Tell us your story.
My first experience with the digital world was as a 10 year old Kiwi kid typing out computer programs with her Dad on our Commodore 64. One of us would read them out from a computer magazine and the other would type them in. We even had our own shorthand to speed up the process. I can only imagine how truly crude these programs were, but to me it was like magic! It was also special, because it was something that we bonded over; this has continued throughout my life Ö he now edits my women and coding blog (www.womencodeheroes.com)! Fast forward many years to 1996 when I was doing my postgraduate Masters degree in Library and Information Studies focusing on "Advanced" Information Technology. Again, not super advanced, but I fell in love with databases and the Internet. Websites were very basic at that point; not much beyond tables, text formatting and images. This was before CSS and the most advanced thing I did programming-wise was make an image map with hot spot links; I thought that was amazing! What I really fell in love with was the power of having all that information at your fingertips, and that li'l ol' me could be part of it. That I could create something that people half-way around the world could see. I never did work in a library after that degree, but having the foundation in information architecture has been so very helpful.
When I moved to the U.S., I got a job at a non-profit working as a web developer and database coordinator. I had a blast and found out that I love doing graphic design and making information easy to access and, well, pretty. I think my favorite type of coding is CSS, because it can take you from "blah" and "BAM!" in nothing flat. It's so satisfying!
Along the way I've had, and continue to have, some amazing mentors. I have been very lucky to work with some super smart people, including some of the people who gave me my first "break" at an educational media company, CWA, in New Zealand. I worked with three incredibly supportive women, who were able to show me the ropes and give me, what I realize now, some pretty big responsibilities. They really took a risk on me and I will be forever grateful for that.
Since then, I've had a long term friend and mentor, Eric Blanke, who has been my supervisor for many years. But even before that he pushed me to learn and grow in my job, and here I am now the Digital Solutions Manager for our agency and a Salesforce MVP. Much as I try, I will never be able to repay his unending support of me. I can only "pay it forward," which I do with abandon.
I think the most recent amazeballs supportive environment I have been involved with, that's taken me in with open arms, is the Salesforce and Salesforce Foundation communities. Both the Salesforce employees and the HUGE user community is truly like nothing I've seen before. They are welcome, encouraging, empowering, engaging, and ready to cheerlead any efforts to improve both my own skills and those of others.
Through this community I've hooked up with women passionate about helping other women learn to code, and we've created our own code school (RAD Women) that teaches advanced Salesforce Administrators to code on the Salesforce platform. I couldn't be more proud of us, and the countless women involved as learners, coaches, or on our advisory committee. It's true that a small group of committed people can change the world!
What do you most want other women and young girls to know about being a woman in our digital culture?
My advice is for any woman or girl who wants a career in technology. I want you to know that you CAN do it. That even if you don't see someone up there that looks like you, that you can still make it happen. It takes work, and it's much easier and much more fun if you find a community to do it with. Find your community, whether it's online or in person. Take a risk and you never know where it might lead.
Mentors have played a huge role in my life, and I try and pass that on to other people. To me it's as empowering to mentor as it is to be mentored. Also, for me, the fastest way to learn is to teach. That's partially why I started my coding blog, because I wanted to learn how to code on Force.com (Salesforce's platform), and I thought, that I might as well share what I've learned. It really pushed me to go deep into the concepts of the language.
My last nugget, is to assume you belong. That will help you when you really do feel alone or when you're the only person on the room that looks like you. Assume that the rest of the room wants you to introduce yourself to them. And ask questions everyone likes to talk about themselves lol. It's a great way to start a conversation with a group of people you don't know.
Pass it on!
Where do I start! So many women inspire me.
Individuals: Leanne Pittsford (Lesbians Who Tech), Mary Scotton (Salesforce Developer Evangelist), Ayori Selassie (Salesforce Sales Engineer), Joni Martin (NowItMatters /Girlforce Founder), Megan Smith (U.S. CTO), Anglea Mahoney (Salesforce consultant, RAD Women Co-founder), Ashima Saigal (Salesforce Database Sherpa, RAD Women Co-founder)