. This is also important when creating allies and building relationships. She encouraged the audience to “see each person as someone you want to know.”

Be short and concise.

When interviewing and when appropriate in your work, be concise. Remember that your priority is to answer the question first; then expand on the context only if needed. If you start with an explanation, your listener will likely be frustrated.

Refrain from getting good at something you dislike doing.

It is not conducive to a harmonious work environment to be doing work you dislike. If this happens to you, offer an alternative resource or perspective on why that particular thing should not be prioritized.


Throughout the entire Women in Tech session, Cathy's career strategy emphasizes curious learning, networking, and self-advocacy. She has always been proactive about identifying skill gaps and taking the initiative to fill them through formal education or self-directed learning. Understanding the importance of relationships, Cathy leveraged connections from various facets of her life, including her hobbies and volunteer work, to advance her career.

Her approach to job security, especially in the face of lay-offs, is particularly noteworthy. While Cathy advises maintaining a diversified skill set, she emphasizes knowing your worth and standing up for what you deserve. If you are laid-off, remember that you don’t lose your worth, you just transfer it to another role.

Her story is a call to action for all of us in tech: to articulate our contributions, know our worth, and foster an environment where everyone can thrive.

Contact us if you’d like to be involved in our Women In Tech talks.


Copy Page Url

About Mindera US

US Team

Mindera is a global software engineering company. We're humans, techies, and have fun working together.

Let's take this to your inbox.

Don’t miss a thing. Get all the latest Mindera updates, news, and events.