Square at WeCode Harvard

Empowerment, enthusiasm, and inspiration at the “Grace Hopper of the Northeast”.

By Saqi Mehta

Earlier this month, I had the privilege to again attend WeCode Harvard at Harvard University. Each year, the conference — which stands for Women Engineers Code — brings together 500 women from around the world who are passionate about technology and entrepreneurship. The weekend was filled with incredible activities, all of which underscored the fact that the community of women engineers is extraordinarily strong, supportive, engaged, and growing — quickly.

Considered the “Grace Hopper of the Northeast,” WeCode is a combination of panels, fireside chats, dev sessions, keynote speakers, networking events, and a career fair. What’s most impressive is that the conference is entirely student run. As someone who plans and runs events for a living, this is quite an undertaking.

As soon as you walked into WeCode, you could feel the energy. It became clear over the course of WeCode that while women in tech are an incredibly diverse group, everyone shares one goal: solving core problems in the world to make it a better place.

On Saturday, Square engineer Marie Chatfield, a member of our WomEng community, hosted a sold-out session on Building & Deploying an App & Server. We were also fortunate enough to hear the keynote from renowned technologist and Professor Latanya Sweeney, the first black woman to earn a PhD in computer science from MIT. We were also able to spread the word about our upcoming Square Code Camp, Square’s immersion program for young women considering or pursuing engineering careers, which will be held in Atlanta for the first time this summer.

Later that day I spoke on a panel on promoting inclusivity in the classroom & workplace. This is a panel I very much wanted to be a part of, as recruiting more women in tech is simply half of the equation: We need to ensure that companies are providing the tools and resources to creating a positive, inclusive environment and retain diverse talent. At Square, we’re focusing on growing a strong community by diversifying our efforts and employing a wide range of tactics. For example, we have both Women at Square and Women Engineering communities with leadership teams, meetings and sponsored events. Beyond that, we have numerous additional employee resource groups like LatinX, Black Squares Association and Squeers. And support starts at the top, with participation and backing from our CEO and executives for events like GraceHopper.

The highlight of the conference was Square hosting a screening of She Started It, a documentary about empowering the next generation of women founders. We were honored to host the film’s director, Nora Poggi, and facilitate an interactive Q&A where she shared her intentions in making the film, what she learned, and how she navigated the VC world.

On Sunday, I participated in a fireside chat on Making the Most of Your Internship. I spoke about how to choose a company, what factors to consider when making a decision, how to utilize your time wisely, and making an impact. The conference closed with a career fair, and as you can see, our table was swamped with women who want to work at Square!

While tech and computer science have many forms (a term called CS+x), every industry/vertical needs more women to fill technology roles. It was wonderful to take part in a weekend full of empowerment and enthusiasm from women who are at early stages in their careers and inspired to stay in CS — so inspired, in fact, that #WeCode2017 was trending on Twitter! There are numerous women mentors and male allies who are more than willing to help with school and career advice, overcoming imposter syndrome, and being cheerleaders for one another — it’s simply a matter of reaching out.

During the conference I asked some of the amazing women present why they chose to attend and why they thought WeCode was so important:

“The WeCode Conference is probably one of my favorite things about spring semester because I love coming and seeing all the diverse women (and occasional men) there. It’s always really fun to reconnect with old friends, meet new people, and have the opportunity to get face-to-face with companies. I think this supports women in tech 100% because it provides the opportunity for all of us to help one another feel empowered, loved, and supported.” — Tarlon Khoubyari, UNC Greensboro

“A lot of what I learned was not limited to how to gain a valuable educational experience or how to push boundaries in the workplace, but rather, how to lead a really fulfilling life. We should work to create every educational setting, from the classroom to the conference room, a psychological safe space to experiment, to fail and still call it a success. Secondly, combining tech with another field is an incredibly eye-opening experience. To find a way to insert technology while respecting another field of study is to tackle a new frontier with a whole host of new challenges.” — Sharon Roy, The University of Georgia

I am positive that WeCode will continue to be one of the premier conferences in the Northeast and am glad to be part of such a supportive community, one that companies like Square continue to invest time and resources in fostering.

Saqi Mehta is a professional career counselor who leads the University Recruiting team at Square. She is passionate about all things education, specifically women in tech and is the cofounder of ReigningIt. Saqi serves on the board of National Tech Diversity Magazine and 500 Miles. Say hi to her on Twitter!