Interview with Sabine Geithner

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Sabine Geithner is an iOS developer in the making. We met two years ago, when I moved to Berlin and we were both part of the Rails Girls Berlin organisers. She is currently finishing an internship at nxtbgthng, an iOS development agency, where she worked on an app for Berliner Philharmonie – the Digital Concert Hall.

What’s your background?

I am a Biotechnologist by training, but left my profession and have been working in the Berlin startup scene for the last 7 years. Before turning to iOS development, I was Head of Online Marketing at epubli, a self-publishing service provider.

What are other things that define you?

I have a passion for learning and problem solving. Growing up on the countryside, I spend a lot of my spare time solving mathematical problems. During school I attended Mathematics competitions and chose Mathematics as one of my mayor in my final years at school.

I am an introvert and it’s difficult for me to be surrounded by lots of people, but even introverts can be good leaders. Our advantage is that we are usually more empathetic and understand how other people tick. That’s always helpful if you want to motivate your employees.

How did you first get involved in business and technology?

I wanted to be able to put my own ideas into reality and test business ideas that I had. That’s why I decided to give programming a go.

My first contact with computers was probably when I was 6 years old. My dad has always had the newest computer he could get. So my first computer was actually working with a audio cassette recorder and a connected TV screen.

The first time I realized I liked coding was in my first year at University where we had to take a Java class. I loved how logical everything was and how fast the feedback loops were. You had a problem, you tried to solve it and it either worked or it didn’t. But it always gave you a clue where to look for the error. Over the years I have always come back to programming with learning PHP, Javascript, Python, some mySQL and HTML & CSS. However, being busy with my “real jobs” I never really followed up with it or had time to work on personal projects. That changed in the Summer of 2013.

I wasn’t feeling challenged by my job anymore, but also couldn’t image marketing some random product that doesn’t really solve a need for people. I wanted to be able to put my own ideas into reality or just test business ideas that I had. That’s why I decided to give programming a go. I started out with online tutorials until I needed a project to continue learning. I was very lucky to have landed that internship with nxtbgthng and destiny seemed to have its hands involved there as well – but that’s a different story.

Tell us a bit about your current job. What makes you passionate about it? What are some of the things you are learning thanks to it?

I am currently finishing my internship at nxtbgthng and am looking for new challenging projects where I can work with and learn from experienced developers.

I greatly enjoy programming, because every day starts with a challenge. It is very satisfying, but it can also be frustrating as well. For example, if you change your mind about a specific feature, it’s possible that you throw code away that you’ve been working on for days. So I’ve learned to be patient and tolerate these incidents.

It’s not so much about the code anymore, it’s about the learning process while you write the code.

How is it to work in business and technology as a woman?

The developer scene is the most supportive scene I have experienced so far.

Having been responsible for hiring skilled employees in my previous job, I realized that women are often selling themselves below worth. We are more likely to compromise on salary and underestimate their abilities, whereas it is often the opposite case for men.

As a woman working as an iOS developer I have only had positive experiences so far. Everyone has been really helpful and supportive and I have never experienced any hostility or competitive thinking. I think that’s different in other fields. The developer scene is the most supportive scene I have experienced so far.

How would you like the role of women in business and tech to change in the next years?

I would like to see more women gain the self-confidence to take leadership positions, but also to reach out into jobs outside their known territory. The latter is gender-unspecific; people often tell me that they think it’s brave of me to change jobs again, but I think you should follow your passion otherwise you will never be able to do your best work.

You really have to go into schools and provide real role models.

I think it’s important to get women interested in technology jobs as early as possible. That starts with children’s toys – I got a physics sets and a microscope as a kid – and continues with programming classes at school. Maybe have coding classes just for girls, so they don’t feel they have to compete with the boys, but also to work on “more girlish” projects. Do class excursions to software development companies with female role models or invite female role models into schools to talk about their work.

Even though I am a co-organizer of Rails Girls Berlin, I think reaching out to girls and women has to start a lot earlier. I love initiatives like CoderDojo, but I think you really have to go into schools and provide real role models.

What is your advice for girls and women that want to make a career in business and technology?

Just do it! I started my job in Online Marketing without prior experience. If you like learning and challenges, then do it. Also working for startups is really exciting, because you can see products grow and even become a part of yourself. You can try yourself out in different areas and gain knowledge in all kinds of different fields.

Don’t be afraid to change professions! You will be rewarded with increased happiness as you actually enjoy what you’re doing and you will be more productive which in turn makes you even happier. And if it’s not your thing, there is always a way back.

 

 

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