Life at Goodnotes

Being a Female Engineer

August 7, 2020

At GoodNotes, Rammy is in charge of quality assurance, or QA for short. Essentially, she tests new features, updates, or projects before they’re released in order to catch any bugs in the product or design and make sure everything is working as it should be.

With an electrical engineering degree, as well as experience testing everything from mobile software, wireless devices, to cars, and even cryptocurrency platforms, Rammy has made a name for herself as a well-respected QA engineer.

Considering that men occupy 80% of the jobs in tech, and as we turn our eyes to improving gender diversity here at GoodNotes, we wanted to sit down with Rammy to understand her experiences and insights on gender diversity in the workplace.

Product Teams are Consistently Male-Dominant

Rammy has paved the way in her career by being the first QA engineer at multiple companies. She’s also frequently been the first female engineer.

In her first job in Hong Kong, she joined the team as the first female engineer in a team of 15. When she left, there was only one other female in a team of more than 60. Every single product team (including development and QA together) she’s been a part of since has shown similar patterns where the ratio of men to women is overwhelming.

“I’ve gotten used to it actually,” says Rammy, sharing that even in school, her classmates were mostly male. “Normally we have a small female ratio in these majors, so that also results in fewer females in the engineering work field.”

While Rammy studied in the States, the pattern is worldwide. According to SCMP, at government-subsidized universities in Hong Kong, only 29.5% of students in engineering and technology are female.

This also correlates with a distinct lack of women in leadership roles.

“All my direct managers were male,” says Rammy. She adds that as far as she can remember, most hiring managers for engineering roles have also been male. The one time when there were more women than men on a team was where Rammy was the manager of the QA team herself.

“I personally didn’t get treated differently on workload or performance requirements,” said Rammy. However, she believes that having a more equal gender balance can help a team approach things from different perspectives. “In general, if men and women have different life experiences (i.e. when they pursue different hobbies or interests) we can learn more from sharing. If we have diversity in team members, then we can have more diversity in opinions and can allow us to view problems from different angles.”

Thriving as a Female Engineer

Today, Rammy is a highly experienced QA engineer, who’s been the founding member of QA teams across many different companies, including GoodNotes. Here’s what she has to say to other female engineers:

Don’t be afraid to voice out the ideas you have. Good communication can help smooth out a lot of misalignments/assumptions. Rammy shares that in a previous team, whenever she would ask the one female engineer about work decisions, she would tend to step back and let the guys design the solution. In a male-dominated environment, it can be intimidating when you’re in the minority, but make sure to speak up so that others know to listen.

Share your work at every opportunity. Especially for those in the world of engineering and software, Rammy explains that people tend to value the end product, over just an idea. For those struggling to have their voices heard, what you can create and present is tangible evidence to support your arguments or ideas, and also helps prove your place at the table.

“I would be happy to see more females taking the lead on innovations, which help to show more proof that women can also do things that are traditionally dominated by men,” says Rammy.

Joining GoodNotes and Becoming the First Female Engineer

Vivien, the GoodNotes recruiter, first reached out to Rammy about joining the product team to take on quality assurance.

“I would be the first QA again. I think it’s more fun to build something from the ground up, and I like to work with smaller teams and scale with them,” said Rammy. What’s more, she was impressed with GoodNotes’ existing dedication to quality. “They didn’t have QA, but I checked the app rating and it was still something like 4.8 on the App Store. So I could see that the quality of the work they do is already very good.”

So, in December of 2019, Rammy joined the GoodNotes team to take the lead on the app’s quality assurance, and also became their first female engineer.

“In general, I don’t find myself getting treated differently because of my gender. I get appreciated for the work I have done for the team.”

An important factor when building gender diversity in the workplace also comes to culture: Do people feel comfortable and safe raising their concerns?

That’s why I say it’s important to be open-minded to listen so that people can have open discussions without getting offended,” says Rammy. She shares that one of the key differences between her past workplaces and GoodNotes is the open culture. “People are very open-minded here. Everything is open to discussion. You can have disagreements, but they are positive here because we always talk with evidence when we make our arguments.

How We’re Approaching Gender Diversity at GoodNotes

We recognize the value of having gender diversity here at GoodNotes, and as we’re scaling our team, we’re intentionally putting more effort into improving our own gender balance. Here are some of the things we’re doing to make GoodNotes a great place for both women and men to work.

1. Promoting a family-friendly culture with flexibility

Of 30% of women who leave the workforce after having a child, 70% say they would have stayed if they had access to flexibility.

At GoodNotes, we don’t want people to have to choose between family and career. To promote a family-friendly environment, we’ve made Thursday and Friday optional work-from-home days, and in general, try to offer flexible work hours. We also make many of our company socials open to family members and kids, including our annual offsite (with all expenses covered by GoodNotes, naturally)!

2. Writing more inclusive job descriptions

The first step in building a diverse team starts with hiring. As a general pattern, women are more likely to hesitate to apply when they don’t meet all the listed qualifications.

Especially considering that most people with degrees in engineering are male, we’ve chosen to remove the “qualifications” section in our job descriptions altogether, in order to expand the pool of applicants to include more women as well.

3. Fostering open communication with regular team surveys

To ensure we’re treating everyone fairly, we regularly survey our team to understand how they’re feeling. We want everyone to feel valued here so we hope that if we have a blind spot when it comes to gender bias (or any other types of bias) we can address it and improve.

4. Participating in events that support women in tech

In order to improve gender diversity, one of our steps is of course hiring more outstanding women. That’s why we actively seek out and go to events put on by organizations like WomenHack in order to meet, connect with, and scout for female talents.

Join us on our journey

At GoodNotes, we’re committed to improving gender diversity and supporting women in tech. If this sounds like an environment you’d like to work in, we’d love to hear from you. See our open roles here!

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