Underestimated and Carrying the Team

What happened to you? Tell us your triumph and/or trial.

I was working on a project where we had a to build a working prototype to demonstrate our concept. Myself and my teammate (a guy) have engineering backgrounds so we wanted to put that to use to ensure that our prototype would have all the functionality required to communicate our vision and wow our audience. My teammate was a backend engineer so he we responsible for creating a database. I am a frontend engineer so I was responsible for creating the website which would include all the functionality of the website and handle all the end user interactions.

An outside company was hired to design the visuals of the website. When we met with their lead, he immediately assumed that I had no technical ability. He turned to my teammate and spoke directly to my teammate about developing the website. When I said that I would be working on it, he was immediately skeptical and said, "We will bring in a development team to help you because this is going to be a lot of work." I told him we didn't need a [development] team but I would be happy to have more resources at our disposal. He said, "I don't think you'll be able to do it by yourself" and when I assured him I would he said, "Ok. Since you're confident let's see how long it takes you."

I made the first pass of the prototype the next day and he was impressed. However, as we kept going along in our project he was convinced that my abilities were still limited. He spoke again to my teammate without looking at me and said, "You're gonna build the real one. So we will have the little thing that she's building then you'll make one that will actually work." We both looked at him confused and clarified that we would only build 1 prototype and that I would be responsible for 'making it work'.

This guy, who had no engineering experience himself, assumed that my male teammate was capable of frontend development, and assumed that I was not capable of any type of development. My teammate and I both have engineering degrees but my teammate had no experience in frontend at all and was not comfortable attempting it. In the end, I built the entire prototype by myself and my teammate had little to no involvement, even for the backend, which he was supposed to do. (That's another story.)

What advice do you have for fellow women at work?

You have to make it a point to show what your skills, abilities, and areas of expertise are. No one is just going to take your word for it and if you don't explicitly share your accomplishments, everyone will assume the men around you are responsible for them and not you.