Tag Archives: Women in Technology

Image by Donna Cleveland (modified)

5 Reasons to Head to a Tech Conference

Spring and summer tech conferences are just around the corner. Here’s why you should consider looking for a tech conference near you.

1. New Ideas, New Inspiration

Whether you’re still in school or an experienced computer scientist, there’s always something new to learn. Tech conferences are great places to share ideas and get inspired. At a tech conference last year, I learned about the origins of the game Portal and also heard a great talk about approaches to innovation. Chances are that you’ll walk away with renewed purpose, a new project in mind or a new subject that you’d like to research.

2. Build Your Network

Networking is easier than ever with the help of sites like LinkedIn. You can use LinkedIn to expand your connections, but it’s great to meet like-minded students and professionals in computer science at a conference too. Some conferences have built-in networking sessions, so always check the conference agenda and make sure you bring your business cards. It’s nice if you have a networking goal in mind (ex. “I want to meet people who can tell me more about cyber security” or “I want to learn how to volunteer my time to a computer science related cause”), but also remember to keep an open mind and embrace learning opportunities in all their forms.

3. Represent Your Organization

If you’re a student, you can represent your school and possibly your school’s computer science club. At local conferences, younger students may look up to you to learn about your experiences and consider attending your school in the future. You can also exchange ideas with fellow students about computer science related activities and events. Professionals can represent their company in its best light and meet potential recruits, business partners or clients.

4. Stay Current

Conferences often have specialized sessions or lightning rounds of discussion topics. These are great ways to stay up to date on what the latest tools, challenges and breakthroughs are in a particular area. It’s a good idea to have a pen and notepad handy for any keywords you might want to remember for later. You can view these sessions as networking opportunities as well – chat with the person sitting next to you, ask a question if the moment is available, or talk to the speaker after the session.

5. Jobs and Internships

Finally, anyone looking for a job or internship has much to gain by attending a tech conference. The conference may have a career fair, in which case you can make use of the time to talk with companies, ask questions and hand out your resume. If you know certain companies will be at the career fair, take the time to do your research beforehand so that you can show how and why you’re interested in a particular company. The conference may also offer resume reviews, mock interviews or advice sessions on finding a job or internship. Don’t overlook the influence of a great conversation though: while you’re networking, mention if you’re looking for a job or internship.  The person you are talking to may not be able to offer you a position, but they might be able to point you in the right direction.

Here in the Portland metro area, the Northwest Regional Women in Computing conference and the ACT-W Portland conference will be held in mid-April, and scholarship applications to the attend the Grace Hopper Celebration are due on April 15th.


Interested in going to a tech conference but not sure about all the crowds and high energy? Rest assured that it’s not just you! Check out An Introvert’s Guide to Tech Conferences.


Image by Donna Cleveland (modified).

Should You Apply to the Ada Developer’s Academy?

Even though there has been an increase of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations since the 1970s, women in the computer sciences remain sorely underrepresented. Just 15% of software jobs are held by women and 1.5% of open source contributors are women.

The Ada Developer’s Academy (Ada) — named for Ada Lovelace, purportedly the founder of scientific computing — is addressing this skill gap by training women to become software developers.

Ada is currently accepting applications for its second class slated to begin September 2nd.

“Ada is increasing opportunities for women in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry while addressing an acute and ongoing shortage of local developer talent,” said Elise Worthy, Program Manager & Co-Founder of Ada. “Our program is providing women with a solid footing in technical careers and tackling head-on the gender imbalance at local software companies, who recognize that Ada is a great opportunity to create a more equitable, diverse culture in tech.”

Established in 2013 as an intensive software developers training school exclusively for women, Ada offers six months of classroom-based instruction followed by a six-month internship  with Puget Sound-area tech companies. The internships prepare students for the transition into junior developer positions. Students completing the program also receive a certificate from Bellevue College.

Because of the immense time commitment (classes meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays), the women are awarded a monthly stipend.

Why a full year program?

Search the web and you will find 8-week hacking programs, but those programs are not sufficient enough to prepare students with limited or no technical background.

“We want to make sure that students are fully prepared. Learning to program in a classroom only gets you halfway there. The internship component is key: students experience being on software teams, working with legacy codebases, deadlines, and production code,” said Bookis Smuin, Lead Instructor at Ada. “The internship is just as important as the classroom experience in preparing the students to be productive and successful developers.”

The first class of students numbered 16. For this upcoming class, 24 students will be admitted.

Potential students do not have to possess prior programming experience, but should demonstrate technical aptitude.

According to Worthy, a majority of the women interested in programming are novices and have had limited access to technology education in high school and college. In fact, many of the students in the previous Ada class were switching careers. They held bachelor’s degrees in everything from theater to linguistics.

Of this first class, 25% relocated to Washington State from as far away as Florida  and half were women of color.

Ada did not release any information as to the specific ethnicities of the first class; however, according to a 2013 government report, African-Americans and Hispanics, regardless of gender, have been consistently underrepresented in STEM employment. In 2011, 6% of STEM workers were African-American and 7% were Hispanics.

So, Ada may be helping fulfill an ethnic diversity deficit in STEM jobs as well.

What do the women learn in the classroom?

The curriculum covers web development, how to work on agile development teams and lead software projects. Students work on projects that simulate real applications under real deadlines.

Specifically, students learn the Ruby on Rails tech stack (Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, HTML/CSS) and Agile Methodologies (pair programming, test-driven development, user-story creation).Through their training the students become adept at information gathering and creative problem solving as well.

“We’ve been so impressed with the student’s progress over the past six months. They’re developing full, production-ready applications on agile teams. They’re not only becoming fluent in code, but in the development process,” said Scott Case, COO of EnergySavvy and Ada Co-founder.

In May, the current class of Ada students held a demo of the civic apps they created as part of they’re coursework.

How can this education be offered for free?

As part of the Technology Alliance, Ada relies on sponsorships from Seattle-area tech companies who cover the students’ tuition, actively engage as mentors, and provide hands-on experience through internships.

Sixteen Seattle-area tech companies, including Expedia, EMC Isilon, EnergySavvy, Zillow, Marchex, Redfin, and Nordstrom, are now sponsoring Ada students.

Ada’s Future

Ada is on its way to training software developers who will fill a few of the 20,000 open STEM positions within Washington State.

Perhaps other organizations will take note of Ada’s approach to training software developers and duplicate the model. The need for diversity in tech is nation-wide.

Interested in applying to Ada Development Academy? The application deadline for the upcoming class is June 16, 2014 at 5 p.m. PDT.

Women interested in making a career change to software development are encouraged to apply.

CHANTELL OSEJO: FINDING HAPPINESS AS A WOMAN IN TECH

Software Developer, Chantell Osejo never dreamed that she would be a woman in technology.  It came as a complete surprise.

“If you had told me five years ago that I was going to be in IT, and a programmer, I would have laughed” – Chantell

THE BEGINNING

Coming from a small town in Tennessee, the opportunities in technology were limited. In her high school, the only computer classes offered were a basic keyboarding class and the occasional Dreamweaver course. None of her teachers suggested technology as a possible career path.

“Nobody ever suggested tech to me. Lots of [other] female dominated fields were the typical thing,” she says. “It wasn’t frowned upon necessarily; it’s just no one ever said, ‘have you considered this?’ “

At home, her mother wasn’t too fond of computers and limited Osejo and her siblings’ access to them. Her father was a different story.

“My dad always had been pretty much tech-oriented. He built computers with us when we went to visit him and we’d play on the internet.”

Osejo soon discovered Neopets and made her first foray into programming, although minor, by dabbling in HTML so she could make her Neopet town pages. Still, a career in computers never dawned on her.

FROM VET TO TECH

After high school, she enrolled in the Rochester Institute of Technology anticipating a career in veterinary medicine.

But, a funny thing happened.

Osejo found that she hated all of the classes in her major, but did have an intense interest in math, science, and logic. She took a career assessment to determine if the career she’d chosen was the best path for her. Her fiancé (who was a friend at the time) suggested that, with her interests, she may enjoy computer science.

Then, the results of her career assessment came back. The assessment ranked science at the bottom and computer science and technology at the top.  Osejo promptly switched majors. She remembers calling her mother with the news of her new found career goals.

“Her response was, ‘are you kidding me,’ “she laughs. ‘You must have lost your mind. You are going to be so miserable!’ It was probably a shock for her. It was a shock for me, too. “

FROM SHOCK TO BLISS

Osejo began exploring computing; originally starting with networking and systems administration. She took on internships in the field. During her second internship she was doing mobile development and fell in love with the mobile operating system and building apps.

Today, Osejo has found her bliss as an Android Developer for Glympse, a start-up based in Seattle. Glympse is an app that allows the user to share her location in real time with people of her choosing for a specific amount of time. The user can send a Glympse to let someone know she is going to be late or to follow her to her destination. A Glympse can be accessed from any platform.

Osejo explains her role at Glympse this way: “I own our Android customer facing platform app in its entirety. I build. Right now we are going through a re-design, for example. And, I’m tasked on occasion with implementing features as part of our partnerships. So, hypothetically, I might build a car mode UI that may be set up in your vehicle.”

Osejo truly enjoys her job!

“I kind of feel guilty talking to people who are not in the tech industry about how much fun I have at my job.”

START-UP OR CORPORATE

Before her time at Glympse, Osejo was a Software Integrator at financial services company, USAA. She found the culture there much different from that of a start-up. She says that at a big corporation you get a small slice of whatever application or product you’re working on; making you an expert on that particular thing.

A start-up culture is the polar opposite of that.

“I have so much freedom sometimes,” she says. “If I want to implement a feature and I have time; I can do it.”

When asked what she likes most about her job she says, “Oh, the creative aspect. Hands down!”

She says a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that programming is all about logic and math. It is an important piece of the job, but about eighty to ninety percent of programming is creative.

“You’re creating something. You’re building something. You’re fitting together the pieces of the puzzle,” she says. “Especially, if you’re designing. You’re building an experience.”

WOMEN AND TECH

Osejo would really like to see more women choose technology as a career. (When she graduated from college in 2012 there was only one other woman in her IT major.)

She gives back by volunteering with younger women and girls. Tutoring middle school kids in technology and leading an exhibit at a science fair designed to encourage girls to pursue technology and science, sponsored by Girls Inc., are just two examples of how she is giving back.

She feels that opportunities are wide-open for girls and women just starting out in technology as well as  career changers who want to pursue technology. She has met people with backgrounds in art and history who now work happily in technology.

“The opportunities are great,” she says. “No matter where your personality is on the spectrum, you can find the right fit for you.  Whether that’s a start-up mentality where you are able to drive the direction of the company or whether that’s corporate where you can be a piece of the bigger picture and really see how your bit interlocks with everything else that’s out there. There’s something for everyone.”

Six Reasons to Plan a Career in Technology

Women are underrepresented in today’s exciting and growing field of Information Technology. Come join us and make a difference in the world now. There are as many reasons as there are website to get involved with tech. Here are my top six.

  1. Make a difference. Everything runs on technology today and there is a growing global shortage of technology workers.
  2. Create new products and technologies to meet men AND women’s needs. Most products today are created by males, but you can help create exciting new products or services that today’s women and market want and need.
  3. Build a career that comes with hugely unlimited opportunities for growth, challenge and satisfaction. You can try out different areas of technology and move around to learn and grow.
  4. Build financial stability for the future. Pay in a technology career is lucrative and opportunities great. Give yourself a solid foundation for your life.
  5. Build your own business — become an entrepreneur. You can choose your path to success if you desire to own and manage your own business. Many choices exist to reach this exciting destination.
  6. Increase diversity within the companies that serve diverse customer bases. Women make up half the workforce and numbers consistently show that women make a majority of buying decisions for their families. Step up for an opportunity to share with the rest of the market what you know they want and need in products and services.

Create your own path to success: Talk to your family, school faculty, friends and people already employed in technology to gain insights into options for a technology career. Ask for your school to arrange for women in IT speakers to come and present to your class about the diversity of opportunities open to you.

Post By:
Debbie Christofferson, CISSP, CIPP/IT, CISM 
International Board of Directors, Information Systems Security Association 
CISO Advisory Council Chair (ISSA) 
ISSA Distinguished Fellow (www.issa.org)
www.linkedin.com/in/debbiechristofferson

Photo by Dean Johnson