With the popularity of platforms like Meetup.com, communities have been able to grow and allow like-minded people to meet. For the Tech community, some groups have flourished and offered their members opportunities like coaching and mentoring as well as sharing ideas and knowledge. I’m going to cover my experience, how it’s shaped and grown me, what I’ve seen and how people can learn or be a part of a Tech Community.
From the beginning
I want to begin with how I got into Tech and my first experience with computers. Unlike most kids today, a computer wasn’t common growing up. The first computer I got was a hand-me-down old computer from my uncle. He taught me DOS commands so I could play games (installed off 5 1/4 floppy disks) like Duke Nukem and Hexxagon.
Fast forward some number of years, when I told my dad that I wanted to enrol in Software Engineering at University (so many years ago now), he highlighted that it may be difficult being in a male-dominated industry (I guess he wanted to protect me from any prejudice that I might face).
In naivety or stubbornness, I thought that I was up for the “challenge”, I had already “kept up” with the boys at math and had some degree of success at coding in my final year of high school so how hard could it really be?
When I first started in Tech as a developer, I found myself in a situation where I think a lot of women are still in today. I was one of 3 female developers in a team of 20, which back then (at times) could feel isolating and intimidating.
I was one of 3 female developers in a team of 20, which back then (at times) could feel isolating and intimidating.
One of the most important things about the tech community (which resonates with me) — is being inspired. Find an event that inspires you and go, even if you’re shy!
I remember the first meetup I attended when I was just starting out in my career. The company my friend worked for was sponsoring an event for Girl Geek Dinners and she forwarded me the link to RSVP.
I was super shy and asked another friend to come along with me.
I was amazed at how many other women in Tech there were
So I signed up and braced myself. However, when I got there I was pleasantly surprised and I even had fun. I was amazed at how many other women in Tech there were. I was the only female in my direct team and so it was refreshing to meet other people like me! Not to mention the activities and presentations that night were also interesting and relevant to me — the topics covered Agile, coding, TDD and Linux which were topics I was interested in.
Being a part of the Tech Community brings lots of benefits. I’ve seen how people grow when they become a part of the tech community. It gives people a chance to meet others, share technologies, learn new things and mentor each other. What’s also great is that you get inspired and become friends with the people you meet. You grow your network and when you’re stuck on a problem or looking for a job, this is probably the best place to reach out to.
When I moved to London one of the first things I did was join Women Who Code. I knew it was going to help me meet people and continue with helping women in tech. I was also looking for a job so being a part of the tech community would at least help me find out what roles were available and how things worked in London, in general.
I remember in my first week in London, I paired up with a stranger at a hackathon. We both loved Ruby and bonded over this. Turns out that she was thinking of a career switch and wanted to become a developer. She had been going to different meetups like Codebar and was teaching herself to code in her free time. I was so impressed with her passion and how quickly she learnt (I pretty much delegated her a library to implement and she was like a duck to water). A few of months later she had found a role as a junior developer and started running Codebar meetups in London. It’s the stories like these that inspire me and drive me to help the community.
(Side note: The above picture of Sheryl Sandberg was to signify 2 things. (1) LeanIn is a great group for women to connect and support each other and (2) Going to meetups means you can meet inspirational leaders who can be a mentor or provide an example of what your career could look like in the future)
The next step after being inspired is getting involved in the community. You can join a group, volunteer, or do a presentation, just get started.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I became more involved with the community. I had just switched over from Java to Ruby and was at Rubyconf, listening to someone’s experience on learning to code. It must have been something about her story and how passionate she was, that I felt like I needed to help people in Tech. Then before I knew it I had signed up as a coach at a couple of meetups. Before this, I didn’t think that I was ever smart enough or good enough to be a coach (especially because I had imposter syndrome and I’m shy). But I felt that it would be nice to help someone else learn to code and also push me to be more confident.
So what next? Most of the time when you’re a part of a community there is a cause or a goal. Some groups just want to connect with each other or to empower their members or push for a movement.
For me, after the first step of getting involved with volunteering, I wondered how I could help more. I started thinking about how I felt when I was a junior developer and a female in tech. I remembered I had felt the “Imposter Syndrome” at times, not feeling like I was as good as my male colleagues. I wanted to provide a supportive environment for women in tech, to build other people’s confidence and help them grow.
Around this time, I also looked at my team and saw that we needed to change the tech culture in my company. I thought it would be great to share what we were working on, share different technologies and try to inspire each other.
So I took a deep breath and decided to organise events at my workplace and help organise events in the wider tech community.
Over To You
So I’ve shared a couple of stories about me and why I find the tech community inspiring. I want to grow the community in making it easier for people to learn and grow their skills and confidence.
We’re pretty lucky these days — there are so many groups to choose from and there is a meetup almost every night. Whether you just want to go to a meetup as an attendee, as a coach or help organise an event most groups are happy for the help.
You can find loads of groups on meetup.com. Of course, you aren’t limited to groups only on meetup either. Organising Friday tech workshops at your workplace, for example, is a great way to build up tech culture. As someone at work said to me last year, “this is the fun part of work”, and that is what makes being involved worth it.
Claire Train is an Engineering Manager at Expert360. She wrote this post based on a talk she presented at Sky in April 2016 (event: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/women-in-technology-tickets-24261081548).
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