The inclusive nature of Serverless

If you’re a developer, attending a hackathon is a rite of passage.

If you’re a woman in tech — especially one who isn’t a developer — the prospect of going to one of these events can be intimidating. Women don’t attend these events nearly as often as men for many of the same reasons they quit tech — their credibility is questioned, they have to prove themselves, it can feel lonely and one risks being sidelined. This is on top of the anxiety everyone experiences at hackathons: time, information, and physical space are all limited commodities as you and a team race to finish a project.

But given the culture I’ve been exposed to here at Stackery, I had a feeling that when we attended Serverlessconf in San Francisco, things would be different.

The evening prior to the Hackathon

After I found out about a hackathon they were running during the conference, I was intrigued — and I signed up on impulse.

As a newbie and a non-technical woman who had never done a hackathon, I was nervous. No one is immune to imposter syndrome, and it hit me as I was walking up Sunday morning. I didn’t want my soon-to-be team to feel like I was deadweight just because I wasn’t a developer.

I didn’t know anyone else who was going, so I went straight to one of the event coordinators Erik Brady and introduced myself. I let him know I couldn’t contribute code, and that I was looking for opportunities to learn more about business use cases for serverless. Coming from an operations background, I understand the business side of things, and I thought that might be a way I could contribute to the team.

The organizers were immediately excited and said, “Let’s get you with a team.” They said I could pick who to sit with — so I picked the team with the guy who’s shirt said Puresec. I recognized the company, and I knew it’d be a great way to start.

A team fist bump to get things started

Before long, they had me building a business plan, recording audio, etc. and were finding plenty of ways to integrate me so I could be a part of the project. There was this latent feeling of acceptance and inclusion, and after attending so many conferences, I can tell you this is NOT always the case.

As it turned out, this experience set up the rest of the conference for success, and I knew things were off to a great start. We went and got drinks after, celebrated as a team, and shared our contact information. I really felt like I made some friends here that I could just pick up the phone and call. It was incredibly validating after having been at more technical meetups, where the vibe was such that I didn’t feel like I should be there.

Our Hackathon Team, Voicepipe

The experience at the hackathon left me hopeful for the rest of the conference. And when I got to the expo, I wasn’t disappointed.

For the uninitiated, Serverlessconf hosted by A cloud guru provides certifications for AWS online trainings. It’s a way to amplify and build the serverless community — and Stackery had the privilege of being one the sponsors and will definitely sponsor again. Everything about the conference was wonderful: the variety of speakers, inspiring talks, the food, making new friends, and most importantly the entire team from A Cloud Guru.

Part of the A Cloud Guru Team

Working with the Serverless community feels like it must have been building microcomputers in the 80’s, or robots in the 90’s: the community is small and passionate. People working on different products for different teams are still excited to see each other succeed. Knowledge is freely shared and every few months brings big improvements in the tools. Thank you to the Trek 10 team, PureSec, IOPipe, Epsagon, AWS, Azure Functions, Std Lib, Quinn Advisory Group and most of all everyone from A cloud guru. All of you let me ask 1,000 questions, suggested ways a ‘n00b’ could contribute, and gave great insights in what these tools do and how to best use them.

I’d never dared participate in anything like a hackathon before, and while my progress in tech has given me more courage, I assumed they would tell me to watch on the side. But if my team at Stackery and the great connections I’ve made at Serverlessconf are any indicator, tech is moving in a much more inclusive direction. Serverlessconf was a phenomenal experience, and I’m already looking forward to reconnecting with everyone next year.