An Unpopular Opinion: Am I a Good Feminist?

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?

I Need to Stop Apologizing (subtitle: Objective-C and ME)

…And start just actually updating this thing. I could tell you about my life changes – finally got my California drivers license! I lost 5 lbs! Or my work changes – Imma try to be an iOS Engineer! Udacity did a short blog article on me to hype up one of our classes! I’m mentoring cool women at Hackbright! Or just daily life – I stopped biting my finger nails!

I think for this update I’ll stick to the code related though. Lemme take a moment to sound like an idiot – I have tried my damnest (not consciously) to forget my Java/C college days and I’m getting ALL the flashbacks while I try to teach myself Obj-C. It took a very long time for me to even be OK enough to actually read Objective-C. But now that the brackets everywhere don’t scare me. I’m starting to enjoy it.

I’ve written all of two or three lines for our actual Udacity app but I’m learning on my own and with the support of our mobile team! In a bit of return I’m working on integrations with them to hook them up to our web backend better. So see kids! You don’t have to know Objective-C to be considered part of the mobile team! I’ve transitioned over and still get to stay in my comfort zone of Python a lot.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned so far is that it’s not the language that is difficult to learn, it’s that iOS development is a completely different mind-set, especially coming from a backend heavy few months. I like crafting functional APIs that do what they’re told and I’ve learned to find map reduces fun. But now I have to think about user experience? And does the button need to be orange? Should the robot picture be above or below the text? Should the background be white or black? Should we AB test this on boarding screen? It’s nuts, but in a good way.

I know backend engineering has had my heart but I never wanted to get stuck there. I wanted to be able to have options. To learn ALL THE THINGS. And my awesome coworkers at Udacity have been nothing if not supportive of that goal. One week I’m learning how to write map reduces, another I’m researching video transcodings for mobile video streaming (and playing with PBS open source software!), and just this week I got to play a mini round of tech support as our Georgia Tech Masters students started their term on Monday. It’s a hell of a ride so far and I’m just getting started. Hopefully now that I’m settling a bit on what I want to learn next (iOS) I’ll get back to a more consistent blogging schedule.

Week 0, Day 3

Still pretty quiet here. I’ve been helping Ava with her game and looking at some basic tutorials for Backbone and Angular. Then I got sidetracked into learning VIM.

I did hike up the epicness that is Taylor St on a lunch break with Ava to go look at Huntington Park. The views were amazing and I love that I can still wear a T-shirt (no sweater/coat necessary) at all times, even on my evening trek to the BART station and “home” home (Ava was upset by the quotes around the word home so I had to change it).

On the way up:

Up Taylor St

Looking down:

Looking Down Powell St

Looking at the Bay Bridge through the buildings (another thing I love, it looks like stereotypical San Francisco everywhere, tall buildings, funky old fixtures, and a strange mixture of people types):

<img src=”,h_800/v1391709300/2013-11-06-12_47_39-768x1024_p9tbab.jpg” alt=”Bay Bridge on California St width=”600″ height=”800″>

Prequel – Week 0, Day 1

Hack Reactor starts next Monday, but that doesn’t mean I’m sitting around in my pajamas petting Ava’s dogs (that’s just what I do on Sundays).


I’m having a bit of a “take your roommate to class” week. So I’m crashing Hackbright for the week. It’s really perfect timing for this because they are just starting on their projects so the aren’t as super formal right now.


Just hanging out in a space with coding going on has been amazing. The women are all spread all around the space working on code and randomly chatting. The instructors have been coming around and giving informal talks on subjects that people are getting stuck on (I’m currently listening to a talk on how 3D works). I’ve finished up some of the extra credit prework for HackReactor and I’m going to be going to some awesome tech talks and a Geek Girl Dinner this week!

I’m definitely less sad now that I’m busy. I’m worried it’s going to crash at some point, but it still hasn’t caught up that I’m actually here for any time longer than a couple weeks so I think the crash might also lead to some excitement about the fact that I’m in a place I want to be and have been working toward for so long.