Women in technology has been a hot-button topic for some time now, and it’s not losing steam any time soon. Fortunately, there is a ton of support for women looking to get more involved through groups such as Women Who Code (WWCode), a global nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. If you are interested in learning more about this group, or want to connect with your peers, AnDevCon: The Android Developer Conference is having a Women in Android Luncheon on Wednesday, Nov. 30, from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport.
Zassmin Montes de Oca, Chief Maker and Board Vice Chair of WWCode, and Vinu Charanya, a Core Team member for WWCode and software engineer at Twitter, will be leading the event. They were also kind enough to chat with AnDevCon about how they got into technology, WWCode, and what attendees can expect from the upcoming luncheon.
How did you get into the technology field?
Zassmin Montes de Oca: It’s a little bit of a long story. I started working in healthcare after college, and at a consulting job during that time we were using a database to store student information for one of our programs. I became very curious about the type of information I can find out about our program during the time through this database. More so, I was working about 80-hour weeks, and I kept asking myself how can I do less work, and it turned out learning how to automate a thing or two out of my work day would save me time. That’s when I realized I just wanted to keep doing more of that, and at my next job, I did.
I started to use up my free time to learn about databases and software development with classes and books. I started to understand how to write queries with Microsoft programs so that I can automate some of what I was working on, and it saved me so much time! At one point, I removed a day’s work out of my month, and that's when I saw the true value of solving problems with software. I continued to learn, and one day I learned enough to do it full-time, so I switched careers.
Vinu Charanya: I was introduced to programming in the early years of my schooling. I was in awe with what I could accomplish with programming. I fell in love with the fact that I can impact millions of people right from where I am using technology. I decided to learn more and started with undergrad in Computer Science and Engineering and pursued Master’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering to become a software engineer.
How did you get involved with Women Who Code?
Zassmin: Mostly through my interest in wanting to learn more about software development. A person I met through the healthcare industry heard what I was working on and recommended that I attend a WWCode event. I looked this up on meetup and attended
I fell in love with the group immediately. I was surrounded by people who are much smarter than I am, we were building a Web app together, different people were working on different problems in pairs and having so much fun while doing it. Plus, there was free food—pizza—and that happens to be my favorite food.
The event was weekly, and I went week after week. At some point, I became one out of a group of people who wanted to make sure that this experience was replicated all over the world. It was too valuable to not share. That's when we turned WWCode into a non-profit.
Vinu: I moved to San Francisco at the end of 2012 looking for a job. A good friend of mine suggested I should check out meetups, especially Women Who Code. When I attended the meetup events hosted by Women Who Code, I felt very comfortable with how friendly and helpful the environment was. Soon after, I got my first job and started doing Web application development on Ruby on Rails at a startup. We built a product to help small/medium-sized businesses have a stronger presence on social media. During this time, Women Who Code slowly grew into a nonprofit organization focused on helping women excel in their careers in the tech industry. WWC started off with a few hundred members, and today has grown to a community of over 80,000 members across 20 countries.
Women Who Code has impacted my life in so many ways. They gave me opportunities: opportunities to meet other great women leaders, an opportunity to connect with other women trying to get to the next phase, opportunities to attend conference and network, opportunities to speak, some very close friends, and many more. I wanted to give back what Women Who Code gave me, and I am currently one of the core team members at Women Who Code, where I commit code to their open-source projects and advise on technical product and design direction.
What is your mission being a part of WWC and events like the Women in Android Luncheon?
Zassmin: To meet, to grow and to connect with wonderful, intelligent people in the industry. I've met and have built relationships with amazing people through events like these, including Vinu, who will be co-leading the luncheon.
Vinu: Technology events are very important irrespective of gender. It is not just about the talk. It is about the connections you make, exposure you get and being out there to inspire and motivate yourself and others.
A lot of these conferences are at the initial phase of increasing the diversity of their participants. Women-focused networking events make a lot of difference for the participants. Connections made through women-focused events in my opinion go way past the conference itself.
I’m really excited that AnDevCon is doing a fabulous job this year to focus on diversity partnering with nonprofits like Women Who Code and having women-specific events. I hope we can connect, meet some great, amazing, talented people, get inspired, and inspire others to grow in their career and become successful leaders in the future.
How can others get involved?
Zassmin: One option is to join our newsletter, CODE Review, at www.womenwhocode.com. In the CODE Review, you receive opportunities such as scholarships for global events, conferences and learning programs. We also use that space to highlight our members’ successes and it's become the way to see what your peers are up to.
The second option is to attend in-person events near you, or as you travel. We have over 60 networks globally, where you can connect with peers who also do what you love. You can connect via meetup.
Vinu: I think it is everyone’s responsibility to seek and understand the diversity needs of the industry and be the change one wants to see in the industry. If you want to get involved with Women Who Code, you can start small by subscribing to the Women Who Code newsletter and get access to some amazing information such as events, conferences happening around the world (even free tickets), some inspiring, thought-provoking highlights from our leaders, a small pinch of inspiration from successes of our other members, speaking opportunities, job opportunities and many more.
Women Who Code has a ton of events happening all around the year and all around the world. Join the Women Who Code group (at meetup.com) closest to your location and attend some of our lightning talks, reading groups, learning groups, etc. You can build your courage and level-up in a very comfortable environment with other peers.
What would you say to a woman or young girl thinking about going into technology?
Zassmin: Do it. It's a volatile industry where you can learn and grow every single day. Being bored is not an option. There are many problems to solve and great people to solve them with.
Vinu: Like many women in the industry, I too suffered from the imposter syndrome. This coupled with random gender bias encounters made it quite difficult for me when I was starting off in the tech industry. That said, I am extremely glad to have been part of Women Who Code from very early on. I met a lot of amazing women, and was able to get the mentorship and the support to help overcome the challenges. I learned that in order to motivate and inspire others, you have to share your story, both the lows and highs. You have to tell people that they are not alone and that there are others to help. I do this by giving talks at various conferences and meetup events. I also try to make it extremely easy for other women to reach out to me or my team for questions, advice, connections, etc. We need to reach out to young women, not just to share how important and exciting STEM industry is, but to make them realize that they are stronger and smarter, and with passion they can make their dreams come true.
What can attendees expect to gain from the upcoming Women in Android Luncheon at AnDevCon?
Zassmin: We are going to use this space as an opportunity to bring to life one of our most well-received member highlights: the Applaud Her. Get ready to show up, be proud of what you’ve been building, and connect with your peers.
Vinu: I have been to many conferences and always find it difficult to find and connect with other women. Sometimes this is because of diversity issues. Some other times, I’ve noticed there is a hesitation to talk about some amazing work we do. We wanted to use this opportunity to help women break out of that shell and connect with other women and leave with some new connections. I hope women attending the luncheon will have some good takeaways and feel comfortable having found some good connections to enjoy the rest of the conference and who knows maybe some new friends like I did.
If you’re interested in attending and AnDevCon and joining the Women in Android Luncheon, click here for more information.