My inbox is inundated with requests to speak at local tech events, to help out, teach this, lead that, be part of X. Part of the reason for the volume coming through is because they want women represented. It’s great to see companies and conferences take an active role in ensuring diversity in their events. But because there aren’t many women in technology representatives, they keep approaching the same people. Let’s change that together.
When I decline an offer and I’m asked to refer other women to take my place, I think of the same women over and over like you most likely do. There just isn’t a big pool to draw from. Imagine the possibility of a vast network where there were too many options. You want more women in tech events? You want more women speakers in conferences? You want more VCs and angels to invest in women? It’s time for YOU to take a stand.
What does that mean? Stop talking about why there aren’t many women in technology and do something about it. The best way? Lead by example. One of the most effective ways to persuade people is to “show, not tell” as marketers and other businesspeople will tell you. I’m doing that with Girl Develop It Philly (GDI) and I can’t tell you how rewarding it has been. I see members come in not knowing a lick of code and hear back about how they just got a raise or completely switched careers. It’s my favorite part and I save every email I get thanking me for bringing GDI to Philly. Since we hit 2 years old in September, I’ve seen an influx of students that started with little to no coding experience becoming teaching assistants and one of them is now even leading classes (Go Sarah Johnson!)
I recently decided to take things a step further by asking members to speak at local events, help organize them, or take a more active leadership role in the community. I keep hearing the same hesitations so I’m including ideas on how to bridge the gap and get a move on.
Most of the women I talk to respond with this phrase when I approach them: “But I’m not comfortable public speaking.” I’ll let you on in a little secret. No one is. Ever. If they say they are, they’re lying. Think about the long-term effects of having this discomfort. How has it impacted you and others around you? Do you want to be one of the 54% that fear public speaking more than death that they actually gave it a name (Yep, it’s called Glossophobia). It’s difficult to believe you would rather end your life than speak in front of a group of people. Create a possibility of doing it and conquer it with the following:
From my own personal experience, you’ll find you forget about speaking in public when you’re talking about something you’re passionate about. If you have something in mind, get it out of the way and contact one now. In fact, let your family and friends know that public speaking is one of your goals this year. Go post about it on Twitter and Facebook. You’ll find sharing it holds you to be more accountable for it and propels you to act.
The other response I get is “But I don’t have the time for that right now.” My answer to this is always blunt and straight to the point – that is we make time for the things that are important to us. We are all strapped for time and a common pitfall I see with those that try to expand their schedule is to squeeze more things in the same period length. It’s actually a matter of deciding what matters more to you. I remember reading something that said to start by changing your language. Instead of saying “I don’t have time,” say “It’s not a priority” or “I don’t want to” and you’ll see how the impact of those words make you feel. It’s our choice of how we choose to spend our time. Take a step back and make sure you’re choosing it wisely.
My least favorite remark is “I don’t think I know enough.” Actually, you do and the best way to find out is by asking your friends, co-workers and network what they see you being an authority on. I bet you will find at least one topic. If not, that’s a talk in itself. I guarantee you’ll find something and if you don’t, reach out to me personally (yes, I’m inviting you to send me an email despite being overwhelmed with my inbox as it is because that’s how important this is) and I will find a way for you to start.
I recently met Alexis Ohanian, the founder of Reddit at a local First Round Capital event. He talked about technology, startups, and his new book “Without Their Permission.” I haven’t finished it yet but I read something that resonated with me. It said something to the effect of “I guarantee that you’ll never succeed without trying. Just start – take the first step. You don’t need anyone’s permission.” Translated another way, JFDI.
Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about concrete steps you can take to be a leader in your community. I’ll use Philadelphia as an example since it’s where I’m located:
As a well-known advocate for women in technology, I’m taking a step back from directly organizing and speaking at local tech events. So ladies, bring it on. Go set the world on fire. Step it up and expand the network. Your community will thank you and you’ll thank yourself.
We’ve officially been around since September 2011, or 15 months in total. In all, we’re one of eleven Girl Develop It chapters worldwide. It’s exciting to see the organization grow, especially from the inside. We recently held a GDI retreat in NYC to discuss plans to standardize our material and process as well as grow to 40 (Yes, that’s FORTY) chapters by mid-2013.
Our Philly chapter specifically has held 35 Meetups including 18 classes (16 of them in 2012), 8 study groups, 2 happy hours (I didn’t realize the number was that low – must change that ASAP!), 5 party organizer meet-ups and one smashing party to celebrate our one-year anniversary (slideshow below).
Our member signup rate has been steadily growing as evidenced by the graph below. The blue line represents the number of members (we’re at 689 with the writing of this post) and the red line is the number of active members, that is, those who have visited the Meetup page or RSVP’d to an event. In the last year, we’ve grown by almost 225%!
Besides the number of returning students, perhaps the most meaningful metric are the stories I hear from members of how our classes have benefit their personal and professional lives. Either how empowered they felt coding something on their own, tackling new responsibilities at work, completely switching positions, getting a new job or raise and so on. These keep the wheels turning and with that, I’m pumped to announce what we have coming up in 2013.
In short, we’ve grown to three organizers in total, we’re starting a Girl Develop It Scholarship Fund of which $900 (which will pay for 10 classes) has already been committed thanks to Bear and &Yet (a software development shop), we’re launching a Mentoring Program, a front-end developer track, programming track, and a mobile track. We’re also offering more advanced classes, introducing soft skill workshops, and collaborating with other tech groups.
Before I go more in-depth in each of those areas, I’d like to introduce two co-organizers who are helping make all of this happen. Corinne Warnshuis has been assisting since late Summer and Lisa Burgess just came on this month. I met both of them through our classes at Girl Develop It. Corinne is the newest Event Coordinator at Technically Philly and Lisa is the Marketing Manager at Uhuru Furniture in Center City. They’re great ladies who are passionate about our goal of increasing technical literacy among women – get to know them!
It’s nice to look back and see how much we’ve accomplished and all the new things we’re about to embark on. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the Philly tech community, volunteers, teachers, members and media. Thank you for everything. Let’s rock it in 2013.
Questions? Leave a comment or contact us at email@example.com.
Running my software company from 2009 to 2011 without a development background was challenging to say the least. It is how I became involved with GirlDevelopIt (an organization offers programming classes for women) and why I started LearnRuby101. With this post, my goal is to share the free interactive learn-how-to-code sites I’ve come across that can help you get started. I’ve also gathered the top recommended books on each language from Hacker News.
For non-programmers, I would recommend reading this post by Liz Abinante titled “So, you think you want to be a web developer?”. If you decide it’s the path for you, recruit a friend or find an online community to get assistance. The point is – reach out when you need help. It’ll get you through the initial dip.
For programmers that know one or more languages already, this is a useful list if you want to quickly dive into something new without using a compiler.
(Thanks to Owen Winkler for providing suggestions on this post).
When I was getting into coding, I asked the developers I know where I should start. Almost everyone answered “HTML/CSS.” While it’s not a programming language, it will be needed when learning certain languages and skills in HTML and CSS always come in handy.
HTML5Rocks.com – From blog posts, tutorials, case studies, demos and samples, this site allows you to choose exactly how you want to learn HTML5. A pre-working knowledge of HTML and CSS is assumed. Select an article about transitions, rounded corners, the canvas tag, box shadows and more, then view the code, make changes and look at the output in one screen.
Recommended HTML/CSS books:
As mentioned above, Codecademy.com is another alternative.
I don’t have much experience with Python. Some developers say it’s a good language to start with for newbies and others say it’s not. Talk to a developer (preferably one you will be working with) about what you want to build and have him/her point you the right direction.
CodingBat – Instead of step-by-step tutorials, a series of exercises are featured on this site to challenge and reinforce what you’re learning. It’s a great compliment to learning to program on your own or with a book.
LearnPython – Another free interactive tutorial. This one doesn’t hold your hand as much and includes more instructions to help you understand what you’re learning.
PySchools – Instead of getting right into the code as other sites do, you first have to authenticate your account through a Gmail password. Also, this site assumes you’re already learning Python on your own. Once you’re in, you’ll be able to view exercises and compete with other coders on challenges.
Recommended Python books:
I started learning Ruby because my developer chose the language to build our 123LinkIt site.
TryRuby.org – Created by Eric Allam and Nick Walsh, this was the first tutorial I finished and I absolutely loved the UI and how easy it was to follow along with the commands. It promises to go through the basics in 15 minutes and although it took me a little longer, I highly recommend it.
Hackety Hack – This download-only software has been compared to TryRuby and is recommended for absolute beginners in Ruby.
Rails for Zombies – Offered through CodeSchool, Rails for Zombies is a fun way to “get your feet wet without having to worry about configuration” as the site states. It will take you through five videos, each followed by exercises where you’ll be programming Rails in your browser.
Recommended Ruby/Rails books:
I wish I could search my past tweets because I remember stumbling upon an eBook on Git that I found really helpful. I was able to go through it and understand Git in under an hour. Regardless, learn the basics and setup a free Github trial.
Git - Modeled after TryRuby.org, this interactive courses is associated with Github and promises to help beginners grasp the basics of Git.
Recommended Git books:
CodingBat – Instead of step-by-step tutorials, a series of exercises are featured on this site to challenge and reinforce what you’re learning. It’s a great compliment to learning to program on your own or with a book.
Programr - The site allows you to learn Java through coding challenges and either rewards points based on your answer or displays the bugs in your code. You can select your difficulty level instead of starting from the beginning which I really like. A leaderboard is displayed on the right that shows the top students. They are planning on expanding to PHP, C++, Android and iOS as well.
Recommended Java Books:
I don’t currently have an interest in learning mobile development. A couple of things to know: 1) iOS is Apple’s operating system and 2) you’ll also want to learn Objective-C.
Team Treehouse - Founded by Ryan Carson, the site recently announced it has passed 12,000 active students on the site. It provides nicely designed video tutorials with practice quizes and and code challenges after each section.
You may also want to check out Stanford University’s iPhone Application Development course in iTunes University.
Recommended iOS books:
Resources that deserve honorable mentions:
Coursera.org - Coursera is my favorite online education portal. Founded by two Stanford computer science professors, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, the site offers university classes online from top-tier schools like Stanford, Princeton and others. Their mission is to education millions of people globally for free. So far I’ve taken their Intro to Computer Science Science class and I’m in the middle of “Human Computer Interaction.” The courses play out like you’re taking an online class with an instructor. There’s a forum, activities, even weekly homework. Do yourself a favor and sign up for a class today, even if it’s not available. You will learn the latest technologies from teachers at Ivy League schools without the hundreds of thousands in tuition and maybe best of all, while sitting at your desk.
Khan Academy – A non-profit founded by Salman Khan, the Company’s mission is also to provide ” a high quality education to anyone, anywhere.” The website supplies a free online collection of more than 3,300 lectures through YouTube videos teaching a range of subjects with Computer science amongst them.
Udacity – Another free online courses site that uses videos and quizzes to teach STEM-related courses such as software development, math, physics and even a startup course with Steve Blank.
Google Code University - Offering free resources on web programming, security, algorithms, APIs and even Android, the site features tutorials with examples and even exercises.
Flatiron School Pre-work – A school in NYC that runs an intensive 12-week development program open-sourced the material it requires their students to do before they start (hence the pre-work). In all, it’s 4 weeks (80 to 100 hours in total) of reading and assignments that takes you through the web, command line, databases, HTML/CSS, Git, JS, Ruby, Rails, testing and best practices by using Treehouse & Codeschool.
Take advantage of the generous Stack Overflow community to post questions and finally, a highly recommended book that must be included in the mix for those that want to learn more than one language is Seven Languages in Seven Weeks.
I couldn’t write this post without including inspirational stores of non-developers who talked about how they learned to code, whether it was for love (see first link below) or to their startup. These are great motivators when you’re in a coding slump or stuck on something.
Stumble this post if you liked it or share it on Twitter or Facebook.
Updated 10/30/2011 – The video of the event has been embedded below. I start at the 1:09:05 mark.
I’m about to head out the door to speak at PANMA’s “WhyWe LovePhilly – The Awesome Philly Tech Scene” event. The idea is to showcase the diverse, tech community in Philadelphia by having various organizers come in and speak about the groups they started or participate in.
As most of you know, I’m fairly active in Philly’s tech scene and I’ve spearheaded a few projects. They include:
I just started a LearnRuby 101 group as well and I’ll post more information on that once we get off the ground.
See you tonight!
Do or do not. There is no try. – Yoda
All of us in some form want to leave an impact on someone or something. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t want the satisfaction of making a difference. I would argue most of us lay out a time-consuming and complex plan on how we plan to accomplish this.
What if you made an impact on someone’s life without realizing it? Without even REMEMBERING it?
Let’s rewind about three weeks ago. It’s Friday night or my first ever Girl’s Night to be more specific. It was supposed to be three of us and a friend brought someone else along I’ll call Kim for this post. We introduced ourselves and started chatting. At one point, she leaned in close and told me we’ve met before.
“What? No, we didn’t.”
“Yes, we did,” she proclaimed. “Actually, you inspired me to become an entrepreneur.”
My jaw dropped. “When? Where?”
She went on to explain how we’ve briefly talked at a party three or four years ago. I was gushing about how I was about to start my Company. She said I was the first woman in technology she had met and she was so motivated by our conversation, she left her corporate job and started a web development shop right here in Philadelphia. At one point, she pulled out her phone and showed me that she still had my number saved from that night.
I was completely transfixed during our conversation, amazed that I had left an impression on someone without thinking twice about it or even knowing it. That I could have that kind of influence in such a small period of time.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. How many short encounters do we miss out on everyday that can truly transform someone’s life? How often do we ponder how our words and actions can leave a mark on others? Making a difference seems like a daunting task. As I’ve recently learned, sometimes it’s present in the small things.
I first heard of GirlDevelopIt (GDI) last year and I immediately fill in love with the idea. It’s based in NYC and the goal of the organization is to repair the wide gender gap in software development by helping women learn how to program in a supportive and fun environment.
GDI was started by Sara Chipps and Vanessa Hurst, two women that were tired of being the only female voices in their computer classes. They decided it was time to provide a place where all questions are acceptable and everyone can learn in an encouraging environment. The courses focus on coding, leveraging existing technology, and having something to show for it (aka building sweet websites).
I liked the concept and price-point so much (only $20/class) that I took the Bolt Bus back and forth so I can attend their first HTML/CSS class. I wanted to continue without making the trek up so I inquired about setting up a Chapter in Philadelphia. Fast forward a few months later and I’m excited to announce GirlDevelopIt Philly! In fact, we just posted the schedule and details for our first class that you can find on our Meetup page.
We found a fantastic teacher that you’ll fall in love with right away. Her name is Jenn Lukas and she’s the Interactive Development Director at HappyCog and a leading authority on structural semantic markup and CSS. We also acquired a fantastic space at Two Liberty Place, right in City Hall. A big thanks to Francis Taney and Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney for providing the beautiful space (I wish you can see the view!).
If you’re a woman or man (yes, they are allowed) and have wanted to dabble in HTML/CSS or learn how to code, this is a great time to get started!
When I presented at the first TechGirlz event last year, I made it a point to discuss why we need more women in Technology. There are many reasons and I focused on two. Point #1: Women are vastly underrepresented. Point #2: Diversity is needed to spawn innovation.
What is TechGirlz exactly? A kick-ass local organization founded by Tracey Welson Rossman with the mission of empowering middle-school girls to become future technology leaders.
The goal is to get girls interested in technology from the get-to through hands-on workshops and sessions. Girls learn how to code, build circuit boards, podcasting skills, etc.
When I was asked to be on Board earlier this year, I jumped at the opportunity. I wish there had been an organization like this when I was younger.
All the classes are free and are run by volunteers. Our goal for this year is to reach more girls and run more events. We’re going to hold classes where the girls will learn how to build a website, start a blog, even dabble in game development (I know I’ll be in that class!).
How can YOU get involved? There are various ways to get involved and become part of the movement.
The last request seems odd so let me explain. The Whole Foods Market in Jenkintown supports a new non-profit every month by selling hot, fresh coffee for only a quarter. 100% of the money raised during the month of July goes to TechGirlz. Stop by, hold your next coffee meeting there or swing through during lunch.
For more information leave a comment or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks in advance for your support!
We play many roles in our lives. I’m a sister, daughter, aunt, friend, girlfriend, entrepreneur, blogger, runner, chocolate lover and the list goes on and on.
Sometimes, certain roles are emphasized over others which is subjectively deemed acceptable or unacceptable depending on our aversion to the matter. For example, I used to be an avid poker player. I would not have liked it if someone had told me I had a gambling problem.
These days, I’m feeling more and more focus being put on my “entrepreneur” role, specifically being a woman tech entrepreneur. I don’t have the exact number on how many tech CEOs are women off-hand (the last number I heard was 8%, would love a reference here). I understand the attention and concern surrounding the issue. There are advantages and disadvantages of course.
One of the biggest disadvantages is how people have been pigeonholing me as a woman tech entrepreneur vs. tech entrepreneur. I don’t want to be recognized as a woman entrepreneur when I first meet someone. I’m constantly being asked about my opinion on the men/women disparity, how I feel about an idea like XX Combinator, what I think of the latest TechCrunch article, etc. These questions annoy me and they get old after a while. So have all the coverage on the issue on how to raise more awareness. It’s not that I mind more exposure, I certainly don’t. It’s that I’d prefer ACTION to WORDS. This tweet below sums up my opinion perfectly.
To circle to the advantages side, I’m feeling the need to be one of the role models for the “cause” and certain opportunities have risen as a result. One of which is to be a part of an organization called TechGirlz. As you’ll see on the site, the goal is to “empower [middle-school] girls to be future technology leaders.” I wish there had been something like this when I was younger. You may have heard me talk about presenting at their first event this past September where I debunked common misconceptions about the tech space and showed the variety of roles available in the sector (Slideshare presentation is below).
There are currently opportunities to make a difference in getting more girls in technology. These positions are not exclusive to women either, TechGirlz has men volunteers as well. Our goal this year is to hold nine events ranging from using WordPress to programming. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact Tracey Welson-Rossman, the brainchild behind the organization and an all-around awesome person at email@example.com.
We’re also looking into bringing an organization like GirlDevelopIT to Philadelphia. Great name, isn’t it? Hopefully, we’ll have more news on that front soon.
I’d love for one day to meet someone at a networking event without him/her assuming I’m an employee at my company or to be asked the now dreaded “how’s it feel to be a female tech CEO?”