Career Nav #53: My Tech Story From Philippines to Becoming a Developer in Sweden
Jonah Anderson, Jonah Anderson, Senior IT Consultant • Developer • Cloud & DevOps Engineer, at Solidify and Jonah Andersson Tech, shares her tech story of bravery and resilience and how she got started working as a developer and became one of the women who code in Sweden in the IT industry today.
I was born and raised in the Philippines in the 1980s. My parents were in the lower middle class with normal jobs. My father was a welder. My mother was a housewife with some small businesses on the side.My journey in tech started in the 1990s when the internet was just starting. I wanted to be a civil engineer, but my parents told me they couldn’t afford to send me to college. That was upsetting, but because I had learned to adopt a mindset of courage I took on another opportunity, a scholarship in high school to study computer science. Even though it wasn’t civil engineering where I could design and build real things, I didn’t regret it. I was exposed to learning technology.
Your parents have to work hard so that they can afford the tuition for college. But to make the long story short, my parents said we're not sure if we could provide you with the course that you want for college. So I was a bit sad, but then I took the courage actually because of that mindset.
When I graduated in 2004 I encountered the challenge of being the oldest in a family of four children. My mother died of breast cancer when I just turned 18 and graduated from college, and I became the breadwinner of my family. My father was not so responsible at that time, so I took over the care of my younger sisters and brothers.
In my hometown, instead of working as a programmer as I had been trained to do, I had to take the closest tech job available, so in 2006, I worked as a tech support for an American company. I worked the night shift to accommodate the American time zone and learned to speak English well, and it was all to support my family and make sure they had a roof over their head and food to eat.
In 2011, I moved to Sweden because I met my husband, so I had to leave my life in the Philippines and start from scratch. It was a major decision, but I did it. I wanted to give myself the opportunity to see what was out there beyond the Philippines.
When I moved I started learning Swedish. It took months for me to know the basics. After that, I decided I was going to study software development. I had originally studied visual basic, but after 10 years there were new languages, so I studied agile system development in c.net and in Java. That took three years.
In 2015 I got to work as a software developer for the first time. Being an IT consultant in Sweden, in Europe, coming from an Asian background was a very challenging experience for me because it was so obvious that I was the only female programmer around. I had to adapt to the culture and to the language. There were challenges there that I conquered because I really wanted to work in tech. I loved what I did within tech as someone who coded and helped others or companies.From 2015 until now, 2023, I’ve become a senior IT consultant. I also became active as a public speaker sharing inspiration and sharing about what I do within programming or the cloud. I was named a Microsoft MVP, and then I also became a Microsoft Certified trainer, which means that I teach about technologies to others so that they can also excel.
I am also writing my first book about the technology Azure as well as mentoring others that are still starting their journey. I learned a lot through my journey and it made me stronger as a person and it made me resilient in all walks of life.The technology that I'm working with today for my job is cloud development with Microsoft Azure. I also work with infrastructure as code and system development in.NET for both web applications and the cloud. My job as a DevOps engineer or IT consultant allows me to work on the technologies that I'm very passionate about and at the same time collaborate with my teams and colleagues that are working in the same technologies.
The knowledge that I learned from what I do in my job also helps me to share with the community, tech communities, women in tech communities, and also in my mentoring sessions where I volunteer. I am also the co-host of a podcast called the Extend Women in Tech Podcast and I created a community called the Asher User Group Sweden during the pandemic.
I'm driven by inspiring technology and courage and inclusion and diversity within workplaces and IT companies because of the experiences that I’ve had in the past of being excluded because I was different.
I learned a lot from, those experiences and I want to inspire other women in tech and everyone that is interested in learning how to code or how to get into tech. Everything is possible and as long as you have the courage and inspiration and help from others.
The reason why I started public speaking is that I was teaching kids programming years ago, part of my job once a week, and I saw that most of the students that I had when I was teaching programming in schools in my local city here in Sweden were men, and there were only a few female students that were interested in coding.
And then I wondered, I wondered and asked myself, why is that? Because it's fun, what we do and what I do. And I, I tried to ask myself, what's really going on? Why is, there so few women in this picture? We tried our best to fill the hackathon with female coders or kids as well, but, I was also teaching kids in a few classes and they were dominated by males.I decided that I would start exposing myself in a way that shared what I do through inspiration. We cannot force everybody to work in tech or to code, but what we can do is we can inspire them that working in code and working in tech and coding is fun and creative. It's not just logical. Everyone should be able to do it regardless of gender. So that's the beginning. I started public speaking and it's so amazing because, as I mentioned earlier, I’m very shy. I would literally hide behind my mother's back when we had guests at home. That was how shy I was. But today, because of the passion and the courage and my purpose of my why, that's why I do what I do today. My first public speaking was actually in front of students in a big stadium, and they were Swedish students. They asked me, can you share with these students why or how you got started working in tech? So I did that. So I stood in front of 300 students in this big stadium, and at that time I couldn't speak Fluent Swedish yet, but then I did it. I was nervous, of course, but afterward it was a fantastic experience because I could inspire by sharing my knowledge, and I also conquered my fear of public speaking.
Since then, for the past few years, since the pandemic, I've been public speaking. I started small by doing virtual talks and then when the pandemic ended, I was invited to speak in some tech conferences sharing about cloud net development.
I've also been doing mentorship through nonprofit organizations like ula.org. I volunteered to do some coding sessions. There's a bit project that's based in the US that I was involved with using serverless comp where I helped and mentored for a few weeks. One of my mentees couldn't do coding in serverless So I mentored her for several weeks of the boot camp and now she's also interested in that.For me mentorship really matters because we need to inspire each other. It also helps us transfer skills and knowledge for career development, networking, and friendships that build trust together.
Diversity and inclusion, we really need that. We don't want to leave out anybody regardless of their gender, background or age. We need to include everyone because that makes the team or the project stronger. It's better when we collaborate and respect and understand each other. And when you mentor or you go into mentorship, it's also development for personally and also for your career.
Having a mentor or being in a mentorship doesn't mean that you are weak. It just proves that you are humble enough to learn from others. You are intelligent enough or smart enough to share your knowledge with others, and you are driven enough to move forward and succeed with the help of others. The most important part of being a mentor and inspiring others is being an active listener, which is not easy these days when we have a lot of buzz like the social media and everything. We don't know where to focus. But when you're in a mentorship, in a trusting one-on-one mentor and mentee relationship, this is very important.
When the pandemic hit and we were locked down, I missed the community. So I started the Azure User Group, in Sweden. I didn't know how to start, but I started, anyway. I set up the meetup using my own money. I organized my own event. I was the speaker and the organizer. Looking back two years it's very inspiring to see how this community has grown. We have grown from zero, only me, to almost 700 members who are all developers or architects learning about the cloud. Feel free to join the Azure User Group Sweden, especially if you're in Sweden. But this community is virtual since I started virtual during the pandemic.
If you are a mentor, be a humble mentor. And if you are someone who's a senior, senior developer, or someone a senior leader, or someone senior in any role that you do, be helpful to those that are junior to you. And then regardless, of whatever role you have working in coding or its projects, whatever role you have, regardless, share knowledge if you can.
Don't keep it to yourself. Share it with others because the person that you're sharing knowledge with will somehow learn it and he or she will also forward it to someone someone else. And lastly, inspire others when you have the opportunity.
Inspiring also means sharing your humble beginnings like mine, that I had to go through a lot of things to be where I am right now. Inspire others through your mistakes because you learn something from it. When you have the opportunity, try to share it with others.Guest: Jonah Andersson, Senior IT Consultant • Developer • Cloud & DevOps Engineer @ Forefront Consulting Twitter: @cjkodare LinkedIn: https://LinkedIn.com/in/jonahandersson Instagram: jonahcandersson Linktree: https://linktr.ee/jonahandersson Producer: JL Lewitin, Senior Producer, WWCode