I’m not very far into my computer science studies, but at the same time, I’m at a point in my life where I need to get internships and work experience. The struggle is that you need to have experience to begin with in order to get on par with all the other applicants, and then have a little something extra so that you’re the one who gets picked. There are programs for middle school students and high school students to pursue their interests, like at summer camp or something. But have you heard of college students going to summer camp?
The Women in Tech Summit gave me the perfect opportunity to gain experience, to meet people with experience who were eager to share, and to simply and beautifully learn. The event started off with the opening keynote speaker Eloise Young, who shared her grown-up Philly Girl story about climbing the tech mountain in heels. Following, I chose to attend a workshop with Becca Refford on using practical PHP to back away from the WordPress dashboard. Despite not having SFTP, WordPress, or a host, I was able to follow along undeterred amongst a room of women, all with different backgrounds. The next session I attended was with Melissa Hartz on using data visualization to effectively communicate data. The room consisted of a mix of women whose experience lay in computer science, graphic design, and a little bit of both. I’ve always been involved with graphic design in high school, and I had hoped to pursue that as an extra-curricular in college, but there wasn’t a space for it, so I was really excited to see my interests in computer science and graphic design intersect like this. Next up, I attended a workshop with Mavis Pogue on understanding the invisible box (CSS). My interest in computers started with Tumblr, in which I’d spend hours fiddling around with code, self-learning HTML and CSS as I tweaked around with blog themes. But that’s not “real” computer science, is it? That’s not “real” tech, is it? Let me tell you, it sure is. After lunch, I really wanted to attend a workshop with Liz Brown about how to think like a UX designer, but it was full, so while I could have stood in the back and listened in, I decided to check out the workshop with Gabrielle Trotter on the hardware tear-down of a digital camera, in which I actually got to tear down the hardware of a digital camera. Surprisingly, this turned out to be my favourite workshop! I say “surprisingly” because I didn’t realize I had an interest in hardware prior to this. Following, rather than choosing to attend an “Ask an Expert” session, I decided to wander down to the lounge designated for networking. One woman told me about her job as a marketing analyst, and I told her about my only “work” experience from last winter break with Bryn Mawr College’s externship program, in which I worked as a Business Intelligence intern at the Austin Fire Department. I also taught a woman how to use Snapchat. Who knew that I’d be teaching anybody about anything at the tech summit? There’s always something to learn. Next, I attended a panel with Jessica Giannasca, Suzanne Back, Margaret Meadow, Gayle Stidsen-Smith, and Kimberly Burress on creating your line of sight and the secret to getting to where you’re going. Last but not least was the closing keynote speaker Susan Tabor-Kleiman who shared her story about climbing down the high dive and to her path to success.
Women need to work so much harder to achieve the same amount of recognition as their male counterparts. I always feel like I need to prove myself. And this becomes a problem when I start doubting whether or not I’m a woman in tech.
There were many things but especially this one thing that one of the speakers said that really stuck to me: Who is a woman in tech? If what you do isn’t possible without technology, then you are a woman in tech. Programming is awesome, but technology is that and so much more. Being a woman in tech is that and so much more. Being a woman in tech is pretty fantastic.