Branislav Benčík: From development to UX and mentoring for ReactGirls
We present to you another interesting story from one of our own. This time we talked to our UX designer Braňo. His journey through Applifting is quite remarkable. He started as a FE developer, and then moved from programming to UX design, which he really enjoys. Furthemore, he is a mentor for the ReactGirls community.
Braňo, how long and what have you been doing for ReactGirls?
Long story short: I think it was around December 2019 when the first programming workshop took place, and ReactGirls began to emerge. The girls invited me to their events, and gradually, I became part of this great community.
Subsequently, webinars started to take place, speeded up by the arrival of the covid-19 pandemic. I lectured on the basics of CSS and HTML, and I also hosted the Developer Day webinar. I talked about some basic things that are not directly related to programming but are an integral part of what programmers do. I explained what tools and task managers programmers use and how the agile method works. Just so that the girls know how it really works, because it’s a big part of a developer’s work, yet it’s not often talked about. Some of these webinars are a one-time thing, others are part of the Academy, which takes place twice a year and ends with a hackathon.
Besides lecturing, you are also a mentor. How does mentoring actually work at ReactGirls, and what do you do?
Mentoring began in the fall of 2020, and I was one of the first two “test” mentors where each of us had one mentee. Two other Applifters — David and Lukáš — do mentoring at ReactGirls too.
At a time when I was still doing some programming but also spending roughly half of my time doing UX work, I met a girl who wanted to learn how to program as a freelancer. In the end, we agreed that she would do UX as well. The first third of the time was spent on designing the website, and then we put it all in code.
So you advise girls not only with programming but also with UX?
Exactly. When I switched to design at Applifting, I started thinking about ways to transfer that to ReactGirls as well. A lot of the girls come to you with a finished project — usually a website they were asked to make — that they need help with in terms of design. The girls often do it for a friend who needs feedback on UX, so I’ve commented on it several times, and based on that, I provide advice on UX too.
Yet you told me that you are even more involved in the ReactGirls community. How?
When mentoring came to a close, I started to get involved in the organizational team. It consists of 4–5 people, and everyone does everything. It all happened quite organically. As one of the very first two mentors, I shared a lot of feedback with the girls, so I sort of became an unofficial head of mentors. We consulted on a weekly basis, and even now, we have a regular meeting every week. Currently, the first official run of mentoring is coming to an end, and I’m happy that I could help Simča with the concept of it. We have a total of 7 mentor-mentee pairs.
What do you enjoy about it?
I probably enjoy passing on my experience the most. I really like explaining things, and I like long monologues (note: I can vouch for that :-D), and I’ve been told many times over by my friends to make use of that somehow. So I decided to do it like this. If you think about it, hosting a webinar is pretty much monologuing for three hours :-)
The other thing that motivates me is my relationship with education. I have the impression that IT as an industry is inaccessible and closed off. I always felt that it was difficult to get into this area, and that it was even harder for women. After all, there are still prejudices (because there are mostly men in IT). Many parents are also to blame because they do not support their daughters in their interest in IT.
To put it briefly, women are still under pressure for “just not having it” when it comes to IT. ReactGirls are a beautiful example of this not being true. And I’m so glad I can be involved and do my part.
Could it be said that you see differences in the approach to IT from a gender perspective?
There are differences, but only if you generalize it. Looking at things individually, it doesn’t matter. There may be women who are your everyday programmer — you wouldn’t know whether something was programmed by a woman or a man just by looking at the result. But at a more general level, the stereotype that women are more into the humanities (they can communicate better, they are more interested in people) can be seen here as well. But I definitely don’t want to label people.
I would conclude by saying that we are not the same. There are exceptions that go beyond the average. And that’s why ReactGirls exists, to give them a chance. There might be girls with super-logical thinking, abstraction skills, and enthusiasm for playing with code and math (note: this is a good prerequisite for programming). So why push such people into the humanities?
There are fewer women in programming than men, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to them.