Shanna Gregory, Chief Program Officer at Women Who Code, and Grecia Castaldi, Program Manager of Digital Community at Women Who Code, reflect on their journeys as they celebrate Women Who Code’s 10-year anniversary.
GC: We met as volunteers at Connect in San Francisco, and again the next year at Connect. It was amazing. I remember seeing all of the diverse speakers. I remember seeing a speaker from Mexico, a director from Mexico City, Loyda. I said, "Okay, next year, I will be a speaker at Connect.”
Where were you at that time?
SG: I worked in product management for a few years locally in Boston. I was a director at Women Who Code as a volunteer. Women Who Code allows me to expand my community. I've moved to many different cities and worked in different roles. I moved from San Francisco to New York, and New York to Boston. Each time I moved, I found my Women Who Code community. It was a way to establish myself in a new city, in a new job.
GC: How did you learn about Women Who Code? How did you get involved in the first place?
SG: Before I was a product manager, I was a program manager for a coding boot camp. I was helping people who are under-represented in tech careers find jobs as developers after they finished the program. I was encouraging them to expand their network, to meet more people who are in the industry. I would take my students to Women Who Code events and eventually started hosting them at my office. I became a volunteer. It was a really good way to have that community outside of work too.
What about you?
GC: We started the Monterrey network. I think it was in 2015. I started it with one of my friends. I think I was the only woman on my team, so I started looking for communities. We had a few events and very few people came. With time, more people started coming and we had more speakers, and more companies wanted to support us. Many people joined, and now it's a big community here in Monterrey.
SG: Do you remember your first event?
GC: It was the very first Women Who Code event here in Monterrey. We had it at a university. There were around 10 people at the event.
GC: Let's talk about the work we do at Women Who Code. Do you want to share your journey here? Your initial job and everything else?
SG: I just had my three-year anniversary at Women Who Code full-time. I joined in January of 2019 as the Global Leadership Manager. It was my job to manage volunteers and help everyone that was organizing events around the world. We were able to organize a lot of regional and global conferences, travel to India, Singapore, and Berlin, and meet up with Grecia in Mexico. There were a lot of amazing events that year. I then became Global Leadership Director and we started growing our program team to support more volunteers and activities around the world. My current role is the Chief Program Officer. I'm working more on the strategic vision of women in code programs.
Do you want to talk about the digital community?
GC: I was a director, a volunteer. I joined as a full-time employee last year. I lead the six technical tracks. If you don't know about them, they are Blockchain, Cloud, Data science, Frontend, Mobile and Python. We have these online communities in Slack and we also organize events. We have one leadership fellow for each one of them. I am leading the fellows. I also help with organizing events for our sponsors. I really enjoy what I do.
Do you want to share your favorite programs, talks, events, or conferences?
SG: I really enjoy all of our conferences. I loved attending them as a volunteer and member. I also love organizing and attending. It was more fun to attend as a volunteer, but it's definitely more rewarding as an organizer, to get to orchestrate all of the people coming together from around the world. Now we have the conferences remotely. There are pros and cons to both.
What's your favorite program, event, moment, that comes to mind?
GC: I have many. I will say Connect, as well. I really miss going to in-person conferences in San Francisco. But, the first virtual Connect that we had in 2020, I think that was my favorite. I was a speaker and I was nervous. It's one of my favorite memories. Then here in Monterrey, we have a couple of events for International Women's Day. It's called We Live. Also, when we went to Mérida together. We had the leadership summit there and the anniversary event for the Mérida Network. I also liked that. I really enjoy all the track events.
What have you seen over the years, how has it changed, any good change that you see in the community?
SG: Definitely. When I joined as a member initially, I think we had around 50,000 members for Women Who Code. I remember thinking that was such a massive number. Now we're close to 300,000. I've seen growth over the years. The number of people who recognize Women Who Code and our mission and understand what we're doing has been really encouraging, too. I've seen people that I met six or more years ago, who were starting out in their careers, or they felt like they were kind of stagnant and not really sure if they wanted to stay in tech. So many of them are managing teams or starting their own companies. Seeing the career growth of people that I've gotten to meet over the years has been really amazing and rewarding.
GC: We are changing the face of technology because we have more representation. We're always encouraging under-represented people to apply to speak. If it's a small webinar, a workshop, or a big conference, we're always encouraging people to apply. It’s really important. We are working on increasing representation.
SG: We are a global community. There are people who are doing really important work in different parts of the world. Being able to connect everyone together and have them learn from each other has been really amazing. I love our events. We've talked a lot about our big conferences. Our daily events are really amazing, too. It's great that people are dedicating their time and energy to supporting our movement.
GC: That's what makes a community. Everyday events and small interactions, in Slack, social media, anything counts, so we are creating big communities there.
SG: Yes. Don't be afraid to give your first talk. If you've never given a presentation, or you're worried about public speaking, we have resources to support you. Don't feel like you need to be a PhD level expert. Everyone has something to share.