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Making it as a woman in Denmark Posted by on Mar 31, 2021 in Traditions

(Photo courtesy of Nanna Bach Munkholm.)

Did you celebrate kvindedagen (Women’s Day) on March 8th? This year, many people decided to turn all of marts (March) into a kvindemåned (Women’s Month) to highlight women’s achievements and ongoing struggle around verden (the world). For this month’s post my idea was to interview en dansk kvinde i et mandsdomineret miljø (a Danish woman in a male-dominated environment). Here’s what Nanna told me.

Hvem er du og hvad laver du? (Who’re you and what are you working at?)

– Jeg hedder Nanna Bach Munkholm. So far I’ve founded two virksomheder (businesses). I started my first firm 6 years ago, when I made håndlavede tasker (handmade handbags). It was a more kvindedomineret (female-dominated) universe… But all of a sudden I was introduced to the world of tech during my studies to become a bygningsingeniør (constructional engineer). I became a part of Startup Factory, which is a place for students who’d like to be iværksættere (entrepreneurs). All the others were men… There were people making apps and VR games, which fascinated me a lot. Suddenly I realised that I could obtain the tools to make something more teknisk (technical). So I started my business DecorRaid, which is a kind of Tinder hvor man swiper møbler (where you swipe furniture). I had an app to make.

Swiper møbler?

– You’re introduced to a produkt and then you swipe right or left depending on whether you like the product or ej (not)… Jeg har lavet en algoritme (I’ve made an algorithm) that gradually gets to know din stil (your style).

My co-founder and I knew nothing about coding. So I started learning it myself. In that way I was able to enter this very male-dominated verden (world). Here it may sometimes be a fordel (advantage) at være kvinde (to be a woman), because they were very kind to help and support me. I got et stort netværk (a big network) of udviklere (developers), which helped me improve my skills even more.

Hvordan lærte du så at programmere? (So how did you learn how to program?)

– I asked the people around me… My neighbour had been studying Python and had en bog (a book) which I started working through… Everything was focused on DecorRaid and the problem in front of us. In that way I was able to indskrænke området (narrow down the field) – otherwise it will overwhelm you.

Now I’m in the process of closing DecorRaid and starting full time as Head of AI and Development at the company Farmbrella. I’m going to lead their research department… Det er stort at de får en kvindelig udvikler… (It’s a big thing that they get a female developer.) I feel that they really want to push me forward as a kind of rollemodel (role model).

(Illustration by Legobibel from Pixabay; no copyright.)

Hvad kan du bedst lide ved at programmere? (What do you like best about programming?)

– I’m driven by a creative urge… You see something, you have some elementer, and then you put them together to something new, be it a knap på en hjemmeside (a button on a homepage) or a handbag – for me it’s very much the same thing. As it is for the engineer who creates a hus (house).

Hvad skal til for at flere kvinder vælger at programmere? (What would motivate more women to become programmers?)

– I think it’s all about rollemodeller. You need to see others doing it, others who look like you. When I started in Startup Factory, there were kun mænd (only men)… I doubted a lot if I could learn it – maybe also because nobody looked like me. They were nørdede typer (nerdy guys). I really think it’s about finding somebody who can show you it’s possible and that it doesn’t require you to be vildt nørdet (wildly geeky). …

When coding, I use many of my creative kompetencer (skills). It does take en logisk forståelse (a logical understanding), but not so much matematik as many think. Programmering (programming) means a lot of different things; it depends on what you choose.

I take part in DigiPippi, a project for piger i folkeskolen (girls in primary school) where we teach them about technology and coding. Der er jeg rollemodel. (There I am a role model.) They go through various courses where they get erfaring (experience) and try to create something som de forstår (that they understand) and that they find sjovt (fun). We try to catch them from the start.

Hvad motiverer dig? (What motivates you?)

– Creating something and seeing what it may turn into… People told me I couldn’t become a constructional engineer, as it was a mandefag (men’s subject)… For me it’s all about figuring out that you CAN do all of these things, and then to keep challenging yourself until you discover that man kan komme længere end man troede (you can come further than you thought). With regard to the handbags, it stopped – eventually there weren’t enough udfordringer (challenges) for me. Programming is such a huge universe that it keeps challenging me hele tiden (all the time).

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


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