Behind the scenes

Becoming Women Techmakers Ambassador

In 2018 I decided to start my remote freelance career and to continue to expand my Full Stack Developer knowledge by finishing the last FreeCodeamp projects for the certification and taking AlbanyCanCode bootcamp.

I started frequenting Meetups and got a great relationship with Google Developer Group of Capital Region where I fall in love with Flutter, Google’s mobile app SDK for building beautiful native iOS and Android apps from a single codebase. In February 2019 I was nominated Google Developer Group Lead/Co-Organizer and Women Techmakers Ambassador for Capital Region and started to involve more women in GDG coding events and meetups. I started to lead a monthly GDG Meetup on Flutter with hands-on Codelab and at my first North America Women Techmakers online meeting, I learned of Google supporting us to promote International Women’s Day celebration events in March and April.

International Women’s Day event preparations

Since was the last day of February I couldn’t possibly put up an event on March 8th when the event is marked on the calendar. I started to work out details with Jason Rotella our GDG Lead founder that has extensive experience in organizing events. We were thinking of a small event with 2–3 speakers, 20 attendees and a 3-hour event open to women and men. Jason started to send emails to our past sponsors and speakers and to introduce me to them.

This was the beginning of a wonderful adventure that ended up being a very successful event. Everyone answered back and wanted to be part of the event. Soon we found us in a very difficult situation of having to decline offers for the venue because we already agreed on it. For the speakers, we decided to welcome all 8 women speakers that accepted our invitation even though we were aware that 3 hours were not enough and keeping in mind for next year to make an all day long event. It was a big surprise to find out that our community came all together to create an impact in IWD celebration event.

We started to work and coordinate every little detail to make sure that the 3 hours event will be a memorable one. Our sponsor Troy Web Consulting went above and beyond and exceeded not only our requests but our expectations also. They surprised me even with the minimal details of the event like flowers on the conference room and a beautiful drawing dedicated to IWD that was welcoming our guests at the registration point and many many other things that caught my eye every second and made me smile. They also took care of the event pictures having someone dedicated to it and facilitated the research for audio and video services. Being 1 hour and a half drive away back and forth for me the fact that the venue took care of refreshments was a big lifting up pressure from my shoulders.

In no time it turned out to be a full-time job to prepare the event but it was worth it. We started to have meetings with the venue representatives and speakers to prepare everyone for what to expect from the event and how to prepare for. We discuss the focus of the event on the topics like #BalanceforBetter and ‘We are Better Together’ (#BetterTogether).

Tacking a bootcamp class at AlbanyCanCode I got the help to spread the word for the event and have almost 12–14 women and few men from the Front End class joining the event. At a certain point, we had to put a cap on the RSVP in Meetup and block the attendance and got to discuss with the venue representatives about the room capacity and eventual possibility to extend it to accommodate more people because of the high request received. We were able to work out with them a solution to have additional chairs from the initial 20–30 to 40–50 room capacity and re-opened the Meetup RSVP. Even this way in the day of the event we acknowledged that there were other people trying to register for the event but ran out of the room and they showed up anyways. The public was diverse and almost 40 out of 55 in the room where women in tech and not or interested to switch to the tech industry.

The Big Day — International Women’s Day event

International Women’s Day 2019

Even preparing everything in minimal details still brings you surprises and challenges to face and solve. Luckily I showed up 1 hour prior to the event and I was able to fix some technical issues as they arise and start on time. Not only, but our speakers also respected the time scheduled and we didn’t have to worry for running out of time and rush things in the end. For who attended until the end and I can tell that the conference room was full until the end of the event we had a raffle time with some Google prizes like Google mini and Google VR.

Here you can find some photos of the event and the videos of the event.

Amanda Krik

Our first lightning talk speaker was Amanda Krik — Game Designer, Educator and life long fan of games Amanda has been designing games for a variety of audiences for over ten years. She currently serves as the coordinator of RPI’s digital game hub by day, working with the local industry and schools to improve game development in the region. In her off time, she works on her own personal projects, does freelancing and has presented on a wide variety of game development topics including inclusivity in game development, open source game development, project management and game design.

Amanda talked about the gender balance in the game industry and issues with Confidence such as Imposter Syndrome vs reality. She explained the challenges of learning new skills and discomfort in asking for advise/help, the false expectations of task length and difficulty or even the fear of failure and how to overcome them as in the game cycle often happens by Playing — Failing and Having fun. Amanda prepared and Simple Game demo called Ren’Py but we suggested no live coding to avoid issues since the time was very short. She was able to present the demo with slides and explain the proceeds of a 15 min coding game walking through the steps the audience and show that everyone can code and join the game industry. Video

Stacey Gammon

Our next speaker was Stacey Gammon — She’s worked at the National Security Agency, Google and most recently is Tech lead and Principal Software Engineer at Elastic. Stacey, like Amanda, talked about the Confidence & Imposter Syndrome in the tech industry. She explained how to deal with it before, during and after getting a job. Her motto is “Reach for opportunities and believe in yourself!” With personal examples, Stacey explained the impact of giving yourself more credit can bring you more opportunities.

She also explained how Interviewing is subjective and Confidence, or doubt, can make a positive or negative impression on the interviewer and change the chances of getting the job. Not only, after getting the job, the Confidence has an impact on your success and growth at work and her message was that if you don’t understand something, don’t assume it’s a reflection of your own lack of knowledge but just speak up to have more opinions.

Stacey explained how Confidence, especially in a leadership position, can sometimes be construed as being too direct, or aggressive and she suggested to listen to feedback, adjust, learn, grow. Everyone will make mistakes including you and there will be situations with no easy answer, but continuing to have confidence and belief in yourself is integral for continued success in your career. Video

Jennifer Sertl

Our lightening talks continued with the next speaker Jennifer Sertl — President and founder of Agility3R, a leadership development company dedicated to strengthening strategic skills and helping leaders become more resilient, responsive, and reflective. She is the co-author of Strategy Leadership and the Soul published by Triarchy Press. She is currently Social Media Ambassador on-site for Social Innovation Summit held bi-annually in Washington, DC and Silicon Valley. She helps build Upstate New York through her work as a consultant to Upstate Venture Connect (UVC) and MedTech Association.
Jennifer explained how the World is Flat and especially in social media. For her having a clear voice and point of view enables us to get access to information, leverage our expertise and find communities both locally and globally to accelerate our strategic goals.

Jennifer shared with us some strategies to help claim your voice and ways to amplify your point of view to support strategic business goals.

● Strategies to strengthen confidence

● A method to create a personal brand

● Way to curate and organize information from social media

Jennifer is a verified Twitter expert with 85 countries and 353 cities following her work. She is a strategist for these Upstate New York Companies: Gryt Health, Upstate Venture Connect, MedTech Association and Second Avenue Software. She analyzed real examples of her working with Customers like Apple Sales Platform and the switch of the tangible and intangible assets. “Before anyone hires you, they’re going to look you up online. So leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs that mark you as an expert” (Dorie Clark)

Jennifer introduced the public to the right use of social networks as an asset for your business. She introduced the Agility 3R program: Resilience, Responsiveness, & Reflection. Video

After a brief break, our program continued with a panel discussion that involved 3 speakers answering our questions and interacting with the public.

Susan Lundberg
Shimantika Kumar
Natalie Wysocki

Susan Lundberg — Owner of Capital Tech Search for 19 years and in 2018 started the NY Tech Loop which is an association focused on growing the software community.

Shimantika Kumar — 20 years experience in various industries as marketing and sales roles. Her formal education is in Marketing and Advertising from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. Sam has worked in marketing roles for industries such as steel, healthcare, Fintech (Financial technology), and digital media.
Currently, she is an entrepreneur and working on her first startup which is a mobile app called Qwigle.

Natalie Wysocki — Natalie studied Information Science at the University of Michigan and has been working at Troy Web Consulting for almost 2 years as an Interaction Designer. She loves her work because it combines art, technology, and people. While she is still early into her career, she aspires to grow as a leader and as a technically skilled designer.

The panel discussion moderated by Blain Smith, Google Developer Group Lead and Co-Organizer for Capital Region, was focused on questions on diversity in the workplace and advocacy techniques adopted by the organizations.

Susan discussed the role of women in the workforce and the request to hire women by the tech industry. Natalie explained the role of diversity in her organization and the success her organization has found in developing a diverse, inclusive culture. She also related her role as a designer to embracing diversity because the job requires empathizing with clients and users, as well as bridging the gaps between stakeholders and teammates across multiple disciplines.

Shimantika explained her vision of diversity that goes beyond gender diversity and touches the cultural diversity. The diversity of the multidisciplinary teams that have the ability to create different products because of the different perspective that comes out from involving people with different professional backgrounds.

Natalie elaborated on the idea of people’s backgrounds by discussing how she aims to support her colleagues. Some may be shy, while others are more comfortable with being bold. As such, she describes the importance of empathizing with others and helping them in ways that suit their character. She advocates for listening and paying attention to the dynamics of the team.

Susan brought to the table the diversity between women and men and the focus on treating others how you like to be treated to bring balance in the diversity field general.

Shimantika stressed out the idea that if you believe in the idea you want to pursue to kill all the other solution and go for yours.

Susan mentioned the mentors' contribution to our paths empowering the decisions taken along the way. She brought awareness on women are not being good mentors for other women and the inability to thank for the compliments.

Natalie shared her experience at her organization as one that makes leadership opportunities highly accessible. She describes how easy it is for someone with an idea and an ambition to meet with the CEO and lead initiatives for change.

The public also shared their own experiences related to diversity and their own struggles and how they overcome them. Once again the public penalized women leadership because of inability to mentor other women bringing to the table the competition between women and how to overcome to it by being a supporter of other women is very hard for any competitive concept to survive.

Advocacy for diversity was promoted in the discussion by our speakers bringing to the table their own vision. Giving an opportunity for people to play fair and get to everyone the opportunity to lead. Because there are shy people that might think that their idea might not be good enough. Encouraging them to pursue their idea and support them to voice their ideas. Also, it was mentioned what steps we should take to make advocacy more effective in the professional world and not only. Creating more room for women in the tech industry does not mean only the developer fields but also the design and any other technical fields. Video

Annmarie Lanesey — In 2008, Annmarie co-founded Greane Tree Technology, a New York State Certified Women Owned Business Enterprise (WBE).
In 2016, Annmarie founded AlbanyCanCode, an organization dedicated to helping talented local people from all backgrounds find pathways to employment in the regional technology sector. She serves on the boards of AlbanyCanCode, WMHT and the Capital Region Chamber.

Miriam Dushane — Managing Partner of Alaant Workforce Solutions, which is recognized as one of the nation’s leading firms in helping employers attract, acquire, engage and retain the best talent.

Annmarie and Miriam talk in synchrony about AlbanyCanCode and the changing lives toward the tech industry. They explained how computer literacy nowadays affects more the women and other unrepresented categories and how the AlbanyCanCode program is making an impact on it by changing the balance in the Capital Region.

Their passion on talking about the Coding bootcamp for our community opened the door to many opportunities for all of us to get involved like the Laptop Landing Library program to enable the students to pursue the learning paths offered by the program. The availability of services like transportation or children care are very important in order to make the class available to everyone.

The discussion explained the involvement of the companies in the hiring process of the new graduates from the program. The actual tendency from organizations of accepting the grads from coding bootcamps without a Graduate Degree makes the AlbanyCanCode have a great impact in our community by offering all the hidden talent available out there. The fact is that the schools don’t teach and prepare the students for the new job industry.

Albany Can Code is the pipeline from K-12 to entry-level to mid-career. To solve for diversity in the software workforce, and to nurture code literacy across our entire region, the key is: empowering elementary and middle school teachers to include coding activities in the curricular day.

Albany Can Code has partnered with districts in the Capital Region, reaching more than one hundred K-12 educators in 2017. In two years AlbanyCanCode graduated 103 students (doubling every year) and about half have found jobs in IT. Many have gone on to complete additional courses with the Coding Bootcamp. The skills taught are the coding skills in the Front End, Back End, Databases, Automated testing classes, the soft skills like communications, teamwork, mindset, habits, and job ready with the project experience, resumes, interviews, and networking.

The employer network is one of the biggest assets of the AlbanyCanCode, having over 100 employers in the network, and almost 20 are engaged in the classes. They participate in mentorships with in-class visits, stories, resume help, mock-interviews. Also, they bring to the table the technologies: what’s new, what’s old, what do you need. They get involved with placements of the graduates offering internships, apprenticeships, entry-level positions.
How can everyone get involved? There are many ways that any of us can help AlbanyCanCode grow in the community as Instructors, Venues, Recruits, Mentors, and Employers.

So as it was said earlier there is the belief that there’s hidden talent everywhere, and that includes Saratoga county. In 2019 expanding the reach from Schenectady and Albany worked out very well in holding classes in Saratoga county and there are plans in expanding the catalog in the summer and in the fall of 2019. Video

We closed our event with the Raffle drawing Google prizes and with the promise that next year we will have an all day long event to give not only the speakers the opportunity to share their experience but to have everyone enjoy the networking part that seemed to be so strong during our small brakes. Since our community showed to be so strong and work hard together to promote the International Women Day we decided to keep that in mind for next year.

As a consequence of the International Women’s Day event success that included many women in the audience made them aware of the opportunity and we saw a shift on women joining our Coding labs promoted on the Google Developer Group Meetup which is very welcome and we are still working on.