How Dwija Patel went from developing apps to developing community

Dwija Patel is the founder of CBC’s Women In Tech Employee Resource Group. (Mike Burroughs/CBC)

At first, there was only Dwija Patel, a senior CBC apps developer, and her small but formidable idea to connect women working in technical fields across the country.

Now, a little more than a year later, CBC’s Women In Tech (WIT) group has grown to include more than 100 CBC employees from across Canada. The community includes radio technicians, product managers, coders and more.

“The progress in one year has really surprised me and I’m very touched,” Dwija says.

Dwija formed the group after seeing other Women In Tech groups at meetups and events. Though Dwija says she’s had a positive experience working in tech at CBC, she notes there can be uneven gender balances on teams as well as an absence of female tech leaders. She wanted to create a community to provide support and mentorship for other women.

“WIT is a CBC community that fosters women in tech through networking, workshops, and mentorship,” she says.

Dwija hopes this group will create a community where women in various roles can learn and share experiences, and ultimately be encouraged to become leaders and role models. She also hopes that by attending family events, such as CBC Toronto’s annual picnic and Bring Your Kid to Work Day, the group will encourage the next generation to pursue careers in technology.

For Dwija herself, she was influenced early on by her older sister.

“When I finished [high school] I wanted to take biology in university, but my sister Nehal Vyas (who took computer science) told me computers are the future and that everyone around the world would speak the same computer language. She had a vision for me and she inspired and continues to inspire me. The blueprint for my career was developed by learning from her failures and being motivated by her many successes.”

Dwija hopes this group can create similar mentorship opportunities for other women.

Het Patel, Melissa Pilapil, Theresa Shen, Maisha Zaman, Ashar Shoaib, Anissa Hart, Dwija Patel, and Tara Kimura at CBC Toronto’s annual picnic. (Neith MacDonald)

Though the group is called Women In Tech, Dwija believes it is for everybody — including men. In fact, she thinks it’s important to have men as allies and understand their perspectives. Her next goal is to plan activities that target the #HeForShe movement, an initiative that’s trying to encourage men to stand in solidarity with their female counterparts.

Dwija also believes that technology involves much more than coding. “From nuclear weapons to night clubs, there are so many different uses for technology. Everything you do and everything you see involves technology. Everyone is touching technology today and very few jobs get by without using any technology,” she says. Because of that, she believes CBC’s WIT group is for everyone.

Women In Tech is devoted to creating connections and opportunities for women across the organization. (Dwija Patel/CBC)

Dwija has faced challenges in her career and personal life, but believes that learning from those challenges and overcoming them helped shape who she is today.

“Challenges are part of life. Being an Indian female I was expected to move after marriage. At the time I was doing what I loved. I was living in a city that I loved and doing my dream job. I had to leave my home and career, and start a new life in Canada. I faced all the challenges that a new immigrant faces. I faced many barriers throughout my career but have been lucky to work in the tech industry where my knowledge and experiences are transferable.”

Dwija’s advice for other women aspiring to enter the tech field is to believe in yourself.

“If challenge attracts you, this is the right place to be. Sometimes you can be your own barrier and your own conscious stops you from succeeding, not other people. Break that barrier and see the future.”

Dwija is a Senior Android Developer on CBC’s Native Apps and Emerging Platforms team. (Ashar Shoaib/CBC)

This post is the first of a Women In Tech series featuring CBC employees from across Canada. Next week’s post will discuss how two CBC Vancouver employees broke into a heavily male-dominated field.

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