It’s been roughly 4 months since CONNECT 2016 by Women Who Code in Seattle and the benefits from attending keep popping up.
I was fortunate to be awarded a conference ticket and score an amazing deal on the flights, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to attend. Thanks WWCode!
I’d been programming for a bit over 9 months and was burning through savings, whilst completing an apprenticeship with a development agency in NYC.
Impostor syndrome ran high. I constantly doubted if I knew the things I knew. I questioned every day if not attending a bootcamp or enrolling for a CS program was a bad move. I wondered if I’d ever be good enough to land a full-time dev job. To be perfectly honest, all these thoughts still linger but they’re far less self-deprecating than before.
Attending #WWCONNECT2016 was like being surrounded by everything I always felt I was missing, but hadn’t realized I was. One of those “You don’t know, what you don’t know” moments, except… I didn’t know I was missing this community in my life, because I’d never experienced it at this scale.
Meeting other female developers was empowering, eye-opening and extremely refreshing. I didn’t feel like I had to have my guard up or explain why I was there, like I’d felt at past conferences and the occasional meetup. There was a mutual understanding that we were all there for the same reason: We’re programmers, we love creating, we want to learn from others in the industry, make friends and have a bit of fun.
Something I feel also helped make my experience better, was reaching out to the WWCode NYC community to see if anyone else was attending and reaching out to the #WWCONNECT2016 community over Twitter.
Through Twitter, I met the lovely Rabeb Othmani, a WWCode Bristol member. Small world moment: we wound up being on the same flight from NYC to Seattle! It was awesome to hear about her background and experiences as a backend developer whilst exploring Seattle and consuming a ton of delicious food.
My friends (and fellow WWCode NYC members) Betty and Alice Fung also made it to the conference. This was huge for me, not only because we’d be able to share in the experience together but, also because we’re all junior devs and were going through a lot of the same emotions and thought patterns.
Programming can be a bit like Seattle’s famed Gum Wall - An appealing and colorful joint effort, but up close you realize it can get pretty messy and sometimes you’re not so keen.
Seattle's famous Gum Wall - Bit of a love/hate relationship
[Programming] is a place for anyone willing to take on tough challenges… Our true potential is being engineers who inspire the world - Regina Wallace-Jones, Head of Security Operations at Facebook
Turns out women have a hard time sharing their accomplishments (even when it comes to updating their LinkedIn profile!). #ApplaudHer was created as a way to share your accomplishments and see what other female developers are accomplishing around the world, in a supportive environment.
* If you’re looking to improve diversity within your team, it’s key to reach out to diverse organizations in the hiring process. You’re going to hire the best candidate, and by diversifying your recruiting channels, you increase the chances of finding a diverse candidate, who’s also the best fit.
* If you’re looking for your first job, or looking to transition to a more diverse / inclusive company - Capital One, VMWare, Docker, Airbnb and Twitter are companies actively working towards growing diversity amongst their teams.
* ALWAYS NEGOTIATE, whether it’s a pay increase or benefits (ability to work remote, extra days off, conference stipends, course reimbursements).
* Start at the median or high-end when setting your salary scale. Make sure you do some research before confirming your scale with a recruiter or hiring manager. Check out Fairygodboss and Payscale.
* If you’re self-taught or attended a bootcamp, embrace your non-traditional path and use it as a selling point.
* Don’t use “BUT” when negotiating, instead say: “Thank you for the offer, it’s fantastic. It’d make my decision easier IF..” – Now you negotiate 5k more or additional benefits.
Having a long career in tech: Tips from Maira Benjamin
* Plan A
- Visualize your career arc (decide where you want to go and visualize it),
- Develop goals, not resolutions,
Seek out mentors and sponsors (it’s key to have a support system and people who will vouch for you).
* Plan B
- Build your network,
- Recognize stagnation / boredom (get out, move onto the next project),
- Be informed about promotions, and (if you want the promotion) tell your manager you want to be considered.
* Find an Accountability Partner: meet up once a month, figure out what each of you want to accomplish and at the next meeting discuss what you accomplished, and what you’ll be doing next.
Happy to say I’ve graduated from my apprenticeship and am working full-time with the same development agency!
I negotiated a higher salary, and while it was uncomfortable to do - The uncomfortableness of it, dissipated quickly, whilst I’m still reaping the rewards (as a personal win and financially - woman’s gotta eat!)
My team is lovely, and very supportive. When I told them I’d be “officially” joining the team full-time, they said (and I paraphrase) - “Cool, though you know you’ve always been part of the team right!”
I’m the only female on a team of 4, and my coworkers love to work remote. Many of our conversations are over HipChat. Thankfully we’re based out of a coworking space so there are plenty of people for me to interact with. Also, depending on the project we get to work with other dev teams, which has taught me a lot about communication and code review. There’s a female dev who I work with currently - Suzi - and I think she’s absolutely badass.
I feel very fortunate to be part of such a great team, and to have been able to attend #WWCONNECT2016.
The conference showed me what’s possible, and taught me that I’m not being too-emotional or over-thinking things when it comes to certain experiences. As females were judged differently, and as female developers we face certain holdbacks that our male counterparts may not.
This is changing, but stay aware. These experiences can be very subtle, but expose yourself to them too much, and they start to tear away at you. We’re not alone, and if we surround ourselves by people who are supportive (our friends, our communities, our coworkers) we give ourselves a better chance of improving our lives, programming skills, and longevity in the field.
As we find our place in the industry, it’s key that we give back so that our peers, and the next generation of programmers, have an even better, more inclusive and supportive community to welcome them. I’m looking forward to giving back and seeing what my fellow female developers get up to.