I didn’t even really want to be there the night I met my tech comadres. I had been looking for a software developer job in Austin for several months already and I was tired and grumpy and I didn’t want to leave the house — but I forced myself, because I figured nothing worse could happen than being by myself at home, unemployed and desperate for a job.
It wasn’t my first tech event in Austin, but it was the first time I had connected with folks on a visceral level. It was February 2015, at the Women Who Code Austin Lightning Talks at the Capital Factory. I was just blown away by all the women coming together to talk about their work — good and bad — and the honesty and openness that accompanied that conversation.
That night changed my life, as I am now a member of a community of intelligent, driven, successful, technical and kind women who work in Austin Tech and are determined to see people like me succeed here. What’s more, I made an awesome group of friends who have proven to be caring, kind, diverse, supportive and genuine that has made all the difference in my life in this city.
That night in February I wanted in, and I told WWCodeATX Founder Holly Gibson as much when I met her — How can I help? I can do social media. — and these months later I find myself co-director of Women Who Code Austin, having successfully doubled our social media presence online, the proud co-organizer of a diversity hackathon, a mentor to women looking to enter Austin Tech, now a happy member of Austin’s tech crowd myself.
Finding this community of women turned out to be a game changer for me. I now understand the hype around women in tech not so much as an abstract ideal, but a tangible, useful, practical way for women from diverse backgrounds to make up for lost time and connections in tech by consolidating resources. After all, a high tide lifts all boats.
$100,000 is about how much more money the women in the circle have earned since we started helping each other with interviews, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, job referrals coding projects and general encouragement and advice. In less than a year women in Austin Tech have earned more because they’ve had a support system, but we also feel supported, more confident, like we belong — and you can’t put a price on that (especially since we’re almost always the only woman on our respective teams).
Additionally, several of us are working on pet projects together, our social media presences are growing, we’re being headhunted on LinkedIn, several of us will be on a SXSW Interactive panel this year, and while many of us are the only women on our dev team, none of us feel alone because we have a support group where we can ask questions without feeling talked down to, and we can share advice and tips to accelerate our professional development.
In short, serendipity has allowed us to make up for a lack of women I tech by forming a social group that has helped us all grow as professionals.
Imagine the potential for us if there were more diversity in tech to begin with! To any women out there in tech looking for professional growth and not finding it at work, I highly recommend getting out to Meetups, hackathons, tweet chats, and anywhere else you think you might find people like you and introduce yourself — you never know how life changing the people you meet might be.