Women in STEM: Solving the Puzzle

Malene Thisgaard, Full Stack Engineer (Photo)

Women in STEM: Solving the Puzzle

Our life is one big puzzle. Oftentimes, we don’t know how to fit things. All we can do is patiently try to fit the pieces one by one, never really knowing when the puzzle will be finished, or how it’s going to be done. There are a million different possibilities, but there can only be one outcome. 

Malene Thisgaard tried to fit the pieces of her career together by taking a chance in an industry that once intimidated her. Similarly, in her personal life, she also made a bold move of moving to Japan from her home country Denmark. Today she is a woman working in STEM as a Full Stack Engineer in the e-commerce industry.

Malene’s biggest advice: You don’t need to know everything!

What made you choose your field?

I’ve always been curious about getting into tech, but didn’t pursue it in school as engineering felt really intimidating at the time. But last year I had the chance to do a coding bootcamp and test out if web development was a good path for me, and I’m so glad I did! Working in tech turned out to be a great fit and it’s been a really rewarding journey so far. 

What is your favorite thing about your job/working in your field?

For me coding is just really fun. It feels like solving a puzzle. When I’m coding I get really drawn into my work and hours can go by without me even noticing. I’m also a person who loves learning new things, and with programming there is a constant flow of new things to dive into!

What has been the biggest culture shock for you since your move to Japan? 

Even though I expected everything to be very analogous and bureaucratic, I was still surprised by the amount of in-person paperwork you need to do in Japan. The upside is that as long as you take your time and follow the instructions, things usually run smoothly.

Where is your favorite place or thing you have done in Tokyo?

There are so many exciting places to visit and fun things to do in Tokyo, so it’s super hard to pick just one favorite! So instead I’ll just say that one of my favorite activities in Tokyo is checking out some of the many thrift shops dotted around the city. Tokyo has a great second-hand market because people here take really good care of their things, so items are usually in very good condition.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

What does it mean to you to be a woman in STEM?

I would love to see more women in STEM as there are so many highly skilled and motivated women out there who could make a massive difference in their respective fields. I hope that by working in STEM myself, I can help encourage other women who are interested in getting into a STEM career to take the leap.

What do you wish you knew before joining your field?

I just wish I had taken the steps to join the industry sooner! If you’re interested in tech go for it! From an outside perspective, it can seem like you need a ton of education to enter the industry, but that’s not the case at all. The really cool thing about web development is that as long as you have the skills, you can get work. Where and how you learned those skills doesn’t matter as much. So you can even self-study to get the skills you need!

“We’re all continuously learning as we go.”

What advice would you give to young women entering your industry?

It’s easy to feel imposter syndrome and think that you have to know everything before you’re allowed to participate in a STEM field. But the truth is that people working in those industries don’t know everything either. We’re all continuously learning as we go. So just jump into it, start small, try things out, and don’t be afraid of failing a few times along the way. As long as you stay consistent and keep learning you’ll surely get somewhere great!

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