Interview with Shelly-Ginelle Sicat
Shelly-Ginelle Sicat is a Software Engineer from Calgary who combines her love of art and design with her passion for technology. Described as a “champion for women in tech” by her peers, and as a former beauty blogger, she translated her skills on the web to a full-time career and is now completing a master’s degree in Digital Media from Ryerson University. In her spare time, she creates inspirational videos about women in tech on YouTube and volunteers for local organizations helping and promoting women in tech.
[Kristine Vacola] Can you tell us about what your average day looks like?
[Shelly-Ginelle Sicat] In a nutshell, I creatively design digital solutions in hopes for a better future; a technology aficionado, women in tech activist, and a forever student.
Formally I have a BSc in Computer Science, with concentrations in Software Engineering and Human-Computer Interaction. Through my university career, I’ve translated my passion into two main avenues: 1) Actively volunteering at organizations and incubators that aim to challenge the status quo – such as Ladies Learning Code, Chic Geek, and Transmedia Zone; and 2) Content creating on social media platforms to promote women in technology through video tutorials on design and software development @shellyginelle. Ultimately showcasing that, “If she can see it, she can be it”.
As much as I would love to say that I’m pretty much a mirrored version of Beyonce, “woke up like this”, “flawless”, and hustling hard always – that is not the case! If there is one [piece of] advice I can pass on, in relation to an average day in my shoes, is to know that however you choose to use the time you have each day will define how you have chosen to live your life. Each day is a new opportunity to iteratively better yourself. It is up to you to define what you can achieve – big or small. Just be sure to make it worth it. 🙂
[KV] What attracted you to work in tech? Was it a life-long dream, or was there some other factor that pushed you to it?
[SGS] Growing up I had two main influencers; my parents. My mom is an Interior Designer by education and had constantly volunteered in my school activities when a creative component was needed – from painting backdrops for plays to producing flower arrangements, she was always willing to lend a helping hand. My dad on the other hand is a Computer Engineer by education; if his eyes weren’t glued to the screen, he always made time to help my sisters and me with our math and science homework. Consequently, I was the mere combination of the two worlds – eager to create and also to maintain my honour roll streak.
Fast forward to when I was 17 years old – I was struggling to choose a degree to pursue. Suppressing my creative side, I chose Nursing. Nearly two years in, I felt I had cheated myself. As much as I appreciate the career choice, I did not have any creative freedom. It was then I decided to take a leap of faith to pursue my second option, Computer Science. Tracing back, I would not say that I knew EXACTLY what I was doing, but boy will I say it was the best decision.
As I went through the first set of courses, I realized that I was able to seamlessly intertwine my ability to create, reconnect with my math skills, and had a new landscape to explore. It was from that moment, I grew a even larger passion in all things technology. With had lead me to do where I am today.
[KV] There’s a lot of buzz around “building your community” as key to being successful in tech. What does your “community” look like? Who are the people you look for feedback from? Or, who are the people at work or elsewhere that you can rely on?
[SGS] First off, I definitely agree with this statement. For the record, I’m a huge sucker for the quotes that state, “you are the sum of the 5 people you spend time with,” or, “surround yourself with people who reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel,” because it’s true! The community I have around me has definitely been a key component to how I have gotten to where I am today. Over the years, I have been blessed to have had met an amazing set of diverse individuals from school, work, friends and family; allow me to take this opportunity to elaborate on a few:
- My sisters, Angela Sicat and Kylie Sicat – Out of the three, I would describe myself as a quiet and reserved introvert. My sisters on the other hand are upbeat and expressive social butterflies. It is without saying that they help balance out what I lack. They, in conjunction with my parents, have been my foundation of support, motivation and spirit.
- My best friends, Kris Resurreccion, Lara Patrao and Karen Cruz – Three of the most passionate people I have met! Whether that be Kris as he pursues his Pilot license, Lara with her passion to learn more about cultures, languages and international relations or Karen with her passion to explore civil, transportation and now aerospace engineering – all have shown me to always give 110% in what you love and the rest will follow.
- My mentors, to name a few, Nathaly Verwaal from University of Calgary, Kylie (Toh) Woods and the Chic Geek team and Kate McKenzie from the Transmedia Zone – They are the definition of who I strive to be. In the little things of how they carry themselves, how they consistently offer selfless advice and share their knowledge with others – they are strong female figures in my life that consistently show and tell me that “I can”.
[KV] What kind of barriers have you faced as a woman in tech, and how did you overcome them?
[SGS] In conversations where I describe my education or perhaps what I do at work, I often receive the question, “so you know how to code?” In shock, I have consistently struggled with this question as I’ve guiltily fallen into the mindset that maybe I don’t. Somehow it is in the mere construction of the sentence that makes me question what I do know. Gosh… What do I know? I was often a deer in headlights.
Brushing off all the times I’ve failed to answer this question appropriately, being ultimately taken away by my passive and bubbly personality of compensating with a short laugh for my lack of words – I told myself that’s not right. It’s taken me some time to think more on my feet but the more I practice, the more I am aware and the more I am confident with what I do know; I’ve shifted my passive personality to be my strength rather than my weakness. Knowing that you can be forward and up-front with what you need to say in a polite and thoughtful manner – any personality type can succeed.
[KV] What does the phrase “diversity in tech” mean to you?
[SGS] Everyone should be able to wake up each day and tell themselves, “I am enough” Diversity in tech, to me, means anyone has the accessibility to reach for any opportunity that is out there as well as know that they matter. Whether it is when we attend a class, workplace or tech event, buy a product, browse online, or interact through digital means; my hope is that everyone’s perspectives are shown – All genders, cultures, race, [and] what have you.
We would like to thank Kylie Woods for nominating Shelly and helping us share her story with the Women in Tech World community through our Voices of Women in Tech series.