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Women in Tech Panel at Flatiron School

Meetup is heaven for an extrovert like me. It's a great way to find speaking opportunities. In January, I attended a meetup at Flatiron School (coding/programming school in NYC). They have reoccurring Women in Tech Panel events. This event focused on women in tech leadership and how they got there. I was inspired by the support Flatiron provided their female students. After the event, I completed a survey praising the event and inquired if Flatiron was seeking speakers. Doesn't hurt to ask, right?

Several weeks later, Emily (Flatiron Marketing Associate) reached out to me and asked if I knew anything about technical recruitment. For three years, I've been involved in hiring systems administrators, engineers, support staff and everything in between. After telling her my background and experience she invited me to speak at their March panel focusing on technical recruitment. I was ecstatic!

Before speaking events I don't get nervous but this was my first recorded panel discussion. The panel featured a software engineer from Facebook, three technical recruiters (including the moderator). The event was packed! Young women and men were excited to discuss how to get hired in tech, what to do if you're a career changer and if women sell themselves short in interviews.

The discussion lasted an hour and Q&A happened during and after. It was astounding! I love when the audience participates, it increases the value for everyone. We received great questions from the group. One highlight was a question from a young man in the audience (Jon). He asked, "What can I do as a young man to help with diversity and inclusion for my female colleagues...?" I responded, "...We need to champion for each other. Young women need to support each other as well. As a young man in tech you may not always have women on your team but when you do ensure that she has more than a seat at the table. Ask for her opinion, engage her in conversation because having a seat at the table isn't enough. We need to ensure women have a voice and the support to succeed." The audience applauded.

This was the highlight of the event for me but there were other moments that were just as significant. Video footage is here. The panel provides insight about what hiring managers are looking for, how to utilize tech recruiters, taking charge of your career and being the best candidate possible.  

Ok, I have a second highlight. This happened when the event ended. After an event I expect to head home within five to ten minutes. I got mobbed afterwards and stayed late to speak with each young lady standing in line for one-on-one advice. This solidified the purpose of the panel. We were able to reach young minds that evening and that's the best part. Knowing you made a difference.

Thank you to Flatiron for the amazing opportunity. I can't wait to work with your team again. To all the young ladies who reached out to me, I see you doing great things in the future!

RESILIENCE

 

What does resilience mean to you?

I was never asked that until I attended an event on Feb 4th called RESILIENCE. It was a wonderful presentation of art, fashion, music, and black history. The event was a collaboration by Distinctly Creative and Niche NY|DC to celebrate Black History Month. Often we are reminded about the struggles, tribulations of blacks in American history. Unfortunately, a lot of it negates to mention the resilience of the black community. This event focused on the resilience of black culture and that it is still alive today. Black creatives put this resilience on display in the form of poetry, dance, music, and fashion. I gained more appreciation for our influence in the fashion industry through the creation of clothing made from what little we had left. I felt renewed that our music is the cornerstone of different genres bumping through our speakers today. Poetry and dance distinguish us from any other group in America. We are resilient because our influence, despite the media negativity, says so. We still have a lot to accomplish but it's nice to see that I belong to a community that isn't finished. So when a participant asked the audience, "What does resilience mean to you?".... I thought... 

Resilience is when I graduated from college after never wanting to go to school.
Resilience is working two jobs, going to school part time, flunking a few classes, and summer school.
Resilience is taking up a career in IT knowing I would be a minority at work and in the classroom.
Resilience is working twice as hard as male counterparts to gain recognition & respect. 
Resilience was never giving up when I didn't get equal pay. 
Resilience is achieving leadership roles to help other women succeed in male dominated professions.
Resilience is educating professionals on inclusion and how we can champion for everyone to have a seat and a voice at the table.

What does resilience mean to you?

You code, right?

No, no and no. The last piece of code I wrote was in my Junior year of college. More power to you coders out there! HTML was fun, Java was interesting but back then I never imagined coding would be the poster child for everything tech. We can't forget that technology is everywhere and there are many paths to take.  

I attend a lot of events that promote coding as the only important career path in STEM. What about the rest of us who aren't coders? We still count, right? This push towards code is very important but let's not forget there's diversity within the tech space. Infrastructure, telecommunications, system engineering & support, IT service delivery, security and app development all lead to career paths in technology. Leadership in technology is just as important, our IT managers and CIO's may do limited grunt work but play key roles in spearheading opportunity, collaboration and creativity in IT. 

I say all this to remind us that everyone has a niche in technology but we can always learn more. I defined my career by researching different types of technology, how they are used and when they are dependent upon each other. This allows me to adapt quickly to diverse environments and manage STEM teams without being the expert. Understanding the basics of various technologies is key to creating the best technology solutions. We all have skin in the game and bring something to the table. So when an IT person says "I don't code.", sit with them and ask what is your niche and the challenges you face? And for those non coders out there, we must do the same. It never hurts to reach across the aisle and learn something new :)

 

Inclusion NYC

As a recent transplant to NYC I'm overwhelmed when chosing an event in the city. Luckily a colleague sent my name to an organization hosting a tech event that aims to bring communities together across the tech sector. The layout of the event involved pairing students with professionals to co-facilitate discussion topics regarding diversity, inclusion and bringing under and over represented groups together. This was right up my alley and I couldn't wait to volunteer my time to (a) have an excuse to hang out late on a work night and (b) finally find a tech space for my inner nerd to glow. With over ten years in the tech field, inclusion and diversity are obstacles I always faced however I never allowed these hurdles to discourage my advancement in tech. I empowered myself and others even though the environment is not very inclusive. I couldn't wait to share my experience and bring awareness to a problem that affects women and minority youth. 

Nicole (L), Natalia (R)

Nicole (L), Natalia (R)

The event was amazing! More than 200 people showed up, 11 groups were facilitated and at the end I made a new friend. My student co-facilitator was Natalia, a Freshman majoring in Computer Science. We got along instantly and as we guided our group through dialogue, the real test was summarizing our group discussion to all the participants. This event taught us that as women in tech we have an obligation to raise awareness and provide accessibility to tech related programs and information to our communities. We must champion the success of our counterparts in the workplace and partner with organizations that recognize the achievements of women and minorities in the tech space. It was a great night that fostered learning and growth for the students and professionals in attendance.