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How I Found My Passion through Tech

An Interview with Tia Dwi Setiani

Machine Learning Curriculum Developer at Dicoding

On getting started in tech…

My educational background is in science - physics and computational science. After working as a part-time university lecturer in Bandung for almost 5 years, I left the workforce to focus on taking care of my two children at home.

I've always been amazed by how science and technology can make people's lives easier, solve problems, and change things for the better. I wondered how I could be involved in the development of technology? How can I contribute and make an impact on society?

So, in the midst of taking care of my family, I decided to start my learning journey in tech. At that time, I still didn't know what I wanted to do next but I enrolled in several online courses. I wanted to learn. I wanted to grow.

At the end of 2020, I saw an open call for the Bangkit Academy program, a Google-led program in collaboration with Indonesia's leading tech companies, including Gojek, Tokopedia, Traveloka, and Bukalapak. I registered and was accepted! And, from here, my journey in machine learning began.

Upon graduating, I started my career as a machine learning curriculum developer at Dicoding Indonesia. I’m responsible for developing, updating, and maintaining machine learning courses in the ML learning path (which currently has more than 43k graduate students).

I love this job because it allows me to continuously learn and develop my skills while at the same time helping Indonesian people to learn and change their lives by studying machine learning skills.

On working in a male-dominated industry...

I would say it's challenging. I was the only female curriculum developer on my team. With my roles and responsibilities as a wife, a mother, and an employee, I feel like my male co-workers are able to learn faster and work quicker because they have more time. I find it challenging to catch up and sometimes I doubt myself, and feel like an imposter even though I still perform well.

You often hear that women in the workforce struggle between home and office and experiencing it myself, there’s no doubt that it’s true. And it’s not easy. Sometimes, things happen at home which are unavoidable. Permission to work from home and flexible working hours are several supports I, and other women employees, need most.

But, tech is not a career field reserved only for men; women too can also have the same opportunity to succeed. Moreover, I think tech is an appropriate field for women because it allows us to work from home and/or remotely, so women can still succeed in the workplace while staying close to their children, if they have any.

I’m lucky enough to have a supportive team and a wise manager. It is essential because I need a safe place to work, to grow.

On mentorship...

In my opinion, there are two kinds of mentorship - formal and informal. Formal or official mentorship is when you have a structured program and scheduled time to meet and informal mentorship relies on individual initiative.

At the end of 2020, I participated in a formal mentorship program, the Woman Developer Academy hosted by Google's Women Techmakers. It’s a 4-week fellowship program dedicated to equipping women developers with the skills, resources, and support to become tech presenters and speakers.

I received 1-on-1 mentorship with developer community leads in Southeast Asia and it was a great experience where I learned a lot about preparing tech presentations and becoming a good speaker. It was also an opportunity to connect with fellow developers from various countries in Southeast Asia.

Unfortunately, formal mentorship programs are limited and not always offered. In some situations, senior employees are not often available to give guidance. Other than that, it can feel improper to ask a stranger questions like "would you be my mentor?" Mentor-mentee relationships should have a real connection felt by both sides.

That is why it is essential to have informal mentorship in the workforce. It could be a mentor-mentee relationship between my manager and me or peers mentoring one another.

In my office, we draw up our growth plans at the beginning of the year and write goals we want to achieve throughout the year. It can be professional goals (related to the company goals) and personal goals (personal growth). We check progress quarterly to ensure each of us is on the right track. The informal mentorship helps me pursue my goals and, more importantly, supports me to grow.

On her most memorable tech project...

The story of my most memorable project is the story of my first technical project in machine learning, a capstone project as part of the Bangkit Academy Program.

It was actually a simple project - a mobile app that predicts whether someone is wearing a mask or not. I worked on it with a group of Bangkit fellows, final-year students, and I learned a lot from them.

We used image data sets of people with and without masks from Kaggle and tried several different methods to make our machine learning model perform well. The current model serves as an Android app to make it easy to use, available on mobile devices. All you need to do is take a picture to use an input image or simply use pictures on your device to make a prediction.

It went on to become one of the top 12 best projects on the Bangkit program! The funny thing is, I had never made a mobile app before and had never learned to use GitHub. So I’m proud of what I was able to do for the project because it has paved the way for me to work on other machine learning projects.

Advice to women considering a career in tech...

Working in a male-dominated industry is undoubtedly a challenge. But it is not impossible because opportunities and our capabilities are increasing. More importantly, women have a passion for learning, possess a growth mindset, and continuously develop their skills and abilities.

To close the gap between men and women in tech, the industry needs to recognise the numerous benefits of gender diversity that women bring. Whether as engineers or specialists, this diversity helps foster a positive work environment where workers (both men and women) feel belonging and are motivated to achieve the best results.

To other aspiring women in tech, we need to believe that women can be experts in this field. Join online courses and communities, participate in webinars or boot camps, and register yourself in programs that will allow you to grow, thrive and succeed.

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