WiT17 πŸ’œπŸ‘©πŸ»β€πŸ’»

by Pauline on February 19th 2017

Yesterday I attended my first conference (outside of my placement!!) on a topic that is so important to me: women working towards a career in an STEM-related industry, more specifically, in tech.

I’ve talked about this topic a lot on my blog including past stories and experiences – you can read up here if you’re interested!

I was initially invited to the conference by Matt with his HackSheffield crew but as the event was held around the same time I started running the Code First: Girls courses, I decided to spread the hype to the girls participating.

I didn’t think there would be much interest at first but with the amazing ShefCodeFirst team focusing on going above “just teaching the course” and actually saying, “hey, check out what you can do with these skills. E.g. – awesome women in the industry right now who is killlllllling it” we managed to get a large group of people to come – from Code First and HackSheffield, we even took over a carriage on the train and had a lot of printing to do for our train tickets. πŸ˜‚

Thank you @HackSheffield for the snaps!

Despite getting the early train at 7 am, everyone was full of energy which only amplified when we got to the conference because of all the speakers, volunteers, organisers, sponsors and attendee’s contagious excitement. ✨

How cute are these stickers?

Talks

There was an amazing line-up of speakers who all delivered such inspiring talks. My favorite talk had to be by Jess Rose, who spoke about how she got into tech, her job in Developer Relations (a job I never thought even existed! 😱) and some advice in working with the industry. One of my favorites:

“I have no idea what I’m doing but it doesn’t show!” Confidence is everything πŸ‘ŒπŸ»

One of the common themes was the focus on finding a positive community. Finding like minded people and surrounding yourself with them to empower and push to the direction in life was is so important.

Joining the Code First community with an amazing group of like-minded girls at every “cycle” has been a highlight of my time at university so far, they’ve not inspired me with their stories and ideas but each other too! πŸ’–

Workshops

After lunch (which was great, but then again when isn’t free food great) we attended workshops, the first one I attended was helping you with your career in tech led by MHR Solutions. All the female speakers each, in turn, shared their experience and stories of working towards a career in tech and how they got to where they are now.

I especially enjoyed one of the speakers who’s interest in technology started from creating fansites of Buffy the Vampire Slayer using basic HTML/CSS and of course, Photoshop. I related to her a lot because I also followed a similar plan but with my “blog” where I shared my phase at the time probably including a dedicated section on High School Musical (those who have been reading my blog for a while would know πŸ™„) She now holds a UX/UI Designer role with MHR.

Other stories really resonated with me as well, including one who was confused for the longest time on what she wanted to do so went into a science field only to realize later that tech is the field she wanted to be in.

My take home message from this workshop definitely had to be:

You don’t need a Computer Science Degree to become a Software Engineer.

Which goes for any role in the tech world! This was proven time and time again throughout the day, which put me in positive spirits and motivated me to go after a career I want despite my degree! Inspiring bloggers I follow now, like Holly, is living proof! ✨

The second workshop I signed up for was BBC Microbit with CoderDojoLondon. It was awesome to learn something new and create cool things like:

Spending time with the CF:G girls, HackSheffield crew as well as meeting new people and being inspired by everyone’s enthusiasm towards women in tech was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Take home messages:

  • Yes, I’m female aspiring to work in a male-dominated field but I can do exactly what they can do.
  • Opportunities in tech vary A LOT. I learned about a lot of careers I didn’t even know exist!
  • You don’t have to do CompSci to get in the industry.
  • Never doubt yourself or compare yourself to other people who are “miles” ahead in their career, keep asking questions and continue learning! You can’t be expected to know everything already.
  • Go for it – you’re not an imposter!! (Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back!)
  • Community is powerful πŸ’–
  • I need to get involved in Hackathons. The Sex Tech Hackathon by Kate Devlin has caught my attention, ngl. πŸ˜…

I am super thankful for the opportunity despite being a little nervous about it (can I tick off my #7 resolution yet? πŸ€”) I’ll definitely be back again next year!

A big thank you to HackSoc and the University of Nottingham for organizing everything. You all rock! πŸ‘ŒπŸ»

WIT: in pictures


Posted under: Code First: Girls, Tech, Women Empowerment


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16 comments

  1. Chynna says:

    The conference looked like so much fun! I loved all the photos I saw on Twitter πŸ˜€ The STEM industry may not be something I will go into (professionally speaking), this fills me with SO. MUCH. PRIDE. Women. Women are everything. If you think about it, too, without women who’s gonna make the future generation. ‘Cause we all know men can’t carry babies. Mmmhmm. Females are strong as hell.

    I love community. Community is such an important thing, and it’s always best to remember you can’t do everything by yourself. Support systems are SO key. (Wait, I vaguely remember the HSM section! Omggggg. Hahahaha.)

    Thank you for posting about this! I love how pumped you are about what you are passionate about, and I’m so glad that you people around you who are the same. You are going places, girl πŸ’•

  2. Holly says:

    This conference sounds so interesting. Right up my street. It sounds like there was a lot of inspiration people there. And yes, you are so right, you don’t need a relevant degree to get into tech. Every time I hear of someone who decided to change career paths after university and have fallen in love with their new career, it makes me so happy!

    I suffer with imposter syndrome a lot. Every time I start a new project at work I had a small melt down, thinking that I don’t know what I’m doing and that I shouldn’t even be doing this job. But then I remember I’ve been at this job for like a year and a half now and I’ve been promoted, so I can’t be doing that bad.

    Thank you so much for mentioning me! 😘 I actually feel so inspired by what you are doing right now, getting involved with teaching and conferences. I’ve never done anything like that but I’d love to step out of my comfort zone and get more involved with this sort of stuff out of work.

  3. Sounds like an awesome experience! Glad you learned lots!

  4. Nancy says:

    I’m glad you took advantage of the opportunity and went to the WIT conference! It’s great to see all of these events popping up and giving everyone a voice in their field. The stickers are super cute!

    It’s interesting to see where people started out in their tech journey. It’s as simple as joining a website and creating cool stuff. I do agree that you don’t need a computer science degree to become a software engineer (or anything else). It matters if you have the ability to bring results to the table. I’ve seen some chemistry grads who kick butt in my field :).

    There is nothing wrong with being a female in a male-dominated field. The only time a guy would put a woman down because of their field is when they’re feeling jealous/self-conscious. So you do you!

  5. Tara says:

    What a wonderful experience! I’ve never attended a conference (come to think of it!), and I hope I will get the opportunity one day on a topic dear to my heart. It’s clear that these are not only educational but also a great way to meet people with similar interests and mindset.

    You took away some great messages from the conference. Thank you for sharing. I have to remember the first one. I tend to freak out a lot . . . so I need to remind myself to stay calm and pretend I have things in control. I can pretend first and do a real meltdown later, haha!

    Also, very true on how you don’t need a degree to do something. I’m a prime example — I majored in English for my BA, but I am not doing ANYTHING English-related for my career right now . . . unless you count proofreading and editing lesson plans and other documents, haha!

    I can tell you’re really into this and are full of passion. Keep it up. Don’t ever let it die out! <3

  6. Becca says:

    This looks like an awesome experience! Kind of like Chynna said, I will probably never get into the tech industry professionally, but it is so so inspiring and motivating to see you and other women just totally killing it! This makes me want to attend some conferences more in my field or even just with hobbies to get more involved. I know we talked in one of your previous posts about how awesome it is to be surrounded by like-minded people with the same interests and to share those experiences with each other and to encourage each other.

    I think that goes for any career – people who go for one degree and then realize later on down the road that isn’t what they want to do and so change paths. That takes so much courage and faith to jump out of your comfort zone and to just go for it!

    The β€˜not freaking out’ message can be applied to so many different areas of life! I have to tell myself all the time in my job when I get overwhelmed or stressed out. Deep breath and you got this!

  7. Anca says:

    The conference sounds amazing. I find them very inspirational too, so many things to learn and talking with people that have the same ideas it’s always great.

  8. Rezina says:

    That’s awesome you had such a great time at the conference and it sounds like you learned a lot too. STEM is really important and it’s great that there are now so many role models to look up to in an originally male dominated workforce and also that there are now so many impressive women working in a tech related field.

    I also loved hearing about how one of the speakers started out from a fansite. I feel like a lot of bloggers can relate to this because it’s probably similar to how we all started getting interested in front and/or back end development. It’s great encouragement to hear about how you don’t need a computer science degree to be able to work in a field you want to potentially work in.

    I’ve never attended a conference about tech before but hearing about your experience (and Georgie’s experience) definitely makes me want to attend one!

  9. Liv says:

    WOW this looks amazing! As a fellow woman working in tech I’m so proud of you for going and being with the community that will encourage you to challenge yourself and defeat stereotypes. I definitely didn’t have a compsci degree when I got in the industry, and I feel like half the people I know who study compsci don’t even end up working in tech. Are you still in school Pauline? Really happy you got this opportunity if you still are! I think my biggest struggle was entering the tech industry all alone and having no support. πŸ˜› IT’S SUPER IMPORTANT!

  10. Michelle says:

    Awesome experience and I love the blog layout change <3

  11. Jack says:

    I’m glad you found it so inspiring and I hope the momentum keeps rolling for you – it’s always nice to have that passion affirmed and rejuvenated.

    My wife works in a pretty male-dominated field so I’m aware of the difficulties faced by women in STEM… I swear she’s got bigger balls than half the guys she works with. It genuinely is a case of once you know you have the right to be there – and behave like it then acceptance by peers will grow.

  12. Cat says:

    I’m glad you were able to go to a conference like this! A couple years ago, I also went to a conference focused on women in tech (Grace Hopper Celebration), and it was inspiring to see so many women in tech in one place together. The whole thing had such a positive atmosphere. That’s great you rounded up so many people to go with you!

    There’s definitely a large variety of careers in tech, especially as we keep advancing and have more uses for it. A lot of people think it just turns into a programming job in software or hardware, but it doesn’t have to! I actually got into Computer Science due to my love of creating websites, even though Computer Science doesn’t focus on web development. I found that I loved writing code, which is what steered me towards it πŸ™‚

    I hope you’ll find a Hackathon to try! My company holds one annually, and it’s always a great time πŸ™‚

  13. Cassidy says:

    Your conference sounds like it was amazing and if I were rich, I’d fly out to the U.K and go.

    It’s so cool that you’re so dedicated to Computer Science and all of its aspects and I definitely admire that.

    You’ve inspired me to get more involved in Tech and learn as much as I can.

  14. Thao says:

    Oh yay! Conferences are always a lot of fun and super motivating! I wanted to go to the Grace Hopper conference this past year since my company was offering to send me, but then I had a major project deadline that day. T____T

    It definitely helps to have a computer science or electrical engineering degree, but it’s not required to work in tech at all. I guess I would be an example. I definitely hope that we can get more women in tech to influence and change the tech culture, since it can be hostile, but that’s where your community and advocates come in. Many of your take home messages are so very true, even outside of tech. Confidence is so powerful!

  15. Georgie says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed and felt so empowered by this post! I remember seeing your tweets about it and getting all that β€œFOMO” because I wish we had something kinda similar in Sydney. We did have the Women Techmakers event which I attended, but I guess any women-focussed tech event I miss out on makes me sad! πŸ˜† Even if it is on the other side of the earth.

    It’s pretty funny that you all kinda bombarded the train and travelled together! Usually at conferences I’ve been to, most people walk there since it’s easier and they just meet their group there. πŸ˜†

    β€œAs long as you’re not visibly freaking out, people think you know what you are doing” – this is solid advice, haha. I mean, not shitting on men, but you always hear about men bullshitting their way through jobs. I guess it’s like faking it until you make it. 😎 At the same time, it’s OK to ask questions if you don’t know something, as I’m sure you know and have learned. πŸ™‚

    Sooo… the woman who spoke about Buffy the Vampire fansites, did she have anything to do with the TheFanlistings.org by any chance? Because BTVS fansites were really big at the time TFL came to fruition, in 2000. πŸ™‚ And I’m still sorta part of the network too. Though it was not the way I initially got into coding, I did start from a young age making websites of pixel art and other graphics I made. I first learned on Neopets and I think you will find that many women started out on Neopets too, haha!

    I love that Holly did a geography degree and now is just balling with a role as a developer. πŸ˜† She literally did everything she wanted to – geography and now coding. I mean, and I didn’t do a related degree at all either. You definitely don’t need a degree to be a developer. I was going to write a post about this and give examples of people, such as Holly, but I’ve been lazy. πŸ˜† You can definitely ask so many people in the industry who believe the same thing. I still don’t understand why some companies still require a degree… half the shit you learn in college/uni doesn’t even get used in the real, work-world.

    Although IT is so male-dominated, women have so much potential. We definitely need to increase awareness and work on getting equal pay, being treated right, and reducing the β€œboys club” culture that exists in so many companies. I like that Matt also supports the work of women in the field, as we also need men to understand how important it is that we get treated the way we should be, and that our work is recognised. It is through events like this that we continue to show the industry what we are capable of.

  16. […] people, we have organised group trips to conferences and events. For example, last year we went to Nottingham and Leeds for women in tech […]