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What happens when you put women in tech, allies and mentors together?

We build apps that benefit our tech community and inspire young minds. That’s what happened at Capital One’s Women in Tech Demo Day hackathon in DC.

The participants tackled one of these four challenges to support women and girls in tech: 1. help male allies support women 2. improve unconscious bias 3. help women find opportunities and 4. inspire women through role models.

I am in awe of what the teams were able to accomplish in a short period of time. The projects ranged from data mining 1000s of resumes for tackling unconscious bias to the cutest and technically impressive game that encouraged girls to get into gaming.

I’d love to share with you the projects and the amazing people who brought them to life. I bet they’ll inspire you as much as they’ve inspired me.

Powered by Perspective

In this category, the judges wanted to see tools that help male allies learn ways to support women in the workplace and tech community.

I was very happy to see this category in this year’s Women in Tech Demo Days. Women make up only 25% of the tech industry. However, the burden falls to us to fix the issues we face at our jobs and in the community. There needs to be more done to get men involved. We need to work together to make changes from within organizations.

The Winning Team: Powered by Perspective

Team Powered by Perspective is building a narrative game and guide for male allies to know how to respond productively to sexism in the workplace.

“Using this tool, male allies who want to say something but get the deer-in-headlights effect when it actually happens have a chance to game it out beforehand and have some good language in their back pocket, already ready, for when they are faced with sexist situations.” — Team Powered by Perspective.

The team won a grand prize of a General Assembly scholarship of $10,000, a mention in Women Who Code’s CODE Review newsletter and tickets and travel to Capital One’s Women in Tech Experience in Virginia!

Let’s meet this diverse team. Belindah Jones is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland University College who is transitioning to the world of UI/UX Design. Yun Suk Choi who studied Electrical Engineering is an Illustrator who is also transitioning to UX/UI Design.

Marisa Gianfortune is a Computer Science graduate from Cornell who now works as a Javascript Engineer and has taught at Girls Who Code. Christian Straubhaar-Jones is a Software Engineer, with past experience in building healthy masculinity programming at the high school level.

These four made the perfect team to bring Powered By Perspective to life.

“What made it possible were team members who appreciated and utilized the strengths’ each member could bring to the team,” said Belindah Jones

“It was definitely a good experience for me because it gave me a chance to network with people and learn skills from it,” said Yun Suk

“The Women in Tech Demo days presented by Capital One was an amazing event. I not only met great women in technology, but I had an opportunity to hear pitches from twelve groups. As a team winner I look forward to mentoring other groups or individuals attain their goals,” said Belindah Jones on her experience at the hackathon.

Both of these amazing ladies are looking for new roles in UI/UX. The best way to support women in tech is to actually hire them. So check out Belindah and Yun Suk’s profiles.

Womallie

Oluseyi Akinyode, a Project Management Associate and Experience Designer, is building a mobile app to empower women through male allies as well. The app provides awareness and tools to address the issue.

Oluseyi during her presentation mentioned that allies are integral and that it is important to pair women with male advocates. It can act as an awareness and education tool or an employment tool. Oluseyi says that we should reward people for good behavior.

Oluseyi worked on this project solo. It was amazing to see how much she was able to accomplish in a short period of time. Womallie received an honorable mention during the hackathon.

Unconscious Bias

The goal in this category was to create tools to identify, understand and improve the influence of unconscious bias in the workplace.

RecruitHer

RecruitHer is addressing the issue of unconscious bias in job postings.

This team consists of five badass women. Evann Smith is a Senior Data Scientist. Tracy King and Jenise Walters are Front End Engineers. Natalie Olivo is a Program Logistics Analyst. Rachel Cheuk is a Fullstack Software Engineer.

“We need more women in tech. We need more women to apply to tech jobs. We need women to see themselves in tech job postings and to say, ‘That is me! I can do that!’

Language matters. Job postings often carry unconscious bias, using words that target ‘male’ attributes. We mine thousands of resumes to learn how men and women *describe themselves*, and then build a language model and recommender engine to analyze text and provide alternative recommendations for (male) gendered words.

Go for ‘neutral’ word replacements, or even more progressively, use ‘female gendered’ words and specifically target women to directly address the gender gap in tech. Find the talent you’re looking for with the language they use to describe themselves.” — RecruitHer Team

RecruitHer also received an honorable mention for their hard work.

BiaBase

BiaBase helps companies identify how much they are being biased in their recruiting process.

“Our project is an app that allows companies to import the resumes of their current employees as well as the resumes of the non-hired applicants. The app then reads through the resumes and identifies how much the company is being biased in the gender, age, and race/ethnicity area.

Additionally, it allows them to understand how they may be being biased and thus, allows them to rethink their actions in their recruiting process.” — BiaBase Team

I was truly impressed and inspired by Fernanda Molina, a developer and sophomore at George Mason High School and Sarah Galyon, a freshman at the University of Tennessee studying Computer Science. Both are in the area for a summer code camp. These young women gave all of us hope for the future.

TeamMatrix.io

Due to unconscious bias, sometimes women are passed over on promotions and projects. They are given to men with less qualifications.

TeamMatrix.io is working on keeping unconscious bias in check in the work place. It is an equal opportunity tracking application to improve hiring process, team building and leadership development.

This team consists of six amazing women with a variety of experience. Leigh Lawhon is a Developer and UI/UX Designer. Rachel Shuwen Zhou is a Data Consultant. Eboni Wigginton is a Front-end Developer. Kat Schroder is a Test Automation Engineer. Diana Claros is a student at Prince George’s Community College and LeeSandra Alexandre is a Front-End student.

Investing in Networks

In this category, teams built technology that helps women in tech find resources, events, and networking opportunities to connect with other women in tech in their region

SpeakHerUp

SpeakHerUp is an app where women are coached by organizers and other women to give their first talk and in turn increase the pipeline of women speakers.

Vanessa Colina, a UX Designer was invited to speak at Creative Jam this week. This was her first time speaking at an event and sharing her expertise. The invitation and the speaking opportunity was very empowering for her. This sparked the idea for the mobile app SpeakHerUp.

Stan Reeser is a consultant and an organizer of the NOVA Code Camp. He is always looking for speakers for his event and tries to achieve a 50/50 gender balance for his speakers.

Miriam K. White is a Technical Manager for Mobile Products. She has lead the product development lifecycle (ideation to market launch and support) for many award-winning apps and web products.

They made the perfect team to bring more women as speakers at tech events. SpeakHerUp also received an honorable mention.

Pairing.Network

Maureen Vogel, a designer and developer, Steve Chen, a Software Engineer, and Tingting Wang, a Student at Georgetown University are building a pair programming locator for women in public spaces.

Pair programming is when two programmers share a single workstation and work side by side. It can be an excellent way to mentor. The mentee can focus on learning and asking questions while the mentor can focus on teaching and giving valuable feedback.

“We make pair programming happen — pair up users with other users to code in public spaces: coffee shops, libraries, and partnered co-working spaces in the language or framework of your choice” — Pairing.Network Team

Xena

Xena is working on peer networking to get younger girls involved in STEAM.

The team of Software Engineers, Briana Slater, Jeffrey Chiang, Charlotte Chen, Courtney Davis are working on making coding and tech approachable for young girls. They showcase github projects that young girls can be inspired by. The young girls can also collaborate on the projects through peer mentoring.

Celebrating Role Models

In this category, participants developed solutions that highlight senior women leaders in tech and tell their stories, with the goal of inspiring girls and younger women to pursue tech careers.

PassionFruit

Cynthia C, an iOS Developer and Sean Hamre, an Android Developer are working on a mobile app highlighting women in tech from different industries.

“PassionFruit is mobile application that celebrates elite women in computing by sharing their technical experiences within their industry. In turn, this will encourage young women who may not have considered a technical career path to now pursue one. Currently, this is an iOS application built from scratch in Swift.” — PassionFruit team

Cynthia and Sean both work for Geico, an insurance company. Coincidentally, my first job was in a similar industry where I built a tool that gathered credit scores from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for an individual and put the data in the same format to be used by a loan processing application.

A lot of people think of Google and Amazon when they think of tech companies. However, tech is used in all sorts of industries. For eg. banks such as Capital One, or science organizations such as the US Geological Survey or museums such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This application is a great way to highlight women in tech as well as the variety of industries where tech is needed.

SmartBridge

Hua Wang is an entrepreneur and CEO of SmartBridg. With SmartBridge, she wants to inspire and highlight women in tech with a focus on their morning routines.

“SmartBridge spotlights senior women leaders in tech and their morning routines to inspire young women to become entrepreneurs and tech leaders.” — Hua Wang

I love learning morning routines of leaders. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about women entrepreneurs. One of the routines I’ve adapted is making a list of priorities each morning before starting work. That helps me be more productive. I’ve not looked into morning routines of developers. I would love to know how other developers get into the zone.

Ada’s Journey

Ada’s Journey is a game that helps girls and young women learn the personal stories of senior women leaders in this industry. The game was created by River Liu, a Gameplay Programmer and Independent Game Developer.

River’s work was impressive. In under 8 hours, she was able to create a game which processed a video and added obstacles for little Ada to jump through to listen to an inspiring video.

River has become my personal hero. Even though I am a developer, I’m always in awe of people who build games. She is only the second women game developer I’ve met in my life. Seriously, check out her website, all of her work is soo cool.

What’s Next?

When you put women, allies and mentors together, look at what they can accomplish. All of the teams have done some very important work. I hope they continue to work on these projects and continue to receive the support that they need.

Disclaimer: I partnered with Capital One on this event to highlight and support women in tech. Thank you Capital One for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own and were not directed by Capital One. To learn more about Capital One, visit www.capitalonecareers.com.

Photos/Images by Melissa Kelly Photography. Video by BiFocal: Like-Minded Creatives.

Jessica Dembe on How to Get the Most out of a Bootcamp

Tell us about yourself

I work as an Associate Technical Consultant at Blackstone Technology Group (@BTGFed). I received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Community Health from the University of Maryland, College Park and I recently graduated from the Front-End Engineering program at The Iron Yard.

My tech related projects include my iFeel app and trying to keep up to speed with JavaScript.  In my free time, I like to cook, try peanut-free restaurants and recipes, and figuring out ways to stay active without being bored.

How did you first get started in your career in tech?

I have always been fascinated by anything digital. I got interested in front-end development after I took a Fundamentals of Graphic Design class at my local community college. After this class, I realized I wanted a career with a mix of design, technology, and functionality.

That is when I started to re-learn HTML and CSS. I realized that I was missing the functionality aspect and I started to learn JavaScript. For a few months, I used as many self-teaching resources as I could find, but found it hard to stay on track.

There is another part to this– I started to work with my former company’s web development team on proposals and became really interested in the work they do. Our director advised me on what I should learn and how I should proceed in regards to self-studying.

He suggested that I look into coding bootcamps. At first, I scoffed at it because the price tag seemed so steep, but realized that it would be the best way to get into the field quickly as I did not have a CS degree.

What is the advantage of attending a bootcamp?

A bootcamp gives you the fundamentals in whatever tech field you want to go to. Bootcamps aren’t just about code–there are data science bootcamps, web design bootcamps, security bootcamps, mobile development bootcamps, etc.

They can help you launch your career in a very short amount of time compared to getting a degree. Which is awesome because not everyone can go to school for a computer science degree for financial or time reasons.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering attending a bootcamp?

First and foremost, give it a good amount thought. It takes a lot of time and money. The decision shouldn’t be made lightly. For myself, I started considering the idea of attending a bootcamp in April 2016, but I didn’t actually start until October of that same year. I had to consider the money that I would lose once I quit my job to attend bootcamp. I had to think about what I wanted a successful experience to look like, and how I would pay for it all!

Second–consider the tech landscape of where you live or where you want to work. Attend meetups (if you can!) to learn about the the tech community and what is in demand. Let people know that you are thinking about going to a coding bootcamp. This is a great chance to start building up your network before you have to use your network.

If you don’t live in a place where there is a tech scene or if you don’t live where you want to work, leverage online groups, websites and slack channels! This will really help you figure out what you want to learn and what you want to get out of your bootcamp experience.

After you have all that, start looking for bootcamps, but have questions ready about each program. When I was looking at bootcamp programs, I came ready with questions:

  • How long have your instructors been in the field?
  • What does the curriculum look like?
  • What kind of supports do you provide to students after graduation?
  • What has been the job placement rate?

What I’m trying to say is ask ALL of the questions before making a decision.

Coding bootcamps are an investment and you need to feel comfortable about your decision before you sign on the dotted line! I had to be sure that my instructor was about students being successful. I had to be sure that there was a decent alumni network, and that I was interested in what was being taught.

As for what you the reader should be looking for in a coding bootcamp, that is up to you and what you want to do afterwards. Many people want to switch careers. Some people go to a bootcamp so that they can learn what they need to know about tech with the intent of starting a business.

I would definitely say that when you go out and interview bootcamps, talk about how your goals align with what they are teaching. If for some reason the visions don’t not align, then it may not be a match, and that’s okay. Keep looking until you find a fit for you.

What can we do to get the most out of a bootcamp?

Ask questions if you are the least bit lost. My program was a 12-week program and it was very easy for someone to get lost. I made sure that I came in with questions for my instructor. I even asked questions to confirm my understanding of things! Good instructors are there to help you grow during your bootcamp, use them as a resource.

If an assignment seems too easy, don’t be afraid to ask for something more challenging. I remember in my program, we always had the regular challenge along with adventure mode, epic mode, and nightmare mode. If you feel that you finished something that was “easy” don’t be afraid to take on a challenge because this will help you learn something new and help you learn new concepts after you get your first job.

Also, get to know your cohort. Help each other out and get to know them. I say this because some will become your friends. They will also be a part of your professional network. I have passed along job leads to my classmates. You never know how you can help someone and how someone else can help you.

DSC00026

You found your job immediately after your bootcamp. What advice would you give to bootcamp graduates for finding their first job quickly?

I went to meetups and let it be known that I was a coding bootcamp student who is looking for a job. I mean, that is how I got the job that I have now! So definitely attend meetups and let people know about your story.

Also, get to know other people and their story. You might leave a meetup with a new job lead and potentially a new friend. How cool is that?

I also watched the jobs channel in the slack groups that I am in. I’m on the Women Who Code DC, DCTech, Black Code Collective slack groups and each of them has an active channel that is dedicated to job announcements. I watched every single jobs board regularly and applied to positions that I wanted to have, even if I didn’t meet every single requirement.

What resources did you find most helpful?

Codecademy, Code School, Pramp for preparing for technical interviews, Codewars to build up your problem-solving skills, Reddit is also a good resource. For new coders, I recommend /r/learnprogramming/ and r/webdev/.

Where can we find you?

You can find me on Twitter. I have a blog where I do a lot of reflection at jesscancode.com.

 

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