Leaena

An Unpopular Opinion: Am I a Good Feminist?

Aug
17

Last week I helped out at an #ILookLikeAnEngineer event. There have been lots of write ups about the event, but I think my favorite, and not coincidentally the most critical I’ve read, was from Re/code. The last paragraph in particular sums up my mixed feelings about the event.

#ILookLikeAnEngineer was a nice gathering for people with first-hand knowledge of the problem. But having any lasting impact before the next Internet meme sucks all the air out of the room will require a bigger meeting place and a different guest list.

I understand the need to have safe spaces for underrepresented people, because that shit can be draining out in the real world. But if we only ever stand in an echo chamber then we’re just making ourselves feel good and sticking our heads in the sand (to awkwardly mix metaphors).

As a general rule, I have stayed away from women in tech meet-ups that only serve as a place to vent. I would rather spend my free time exhausting myself helping others to learn. To help women get good and get proud of their own accomplishments. I’d rather spend my time mentoring at an all women hackathon or one on one mentorship or helping out our interns.

I say all of this about my mentoring because I worry about coming off as “I got mine” or making it sound like we just all need to “lean in”. I will admit that a lot of my engineering career has involved the lean in philosophy for myself.  I worked my ass off at a boot camp that only had 6 women. Interviewed at a bunch of places that were all dudes and ended up by sheer luck at a fairly diverse first engineering job.

Before all of that though, I dropped out of the computer science program in college because I was the last woman standing. I still regret that decision, but it has made me tougher. I’m not willing to compromise now. If I’m the only woman in the room, I’m still going to do my best work. I’m still going to work my ass off as an engineer and continue to help women into the space because I believe in strength in numbers.

I’m not sure where this puts me in the spectrum of engineering feminism, which I think is my main problem. I find dudes easier to talk to in general. My favorite engineer/mentor/friend is a guy. The only managers I’ve ever had an issue with about my role as a woman in tech were other women. So I continue to follow the path I’ve set out for myself. Blogging about culture, mentoring women, learning and being the best engineer I can. Every once in a while I poke my head up to see where other women in tech fall on their paths, but none of their paths look like mine.

So this feels like a lead up to some great revelation, but sorry to disappoint you. I don’t have one. I plan on continuing to “do me”. Helping out where I can, being selfish when I need to be, and continuing to grow as an engineer. Also I really enjoy off-color jokes – does that make me a bad feminist?

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I Don’t Have To Choose

Nov
07

My favorite story when I was trying to describe myself while looking for a job involved the fact that I had a very non-traditional path to Software Engineering. I wear it as a badge of honor that I am able to do all of this without a degree in Computer Science. I went to a boot camp, worked my butt off, and got my dream job at Udacity.

As I explain it, I came to a breaking point about a year and a half ago where I knew I wanted to be a software engineer but I had no background and not a lot of skill and as a woman, I wasn’t really feeling welcomed.

So I decided to do something drastic. I decided I needed to quit. But then what? I’d been taking CS classes at my local community college in hopes of maybe getting a Masters and I’d learned about these cool bootcamps in San Francisco. In fact I told my best friend about them and she’d just been accepted to one (of course, she already lived in the Bay Area).

I made my decision when I realized I didn’t have the patience or money to sit around for three years before maybe feeling like I could get a job. I wanted to go out and solve “real” problems and not get a meaningless job to get me (maybe) through a Masters in three years.

I still really want that Masters. Honestly, it’s something that I need for selfish reasons. To prove that I can do it. But also to feed that craving for more academic knowledge. So I applied to the Georgia Tech Online Masters Program. And last night I got my acceptance letter.

A year ago I had recently quit my stable job and left my nice apartment and the state I’d spent my entire life in to live on my friends couch and work myself to exhaustion 6 days a week at Hack Reactor. Now I have that nice apartment and an awesome job and I’m learning things all the time and at the same time I get to work on my Masters without fear of a dead-end job or a tuition bill I couldn’t pay.

So it’s time for a new Category! And a new iteration of numbered weekly posts! And lots more exciting learnings. Heck, maybe I’ll end up making the robot that starts the robot apocalypse. You’ll only find out by following my blog (or possibly the news, if I do end up making that robot).

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Advocating for Geeks

Sep
30

Of course as soon as I type up a list of my recent finds of women in tech sites Huffington Post goes and makes a better one. This covers a lot of the biggies. Ones I have my eye on helping with (or following in the footsteps of) once I have more street cred.

My dream at this point is to definitely get my hands dirty, start small with volunteering, and someday teach/advocate for women in tech and STEM in general.

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Girl Power!

Sep
20

I’ve spent the past few week inundating my friend Ava, the one who starts Hackbright on Monday, with women in tech articles and sites online. She suggested I try to collect them all in one place, so here we go:

Big Sites:

  • Ada Initiative – Conferences, lobbying, mentoring. Lots of good stuff. Articles and video on Impostor Syndrome.
  • Systers – I just joined their mailing list. Lots of interesting discussions. Some of them don’t really apply to me, but it’s all inspiring. I really want to go to the Grace Hopper Celebration someday.
  • Skillcrush – Articles and teachables by women for women. Ava especially loved the Confusion is your friend blog post.
  • Women 2.0 – All sorts of career/education/tech stuff for women.
  • She’s Geeky – General geekiness for women, lots of rotating meetings/’unconferences’.
  • ChickTech – Currently focused in my hometown, they’ve done some amazing things for high school age girls.

Individual Articles:

[This will probably be a continually updated list for a while. I’ll sticky it to the top of the page for now.]

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