A couple weeks ago, I got to be interviewed in a real, live recording studio for the very first time for our local paper’s Women in STEM podcast! I was almost late to our studio date, because one of the main roads through town was closed so a crane could drop the city’s Christmas tree in the square. Lancaster’s so cute.
Anyway, Kara Newhouse, who is the education reporter and host of the Women in STEM podcast, and I chatted about my career path, Girl Develop It, web development, our Myers-Briggs letters, and resources for people who want to get started learning web development or have an interest in the history of women in programming. You can give it a listen right here!
Ela Conf was hands down my favorite unexpected thing to happen this year.
Friday evening started out with snacks and a few planned lightning talks. Joni and LeeAnn then asked the crowd how many of us had never spoken into a mic before, and a bunch of people raised their hands… and then gave their first lightning talk! It laid a great foundation for the vibe for the rest of the conference.
Saturday morning started off with a keynote by Saron Yitbarek, of Code Newbies. She’s gone from new developer to podcast host, big awesome conference speaker, and Ruby Rogue. I identified really strongly with a lot of what she had to say. Like her, I’ve had a smattering of jobs before landing one as a web developer. Like her, I struggle to be as assertive as I should be. She shared her long and uncomfortable journey of consciously training herself to be more assertive and to not be afraid of negotiation. She focused on three key areas during the talk: money, power, and voice.
Highlight: “Don’t think of the pay gap in terms of money. Think of it as the difference in freedom.”
Money shaped up to be a pretty consistent theme throughout the morning talks. Tracy Osborn of Hello Web App & Wedding Lovely shared her most uncomfortable career moment, and how she and then listed resources for gathering info to prepare for your own negotiating or asking for a raise.
Highlight: “Don’t wait until you’re unhappy to become informed. Always know your position.” | “Reduce your excuses about asking for more money. Your excuses are keeping you in a comfortable but underpaid position.” | Slides
Eleanor Whitney shared a bit about her path and how to leverage your side or passion project in your work life. I’m forever looking for ways to do that better, or at all. There are so many aspirational talks and articles written about this, but Eleanor really got down to the nitty gritty on how to make this happen. She finished by listing some questions we should be asking ourselves:
What is your passion project?
What is your vision?
What is your goal?
What is your next step?
Who is in your support network?
Highlight: “Work does not speak for itself. You have to share it.” | “Your experience is yours. No one will take that away from you. Own it. Make sure you talk about it.” | Slides
Elise, Arti, Briana, & me | Ashley Bernard via Twitter
I moderated a panel during the first of the two breakout sessions: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome with Briana Morgan, Arti Walker-Peddakotla, and Elise Wei. It was a real pleasure to chat with these women. As the moderator, it felt more like a nice, honest conversation among friends… with an audience. I loved it. Attendees were also really comfortable spekaing up to ask their own questions of the panelists and to weigh in with their own experiences and suggestions. A+ for everyone, all around.
My FOMO got the best of me during the second breakout session, so I didn’t end up staying put in one session. I mean, how do you choose between Choosing Your Own (Career) Adventure, a Getting Started Speaking workshop, and a panel called Redefining Women in Tech?
Katherine McClintic shared a really interesting interdiscplinary look at how building software and thinking about user experience is a lot like instructional design. I was having some painful flashbacks to my student teaching days when she mapped out how to think about planning a new project can be aided by thinking of it as a unit plan made up of lesson plans. But it makes sense. We want to think about what the users are going to know, learn, and be able to do in any experience we provide, much like teachers plan what their students are going to know, learn, and be able to do at the end of a teaching unit. Slides
Yash Prabhu gave us all an in-depth look at how she prepares for talks she gives. She kept mentioning how meta it felt to be preparing to give a talk on how to prepare to give a talk.
Highlight: “Think of public speaking as nothing more than a large conversation. It doesn’t need to be scary.” | Slides
I’m pretty sure we all wanted to be BFFs with Adrienne Lowe after her talk, Bake the Cookies, Wear the Dress: Bringing Confident Authenticity to Your Tech Talk. I know I did. She’s got an amazing story, from being a personal chef to leading Django Girls workshops in Atlanta. I tried to take notes during her talk, but she was mesmerizing. I think I tweeted some lines, but honestly I was just rapt the whole time. Adrienne is the kind of person who makes you feel like you have something to say that needs to be shared with the world in the way that only you can.
Highlight: “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s… hard work and a lot of tears?” | “You’re already good enough. You’re so much more than ‘good enough.'” | “Sharing your life outside of tech makes you so much more approachable to beginners.”
I was really excited to see a talk on self-care and handling burnout on the agenda. These are things that I struggle with constantly, and though I do think I’ve been getting better at this, I apparently need to be reminded over and over again. Alicia Raciti also wrote a great post that includes some additional resources. Slides
Chanelle Henry, who had MCed the whole event throughout the day, also gave the closing remarks. She gave a talk based on a Medium post she’d written awhile ago, called Is it Too Late to be Awesome? Spoiler alert: no.
Highlight: “Just because I didn’t complete something doesn’t mean I’m not finished with it.”
At the end of the day, I was struck by how the most powerful talks for me were all the most vulnerable. They shared embarrassing, difficult experiences, as well as triumphant ones, with such grace and candor. It’s really got me thinking about what sorts of ways I can contribute in an equally vulnerable and significant fashion in the future. I’m not sure what it will look like, but I have these speakers and the organizers to thank for it when it happens.
A few weekends ago, I taught my first Girl Develop It class for the South Jersey chapter, over the bridge in Haddonfield, NJ. It was the 101 class — a basic intro to HTML & CSS. The class was small, with only 9 students, so it felt really low pressure and conversational.
Throughout the class, the students asked excellent questions about tutorials, resources, and where to go from here. I usually answered by listing off several links, with promises to compile a list of resources in the form of blog posts. For a long time, I’ve had grand plans to create a “Resources” section of this site, with sections on everything from my favorite books on writing to web development tutorials and freelancing resources. I quickly realized there’d be no way for me to churn out something so prolific by the time these women needed me to get them a list of resources, so I did my best to remember everything I’d mentioned during the weekend and sent out the list as a quick email.
So, I suppose the lesson in this is that it’s better to just do the thing, rather than sitting around planning for the day when you have time to make the grander version. I thought the list might be helpful for others who are just starting out and looking for learning resources, so here it is.
If you’re like me (and most people), you’re into ways to make life easier. These Chrome extensions have individually and collectively improved the quality of my life significantly, and I’ve been recommending them to people in Girl Develop It classes, so I thought it’d be good to compile them all here. Without further ado:
Pocket — I used to scroll through Twitter and email tweets to myself if I didn’t have time to read the fascinating content they linked to. This did not lead to a stress-free inbox. Enter Pocket. Now when I find something I want to read later, I just save it to my Pocket via the Chrome Extension or through Twitter. I like to save articles to read during flights or while waiting for appointments.
WhatFont — Ever fall in love with a font but not know what it is? No more! WhatFont tells you what font (duh) a site uses, along with font-size, line-height, color, and other such useful CSS values.
Eyedropper | Colorpicker — I used to wish that there was a Photoshop eyedropper tool for the browser. There is! Of the two, I prefer Eyedropper. Colorpicker is a little too robust for my needs. Both provide hex codes and rgb values for colors on a website.
Feedly — I recommended Feedly to everyone who was traumatized by the death of Google Reader. I never liked the Google Reader interface, so I’ve used Feedly instead since 2009. I enjoy categorizing all the feeds I read regularly, and I still like the interface better than anything else I’ve seen.
WebPage Screenshot — I’d been trying to figure out how to get full-page screenshots of projects I’ve worked on to use in my portfolio. I’m not sure how I found this one — I probably just got frustrated one day and started searching — but it is really handy. It’s also integrated with Google Drive and Dropbox, if that’s your jam.
Dayboard — I installed Dayboard literally yesterday, and its high level of awesome is what inspired this entire post. Credit goes to Roz Duffy for sharing this one. I routinely have multiple windows with multiple tabs open, and it is far too easy to get distracted and forget what I’m doing when I’m working online. Dayboard doesn’t let that happen. Every day, it asks you what five things you want to accomplish. Every time you open a new tab, you’re faced with that list of five things. It’s constantly bringing me back to what I should be focusing on.
Are there any I’ve missed? What are your favorites?
So here’s the deal: I’ll be starting as a junior front-end web developer on Urban Outfitters’ ecommerce team on February 10. I’m incredibly excited to learn from the team I’ll be working with and continue to grow as a developer.
None of this would have been possible without the outrageous support I’ve had from Philadelphia’s tech community and especially Girl Develop It. I’ve had a whole slew of people surrounding me, teaching me, and cheering me on, especially for the past year and a half since I left my proofreading job.
I still plan to keep nurturing my humble freelance business so that I can work on a variety of projects with a bunch of different people. It’s been so fun to work with the clients I’ve had so far, and I look forward to keeping those relationships alive. I have an announcement about that coming tomorrow. Stay tuned!