Plucked From the Chorus: How One Woman Went From Musical Theater to Tech Stardom

Chloe Condon got into tech via an interesting route – the financial constraints of musical theater. Now she’s advocating to bring more women into the field. Read on to get her tech story.

In March 2019, Chloe Condon, a cloud developer, tweeted, “Hey ladies, come work in tech. We have no bathroom lines.” Posted during Women’s History Month, it was a tongue-in-cheek observation about the ongoing gender disparity in tech. 

As a prolific tweeter and an influencer in her field, Condon has publicly spoken on the subject of the gender gap in tech many times, which doesn't always invite support.

“Anytime that I post anything opinionated, specifically about being a woman in tech or feminism, I put it up with my metaphorical armor on,” she said. 

Condon needed that armor when she published, “What It’s Like to Be a Woman at a Tech Conference”. The article went viral, featuring on the front page of the online content aggregator Medium and getting significantly upvoted on Reddit. But there was a dark side to this.

“For every 25 thumbs-up I got about that, I got the worst [comments] like, ‘You’re not a real engineer’ and ‘Get back in the kitchen,’ which I couldn’t believe was actually something that someone typed out on the Internet,” she said.

Singing as a Soft Skill

chloe-blog-croppedNevertheless, Condon’s career in technology has been proceeding apace—she’s a senior cloud advocate at Microsoft. Her journey into tech wasn't a typical one though. Condon started in musical theater at age four and even has an  IMDB  page. But as she pursued work on the stage she learned how little it paid.

“That’s actually how I ended up getting into tech,” she said. “I realized I needed a nine to five, Monday to Friday to support me while I [had] this theater habit.”

She took on jobs in office management and sales at companies like EA, Yelp and Zirtual—all of which nudged her toward the tech world.

“I was working in tech in all these administrative roles, but didn’t really know what engineers did,” she said. “Everyone in my life was a creative person. I had never met an engineer. When I pictured what an engineer was it was someone in a lab coat physically hammering a computer together.”

A talk on Google on getting women into technology led Condon to reflect on what she saw in the entertainment world—a lack of depictions of women in tech—and how this might have misled her. Condon studied up and took an all-female software engineering bootcamp in San Francisco, and from there leapt into the world of developer evangelism.

She quickly realized that her background in music theater had equipped her with a potent soft skill. “I use my theater degree every single day in my role as an evangelist [in] everything from communication to content to writing to being on camera to public speaking,” she said. 

Getting to the Audition

According to Condon, there are certain pitfalls to avoid in advocating for diversity in technology. She says it’s important for anyone who speaks on diversity at a tech conference to also give a talk on a technical subject itself.

“I’m a technical person and I want to make sure that... I’m seen as a technical person in this community,” she said.

Condon added that it’s important to her that her diversity talks are packaged in a way that’s exciting and directly translatable into people’s businesses.

“I really want it to be a positive experience because the last thing I want is for someone to walk away from my talk thinking, ‘Oh wow, this is really [bad] and I can’t do enough as an individual contributor to change things at my company,’” she said. So, Condon always gives an action item, and a big one is talking to your company’s recruiter about how tools like resume screeners might screen out underrepresented people with potential.

“The example that I love to give is that we use a recruiting software where my degree is not even recognized,” she said. “Theater, performing arts, drama; it’s not even something I can type and be accepted into recruiting software.” Condon flagged this with her own employer.

Understandably, Condon is a big advocate for people—particularly women—coming into tech from non-traditional backgrounds. “Not everybody is lucky enough to have computer science programs or engineers for parents or relatives,” she said. “I just didn’t have any of that and I think getting creative people who have whole lives before getting into an engineering role [is] really key to innovating in this industry.”

Make an impact at your company: Download CompTIA's Diversity & Inclusion Plan for Technology SMBs to find out how your business can take steps to improve representation of women and minorities in the industry.

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