Women Leaders in Technology: Meet Stacey, Mastt's Software Engineering Team Lead

Cherie Gozon
Cherie Gozon
March 21, 2024

Our society has come a long way in terms of the rights and opportunities for women. While the journey towards complete parity and justice remains ongoing, it is undeniable that has progressed from the more oppressive eras of the past.  

From earning our right to be educated, own a property, and vote, to a society where we see women in most industries; not a mere representation but women rising to become industry leaders and women of power.

As Mastt continues its celebration of Women's Month, we feature one woman who has shown not only her excellent programming skills in delivering features of our product but a strong leadership that dictates the efficiency and success of her team and what they could offer.

Meet Stacey, Our Software Engineering Team Lead

Mastt invited Stacey over the Sydney HQ last 2022 for their Global Exchange Program.
Mastt invited Stacey over the Sydney HQ last 2022 for their Global Exchange Program. View her full interview in our YouTube Channel.

Stacey hailed from the quiet, small town of Catbalogan, Samar, in the Philippines. She's the eldest of four children of two hardworking, now-retired university educators.  

If there's one thing you need to know about Filipino culture, it's that the people around you would expect to follow in your parents' footsteps, especially as the eldest child. You might expect Stacey to take the education route, but she had other plans. Thanks to her supportive parents, she took on a different direction, defied the norms, and is now Mastt's prized treasure.

I sat down with Stacey and talked about her journey in software engineering, working in a male-dominated industry, and how that never hindered her from getting to the top.

The Making of a Software Engineer

Stacey (leftmost) with her batch mates during their college graduation at the University of the Philippines - Cebu.
Stacey (leftmost) with her batch mates during their college graduation at the University of the Philippines - Cebu.

Cherie: You're a Computer Science graduate, right? What made you decide to take the Software Engineering route?

Stacey: We had a computer class in high school, and that was the first time I was exposed to programming… We're really just trying to learn how to think in a programming sense rather than actually building real software. Many of the projects involved in that class were like fun little projects, and it was very, very fun. When I was about to graduate high school, I had to decide what (degree program) to take, and I remembered that computer class. I had this idea in my mind that I would become a game developer after graduation.

When I was in university, I didn't feel like there was much of a choice. Although our program was called Computer Science and involved a lot of maths, algorithms, and theory, if you ask the Office of Student Affairs for career advice, they will recommend you software engineering jobs.

I didn't think there was any other path other than if I would have wanted to become an educator, like more of a theoretical side of stuff, but I wasn't exposed much to that.

C: Did you jump into software engineering after graduation?

S: Even before graduating from college, I was already working as a software engineering intern, so yeah, it was just like a natural progression.

C: Did that initial idea as a game developer ever pop up in your mind between then and now?

S: After I graduated, I realized that to be like a developer who develops the kind of games I wanted to play (which were in Xbox or PS5 or other action-packed games), would require a lot of very technical maths. So, I didn't see myself enjoying being a game developer.

C: What was one point in your career that would make you think, "I made it," or something that would make your high-school self proud of you?

S: I'd say when I realized I was finally fully independent, like living on my own, paying for everything on my own, and treating my family when I wanted to.

It's A Man's World... Or is It?

C: So, it's always been Software Engineering for you, then… for the past… 15 years?

S: *starts counting* Oh my god, it's 16! 16 years.

C: We're old. *laughs* So, in your 16 years as a software engineer, have you felt you're in a male-dominated world?

S: I feel like maybe I've been living in a bubble, and I say that because, even during my university days, most of my classmates were women. The same was true when I was an intern, and in my first job, most developers were women. I didn't quite experience it being more male-dominated until I was in my third or fourth job.

Stacey working with Steve West, former Software Engineer in Mastt.
Stacey working with Steve West, former Software Engineer in Mastt.

C: Oh, that's unique. Because our university has more men taking up IT. So, tell me more about when you first encountered a male-dominated office or company.

S: Even though there were many women in my class and in the first few companies that I worked in, if you track their career, I feel most women would try the vertical route…

C: Like climbing the corporate ladder?

S: Yes, like grow vertically and aim for managerial roles, while most male counterparts go more into technical depth. Much later in my career, I could see there were more guys than women software engineers, and I wish…

C: We'd have more female engineers?

S: Like, even for Mastt right now, it's a bit of a challenge to hire female software engineers, and there are fewer female applicants.

C: Were you surprised when you were first surrounded by more men?

S: I wouldn't say it was shock. I would say it was probably like a slow realization. My other female colleagues would be going into more managerial roles or the training route, or they wouldn't be on the floor with me. It was more of a slow realization, and as time passed, there were fewer women around me. But I am more of an introvert, so I didn't see myself managing people. I found that managing codes or computers is easier than managing people.

C: What is the most common misconception if they know you're a female developer or software engineer?

S: I'm not sure how common of a misconception this is, but definitely, I see this stereotype around me where people expect that if you're a female engineer, you're more of the front-end person or the person who thinks about the aesthetics of what you're working on. There's also this misconception that female engineers are not as technically deep, and you also get pigeonholed to go on the vertical expansion route, not horizontal.

C: Would you say you are actively trying to disprove these misconceptions?

S: I don't think I'm actively trying to disprove those, but it would come naturally if you're trying to be a good engineer. You are, by default, disproving those stereotypes. However, I would say that sometimes, if I realize that somebody is stereotyping me like that, I get super annoyed. And yes, in that situation, I would actively try to disprove them.

C: Like how?

S: I think one example was when we were trying to figure out what was going on with our code's Git branching, and I was suggesting how we do it. Then this guy started explaining to me how git works. I know how it works. I just showed him what I meant. That shut him up.

Stacey and her mom during the All Women Ultra Marathon in Cebu, Philippines.
Stacey and her mom during the All Women Ultra Marathon in Cebu, Philippines.

C: Without any explanation, name three female role models you have growing up.

Number one: My mother, Dr. Marilyn Cardoso. Second, I have a teacher in high school who was also our school paper adviser, Ms. Mylah Javier. The third one is Ada Lovelace.

Mastt and Leadership

Stacey with the Mastt Team during the Global Exchange Program in 2023. Mastt also brought in Pavan Mallela (L) and Jessie Rerona (R).
Stacey with the Mastt Team during the Global Exchange Program in 2023. Mastt also brought in Pavan Mallela (L) and Jessie Rerona (R).

C: So, going back on women taking leadership roles in tech. You said, you didn't imagine yourself going up the vertical career route. But that changed here in Mastt…

S: Mastt gave me my first chance to manage a team.

C: Were you surprised when they said you'd lead a team?

S: At the risk of sounding "mayabang" (arrogant), I think I deserved it. At the back of my mind, maybe I was already expecting it. However, it says more about the people around me than me. I think, in general, developers don't like being put in managerial roles. Also, I feel like I have grown a lot in my time with Mastt. Being given this team lead role was a recognition of how I've grown in the company.

C: How does it feel to lead a team of men?

S: Since this is my first leadership role, I don't have a point of comparison, so this would be my baseline. I'm very thankful for my team. Our team is very open. We say what's on our mind most of the time, and even sometimes at the risk of maybe offending some of our teammates. But yeah, I'm thankful for my team. It doesn't feel like it's much of a chore to manage a team when they're that open and that smart. They made it easy for me.

Stacey and Mastt's other Software Engineering Team Lead, Matthew Whittaker.

C: What is your typical day as a Software Engineering Team Lead?

S: I start my day at 9 am (in the Philippines). The first order of business is to respond to all the messages sent my way. When our teammate from India starts (around 11:30 am), we have our daily check-in where my team talks about what we need to unblock our work. Everything after that depends on what my team needs. Most of the time, these days, I'm not working on actual code, but I'd be doing things to make sure my teammates are able to do their job.  

C: What is the most challenging part of your role?

S: Since Mastt is a start-up and there were very few of us (when we started), this is a common theme among start-ups: You're assigned one role, but you wear many hats.

I think the challenge is that I got into this role because I'm a good engineer. Along the way, I also had to learn how to make a good product. A lot of times, the skills that you need to make a good product aren't necessarily technical.

Stacey and her cat, Yoda, which she rescued as a stray.
Stacey and her cat, Yoda, which she rescued as a stray. She loves annoying him.

C: Who is Stacey outside of Mastt?

S: I'm an animal welfare advocate. I still consider myself a musician, although I no longer have a band.

C: How do you unwind from work?

S: I love annoying my cats especially Yoda. He is very "pikon," (short-tempered) which makes teasing him so fun. I like watching movies, preferably in theaters, but Netflix is also fine. I enjoy staying active; I used to do Muay Thai after work. And yeah, I love cooking with and for my girlfriend.

Rapid Fire Questions

If you could teleport, where would you go?


What is something you're very curious about?

Why is a wombat's poop square? What was the evolutionary reasoning for that?

What is something that's not work-related that your teammates do not know and that you'd like them to know now?

When I was born, I did not cry.

Name one useful and one useless talent you have.

Useful talent is making yummy food from leftovers. Useless talent is I I'm double jointed on my one finger.

If you had one food you'd have for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Pork adobo. (Filipino Stewed Pork Belly)  

What is one thing you can't leave home without?

My phone.  

If you see a girl doubting or second thinking about becoming a software engineer, what advice would you like to give her?

You're smarter than you think.

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