Bloomberg News Investigates What It’s Like to Be Black or Female in Silicon Valley

I always find the most interesting articles during my lunch break….

Today was no different.  I just read Fast Company‘s profile on Tristan Walker, one of the few successful African American entrepreneurs in SV, and this Bloomberg article based on interviews with two dozen minority engineers in the Valley as well.  Walker’s profile offered a lot of insight on pursuing goals by targeting minority markets, specifically in regard to his company’s development of Bevel razors for men.  Though, Bloomberg article, “What It’s Like to be Black or Female in Silicon Valley”, was more provocative and left me feeling some type of way about how we discuss diversity in tech and whether we should discuss it at all.

I felt myself agreeing with the advice given by 3 of those interviewed: Kate Matsudana (former SV engineer, present founder of Popforms, Inc), Malunde Adeagbo (formerly of Facebook, present engineer at Pinterest), and Lloyd Carney (CEO, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc).  I pulled some quotes (emphasis mine) from the article and prefaced them with context:

When asked to give counsel to newcomers, Carney makes it plain and simple,

“I tell women and people of color directly ‘don’t you dare advocate for diversity, your career would be over'”.  

Matsudana seems to agree, making sure that her outreach efforts focus more on tech related matters instead of gender or racial issues.  The point: to avoid marginalization in a company due to having one’s personal activism cloud over her/his actual work.  Matsudana emphasized that she does not want to be seen as an activist, but rather a top performer in her field,

“As soon as you put yourself in the camp of the people that talk about ‘the issues’, you’re no longer the person that works hard, you’re the person that spoke out”.

Not to say that bringing up “the issues” wouldn’t be warranted in some situations. Adeagbo points out in the article having to turn down job offers due to some offensive racial-related questions that were asked in his interviews, citing declines based on “severe cultural mismatch”.  Still, he also recognizes that mutual respect comes first with mutual understanding, especially when entering new work environments filled with those who are not used to working with people of color,

What you do have is a lot of uncomfortable, awkward conversations,” Adeagbo explains.

Yes, a co-worker’s ignorance is off-putting, but it can also lead to teachable moments on culture. Carney recognizes this stating,

“If that stuff makes you angry, it will hold you back.  You can’t be angry.  You have to be better than that. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is”.

It is, indeed.  Women of color like myself are far too familiar with the backlash that comes with being perceived as “angry”.

What’s my opinion?  I recognize reality.  Microaggressions have become a norm of American life.  However, we all have a choice in how we will react to them.  I think every woman who makes the choice to enter the tech sector will have to ask herself three questions in general: (1) whether she is seriously mentally prepared and mature enough to work in a male-dominated field, (2) whether working for top tech companies in SV would honestly be a good fit for her, and (3) how she will professionally handle microaggressions if or when she is confronted with them.

I also have to side with Carney, Adeagbo, and Matsudana on discussing the diversity issue.  Our Code is my outlet in supporting the training of more web developers, though when it comes to working with clients and in the office, promoting diversity is not my central focus.  My focus is on creating great programs, amazing websites, and engaging user experiences.  I want to be recognized for my work and perhaps some day as an expert in this field.  As Adeagbo explains, “if my code doesn’t work, it is not because I’m black or white“.

Of course, I would hope that as more resources are created for women, and as the number of us represented as tech entrepreneurs and industry leaders go up, there will not be a need for this blog in the future.  Until then, I’ll continue to do my part in making sure more women like me know that it is possible.

To read the Bloomberg article in full, click the above link.

Codecademy Partners on ReskillUSA, Offers an Affordable Bootcamp in the Process

Codecademy, a site that offers introduction coding lessons, played a big part in how I transitioned into webdev.  In 2011, I was a freelance copywriter and blogger running my own business providing web content for company sites and blogs.  Feeling the demand to add web design to the list of services I offered, I took to Codecademy to learn basic HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.  Eventually, I learned enough to communicate with clients and contractors about their web needs and even do some basic debugging and site updates for those who paid me an additional fee.  My infatuation with design turned into a hankering for programming, one that still plagues me today (in a good way).  Though I’ve surpassed being a novice and no longer rely on Codecademy for my education, I still support the org and promote it to beginners.

I had a chance to catch up with how Codecademy is developing when I read about the company’s latest partnership with Thinkful, the Flatiron School, and Dev Bootcamp in creating ReSkillUSA.  ReSkillUSA functions to promote both online and offline learning with the mission of “closing the gap between technical education and employment”.  It was less than 2 weeks ago when I led a discussion on the need for more affordable bootcamp-like programs for women learning to code.  Come to find out, Codecademy has been creating labs that offer just that.  Launching as Codecademy Labs under ReskillUSA, the part-time offline program offers 12 week extensive courses covering HTML, CSS, javascript, jQuery, Angular.js, and Ruby on Rails. There are 3 specific reasons why I’m excited about the Labs enough to share info about the program with you all:

1. The cost for the entire 12 week program is just $250.  This is a huge deal considering the fact that most programming bootcamps can cost anywhere from $4000-$20,000 for the same amount of time. In order to keep costs low and the program lean, the tuition will go towards paying for instructors’ salaries and rental space.  Those who want to secure a seat can do so with a $50 deposit upon registration.

2. The program is part-time and meets on Saturdays and Sundays.  For women who work traditional office hours, go to school full-time, or have demanding family obligations, the schedule flexibility is gold.  Most bootcamps are full-time, requiring those who are employed to choose either to quit their jobs in order to learn, or risk losing valuable time off set aside for sick, vacation, or maternity leave.

3.  The program is operating in most major cities with the intention to expand. I found out about Codecademy Labs when I went to the Dev Bootcamp Chicago location for a meetup this past weekend.  In addition to Chicago, the program is also offered in Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles, and New York. Since these 5 cities have the most concentrated populations of women of color, I would say the program is situated where it needs to be.

Low cost, flexible, and accessible– all of these meet my checklist for getting an Our Code shoutout!

The next labs cycle starts in early December. To register and secure your spot in the program, click here to go the Codecademy Labs site.


Why Our Code Supports MotherCoders and How You Can To

As the creator of Our Code, I get emails, tweets, and DMs everyday from tech groups wanting to get their message out using this space to do it. I’m pretty selective.  If I posted everything I received, I would never sleep.  Not to mention the fact I’m also trying to develop an audience around Our Code for underrepresented women.  I want to keep posts as relevant as possible.  In the past, this has meant ignoring fundraising requests and sticking to promoting as many open, accessible, and affordable opportunities as possible.  A particular campaign has been on my mind though.  After reading an update letter on what’s going on with the MotherCoders indiegogo campaign, I couldn’t help but to share news about it.

MotherCoders was founded as a tech orientation program that offers on-site childcare for moms who want to learn basic programming and network with industry professionals.  I do not have children, and I recognize this allows me the privilege to devote more of my time to learning to code than the average parent.  When I blog about how Our Code is geared for underrepresented women, this includes single mothers who often don’t have the time or money to continue their education in a traditional fashion.  MotherCoders seeks to work exclusively with that population.

MotherCoders – A Tech Orientation Program Designed for Moms from MotherCoders on Vimeo.

The organization is seeking $15,000 to cover childcare expenses, business licensing, video production to stream their sessions for their online audience, and to provide lunch for the moms who attend their sessions on site.  At the time of this post, they have met only about 1/3 of their goal. The campaign will run for the next 4 days, and there are perks for those who contribute.  You may contribute by visiting the campaign’s site here.

I also noticed that MotherCoders is seeking to partner with businesses who would like to sponsor a lunch for the sessions as well as tech professionals who can consult on other services.  If you would like to contribute an in-kind donation, the org has set up a Supporters page to assist you.

Even if you don’t donate, you can still spread the word about the campaign by sharing this blog post, following @MotherCoders or liking their facebook page.

Want to Use Your Coding Skills for Good? Two Orgs That Can Help

Code For America has created the Civic Tech Issue finder tool which will allow users to search Github for civic projects in their area.  To use the tool, you can choose your “brigade” or region, add labels to lower your search, and search by skills level.  While using “Code For Nashville” as my brigade and the search label “help wanted”, I was able to find a multiple projects of interest, including one for blogging, something I love to do.

To use the tool or embed it on your site, go to Code For America and enter your search inquiry.

Also, Social Coding For Good is accepting volunteers for projects.  Social Coding For Good is an organization that was started to connect web professionals with open source projects and volunteer their time working on tech solutions to social causes. The projects focus on causes in healthcare, education, disaster relief, conservation, human rights, poverty alleviation, and many others.  In addition, volunteers can choose to work with tech companies already working on these areas including Mozilla, the Wikimedia Foundation, Benetech, and Medic Mobile just to name a few.

To sign up and volunteer, click here to fill out the initial form.

Volunteering your time to tech projects is a great way to boost your skills and collaborate with others remotely.  Find ways to get involved outside of work and school.

Learn Python in your PJs with PyLadies

The Washington D.C. chapter of PyLadies have been “experimenting” with online education. The result: a Saturday morning Intro to Python class available via Google Hangouts.  There is no cost for the class and all who register will be sent a link to the Hangout to take it online.

Intro To Python

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

9:00AM – 12:30PM

via Google Hangouts

To RSVP, register here on Installation instructions will be sent before the class starts.

Upcoming Hackathon: Fight Ebola with Dev-On this Weekend

Hello all,

If you’re in the Austin, TX or Madison, WI regions, a hackathon being hosted this weekend by Doing Devopment is still seeking participants.  The mobile hackathon will be focusing on combating Ebola this year, a honorable cause considering the recent outbreaks occurring globally.

Doing Development is an organization that uses technology to solve problems around the world.  Click here if you would like to learn more about the org, and see the poster below for how to register for the hackathon on November 7 & 8th.

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