The Impact of Women Who Go in my Life
Those of you who follow me on Medium and/or other social networks probably already know this, but 2017 has been so far the best year in my entire career.
With so many special things happening at the same time, it's almost hard to pinpoint the most life changing experience I've had. Yes, I said almost.
The title is a bit of a spoiler, but I hope the journey is as revealing to you as it was to me. Very few people know my real history with Go (the programming language) and how I got into this community in the first place. So, this is my story.
Like all the greatest things in my life, everything happened by accident. It all started in September, 2016... I had just lost my job and was on the interviewing process with my current employer, Globo.com.
Like any progressive woman nowadays, I have some interview questions I like to ask to my possibly new employer to understand better the work environment at the given company. Kind of like the three questions in The Walking Dead, but regarding to diversity and inclusion of women and LGBT. I always ask:
- Does your company have a diversity program established?
- How many women and LGBT people work on your team?
- What are your plans regarding diversity and inclusion for the near future?
I ask these questions in some way or another in every interview, independently of the purpose of it (technical, behavioral, management, etc), so I can map the environment from every perspective.
The people at Globo.com were very fair with me… they all basically said: "We don't have a diversity program per se, but we have the desire to work this issue internally". There is nothing better than an honest answer… so in one of my interviews with HR I said to them: "Ok, great! If I'm hired I'll help you with that." And then I was hired… on January, 2017 I've joined the Big Data team, so it was time to keep my promise.
My first opportunity came a couple of months later, in March, when the HR organized an internal event on behalf of the International Women Day. I was invited to be one of the speakers to talk about my experience as a new hire and share my view on what was good and what was bad in the workplace compared to my experience with other companies. It was a big challenge as I would be speaking to every employee of Globo.com, including the higher management.
I was very worried about giving the right impression and highlighting the importance of having a diversity program in place. I've mentioned my own example and how the answer to those three questions had a major impact in my acceptance of the offer. My participation was very well received and in the end it was really fun.
The day after the event I got a call from one of the managers who had watched my talk. He was impressed by my talk and he had an offer to make me, one offer that would have great consequences later this year.
For those who are not from Brazil, Globo.com is famous around here for sponsoring women-only development workshops like Rails Girls and Django Girls. The manager that called me was the one responsible for all the sponsorships. He said to me: "We at Globo.com are heavy users of Go and we sponsor all those women-only events, but strangely enough we don't sponsor any women-only Go targeted event. Maybe we could create an event to teach women how to program in Go."
Before joining Globo.com I've actually had no idea that events like Rails Girls and Django Girls existed at all, but in my first public appearance on behalf of Globo.com was during a Rails Girl event back in February, so I had an idea of what he was talking about. The fun fact is that I did not know anything about Rails or Ruby, but still it was a great experience being a coach.
So he continued: "I've saw your talk yesterday and I was thinking, would you like to be the leader of this initiative in your office? We were researching here and there seems to be this thing called Women Who Go"…
He was proposing to me to start a new chapter of Women Who Go, and our company would sponsor the first meetup. The idea was to promote the diversity and inclusion in the local Go community so more women would be interested in the language. I don't like to say no to any opportunity so I accepted it promptly.
The only problem was that I had no clue about Go. I knew that Go existed and it was like some "weird C", but nothing more. I don't like to do stuff that I don't know anything about, so I started to look for answers. The language was not the only problem… how do you organize an event in the first place? Never had done that before either.
"Ok, Google", help me out… *types women who go*… oh, great! www.womenwhogo.org, looks like a great way to start. :)
Luckily enough, Sarah Adams, the creator of Women Who Go, had made a great job making things easier for women interested into creating new chapters. She even had a new chapter guide on GitHub. So, on March, 24th 2017 I've sent Sarah this e-mail:
Oh my God, so many questions! Sarah, as the best person in the world she always have been, answered all my questions and things were set in motion. I had no worries about finding a sponsor, but I still had to learn how to organize a meetup and learn enough about Go so we could actually do something meaningful.
Over the next few days I've recruited literally every girl in the office to help me out. This may seem impressive, but actually we were only four… lol.We've decided to build a tutorial for beginners that would be different from everything we've seem before.
The idea that came to us was to make a game. That sounded ambitious, but we did want to give the best experience for anybody that wanted to learn the language. I've already written about this in my past article, the major reason I've started to write software was because I wanted to develop games. Passing on this excitement to girls learning how to code seemed to be a task noble enough.
We barely had enough time to work on this project while working on our daily jobs, but luckily our company has these quarterly events called Hackday were you have about 30 hours to develop a personal project. I've submitted the proposal to work on our tutorial and it was accepted. We also had an in house introductory Go course, so when the Hackday came we had the basic knowledge of the language and a mission to accomplish.
With a team of five (the four original girls and a male friend that joined later) we developed what we called the "PacGo", a Pac Man clone for the terminal using emojis. The idea was to try to teach as many things as possible about the language without making the project extremely complex, and the emojis were a nice touch to make the terminal more friendly to beginners. We didn't have time in the workshop to teach about software engineering, so we decided only to cover the basics and let go from there.
The code was far away from optimal, as it would be expected from beginners on a language working fueled by coffee, sodas, candies and pizza, but the final result was pretty awesome:
For those really curious about the project, it's open source but currently it's only available in Portuguese. We've decided to make that way because of the profile of the girls in the workshops (most of them doesn't know English), but I'm working on it's translation to English along with a major refactor in the code. Stay tuned!
Parallel to that Sarah and other WWG members were working on a diversity scholarship to bring more women to the Gophercon in Denver, CO. For those who doesn't know, Gophercon is the main convention about the Go programming language.
I've never had the opportunity to go to the USA before, mostly because it's very very expensive, and I was starting to really like Go, so I decided to apply. I've never won anything in my life so I didn't have many expectations, but still I thought it would be pretty useful to attend since I would be way more prepared to host the meetup.
I don't remember exactly how much time it took from my application till I got the answer, but I still remember the day. I was working from our office in Rio de Janeiro when I got an e-mail from Sarah… I was one of the chosen ones! That was definitely one of the best days in my life!
Traveling to the USA was already a dream come true, but Gophercon was really something else. There I had the opportunity to meet some of the greatest minds and influencers in our community. And they were all so accessible!
Not only I was able to meet Sarah Adams in person, but I had also the opportunity to expend some time with Francesc Campoy, Steve Francia, JBD, Cassandra Salisbury (my rommie along with Wendy Fabela), Carmen Endo, Ashley McNamara and so many others that would be impossible to name them all on a single article.
That was a very magical moment in my life who made me rethink many things about my career and the impact of my work on people.
I always had this desire to contribute with something, but somehow every time I thought about it it seemed pretty much impossible… After all, what could someone like me do for a community with so many great people out there with skills waaaay better than mine?
I'm not talking only about Go, that's a mindset that followed me for my entire career, from my beginning with C++ to my career as an Oracle DBA to more recently with Python and Scala. All those communities seemed so overwhelmingly filled with experts that I had no space to make my own contributions. Or so I thought at least.
But the opportunity that WWG gave to me, attending Gophercon, changed everything. The interaction with the community, Ashley's keynote on her journey to Go and contributing, Russ Cox talk about experience reports and the Contributor Workshop on the Community Day… there is something really different about this community after all.
So I decided to give a try. When I got back home I started looking for small things to do. First I decided to implement the Describe() method for the gota DataFrame library. I had this idea during the Ultimate Data Workshop by Daniel Whitenack (who was a great teacher by the way).
Later, the people at the #gophercon channel on the gophers slack were organizing the all the talks' slide decks on a github repo and I decided to give a hand. To my surprise people really appreciated my help, enough to receive a thank you note from Brian himself:
And a mention on the GoTime podcast:
I felt pretty awesome! I was finally making a difference somewhere.
Those events eventually led to a cascade of other positive things. First, I become one of the organizers of the Go language track for one of the most important developers conference in the South of Brazil, called TDC that's going to be held in Porto Alegre, RS next November. I was also invited to host a introductory workshop at Gophercon Brazil and I had a talk approved for the main event as well, about the Women Who Go initiative.
I've also started working more closely with Google giving talks and mentorship on Google Cloud at Google hosted events. In those talks I've started using the Go language samples and found some opportunities for improvements in those as well. After a few pull requests sent, I was invited to become a contributor for the golang-sample repository. :)
Chris Broadfoot posted this on Twitter a few moments afterwards:
Actually, Cassandra disagrees with Chris (me too):
I think my greatest skill is to make technology accessible to other people. I find great joy in teaching, writing docs and polishing code making things easier and more understandable. That's why I like to give talks in the first place.
And what about my Women Who Go meetup? Of course, we did that too:
Women Who Go Brasil. 87 likes · 2 talking about this. Comunidade de mulheres interessadas na linguagem de programação…www.facebook.com
Today I feel very recognized by my contributions to the community. They are small, but they had impact in the life of many Gophers.
If the information you needed was more accessible, or you had a better example to test the Google Cloud, or even that Describe method call you used during an exploratory analysis, that's all thanks to the Women Who Go initiative. If were not by the WWG I would not be here and nothing I've written here today would be done.
I'm very thankful to all those women who made that happen, and specially to Sarah Adams who not only started all this but is also a very special person that always find some time to help even with the most simple things, never denying help to anyone. You are amazing Sarah, thank you for everything!
I've came to this community because of WWG and I'm planning to stay because of it. Love you all! ❤