INTERVIEW: CARRIE TANGUAY / PHOTOGRAPHS: BHAV PATEL
Maral Hamedani is a Senior Software Developer at Achievers. She was interviewed as part of Tell Her Story’s ongoing partnership with Achievers Women’s Network (AWN). The series highlights women leaders at different stages of their career throughout the organization.
Maral’s take on software development is refreshingly honest and one might be looked down upon, at times, in the industry. She isn’t in software for the “love of the craft” instead what drives her, is her reputation. She wants to be great at what she does. To her, that measure of greatness comes from her colleagues trusting her to do her work well and recognizing what she uniquely has to offer her team.
Her story is for the woman who lives by the motto, “let your work speak for itself”. And for those who take pride in their work and reputation – who strive to be the best at whatever they do no matter the task at hand.
CT: Tell me about how your interest in technology started and your early life in Iran.
MH: I was born in Tehran, Iran, which is where my interest for tech and computers started from an early age. I was the type that if the TV or VCR was broken I would pick it apart and learn how it works. Around age seven my parents bought me a computer and sent me to computer classes. All of the students were university students and I was the only one at that age and I got the top grade in the class. They had this special ceremony for me – they gave a gift. I think it started from there, liking technology and computers. It’s the only thing I liked and if I didn’t study computers [software] I don’t know what else I would do. I always wanted to own a laptop, it was my dream.
Nothing was different back home except there, women are separated from guys. I would say through elementary and high-school you don’t feel you are different or you’re being looked at as if you’re a girl or woman because you’re separated. During high-school I went to a private school we had teachers who were men. That’s the only time you feel like we’re girls and there are guys. Other than that everything else felt normal.
CT: What was your parent’s motivation for coming to Canada?
MH: My parents decided to come here mostly for their kids. Because my sister and I are both girls my parents knew Canada would be better for us. We could study and be whatever we wanted to be. You can have a life back home but what we have here is more potential. Back home with a bachelor of Software Engineer it’s not guaranteed you can work in your field. It’s harder for women back home. When I compare myself to my friends still back home they studied the same thing as me and they don’t get paid as well, they don’t like their work environment or they don’t move up in there. Definitely being a woman makes it hard.
CT: Do you consider software development to be your passion?
MH: I went to university back home for Software Engineering so when I came here I re-took the courses I already completed but in English. The reason I picked Waterloo was because it was famous for being a great university for Computer Science. I had to pass English courses first.
I don’t have passion for anything, what I mean is I’m not crazy about any one thing in my life. I am crazy for my life itself and enjoying it. I like my job and this is what I’m good at but I don’t go home and spend my spare time study the latest technology, no.
Being good at what I do is what motivates me. When I came here I had a year until university so I worked in retail in the mall. When I started there, I knew English enough to communicate, however I didn’t know the difference between some words like pants or trousers or I didn’t know a lot of the slangs that people use in their daily conversations. But I started working and after a while I became the best salesperson at Tommy Hilfiger. Even the head office knew me. Being in any position – I like to be good. That makes me feel happy.
CT: Tell me about your current role as a Senior Software Developer? What are the rewards and challenges?
MH: Besides coding, developing features and fixing bugs, when you become a senior developer you need to do more problem solving. You have to come up with ideas for that problem and help others who are more junior than you. You need to lead others towards better solutions.
I love it when I fix bugs or when I develop something and I see it being used. I want to code something that does something good for someone and Achievers does that for people – it makes them feel appreciated.
Learning a new technology is a challenge but I want that kind of work because it makes your day more interesting. I’m finding it challenging to be more innovative. I’m really great at executing what I’ve been asked to do. If I have to do something I’ll do it as expected but others will look at how they can make it better or easier. I need to get better at that.
CT: Are there any pivotal moments (or experiences) that shaped who you are today?
MH: When I was in grade seven, I had this math teacher and she had a positive impact on me. She helped me love math. I loved that teacher and I was so good at math, even throughout university. She was very understanding of kids and respected kids in the way she talked to us and the way she taught us. She was more like a friend than a teacher.
The other pivotal moments was those computer courses I took early on. I was so good at them and they gave me the assurance that I was good at this regardless of my age. And because of that I thought, I’m good at this ‘so why not take the next step?’”
CT: What drives and motivates you?
MH: What keeps me going is my goal to be known as good at what I do. For example, if I break something on production it makes me feel so bad for a few days even though it’s something that happens to everyone. I try to make sure I don’t make the same mistake again. I never want anyone to think I’m not good at what I do. My passion is to be good, to try to move up.
CT: Do you find yourself doubting your own capabilities?
MH: Yes I do. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know anything. Like I’m not good, like maybe what I’m doing anyone else can do too. Maybe it’s normal to have that doubt but then the next day you find a reason to reassure yourself that you are good at what you. I do think about that quite a bit. When I’m thinking like that I also think about the things I do that I know are good and what others have told me I’m great at.
Being a woman and an immigrant doesn’t impact me – my English is actually what brings me down sometimes. I speak English almost fluently but depending on who I’m speaking to, saying specific words or expressing thoughts becomes difficult sometimes. For example, I was asked to take the lead for a team activity and I thought others must think I’m not the person that should person leading this because of maybe English slangs that I don’t know or very Canadian things that I haven’t experienced but we came in second place. I have to remind myself it’s okay to ask questions and I have other skills I can offer.
Depending on the vibe you get from people, if I get nervous or am under stress my English becomes a bit poor. Maybe because when I get stressed, my brain automatically switches to Farsi and then translating becomes hard for me.
CT: If you could give men in your field one piece of advice what would it be?
MH: Look at women as another human being. It’s not about gender – it’s about the person and who they are. Even for us, for women, we look at each other like; “Can I trust or can I not trust you?” and then after you work with them you decide if this is a person you can work with. And we do the same towards men as well, it’s not about their gender, it’s about their skills and their attitudes.