Tell us your story.
When I was first getting started in tech, I attended my first unconference -- similar to a conference, except the agenda is set by the attendees and anyone can propose a session. I ran into a woman I looked up to at the unconference and she forced me to submit a session proposal. Every excuse I had for why I couldn't present or wasn't prepared, she deflected. I submitted my proposal, it was accepted, and I hosted a session later that day. Hardly anyone came, but she was there. And I realized then that maybe the worst thing that could happen isn't to lead a session that nobody attends, or any of the other reasons I was afraid to lead a session in the first place. Maybe the worst thing that could happen would be not to try. I'll always be grateful to her for pushing me to try harder, to reach higher, and for believing in me. Since then, I've repaid the favor by encouraging other women to push the limits of what they believe they can do.
What advice to you have to share with other women and young girls?
Creating Hear Me Code, a nonprofit offering free, beginner-friendly coding classes for women, has been an incredible experience. What started as an informal class for four women around my kitchen table has grown to over 900 women learning and growing together in just over a year. I started Hear Me Code because I was frustrated when I went to tech events. I'd be one of the only women in the room and felt outnumbered and intimidated. Worse, most of the men would talk down to me and not take me seriously. In talking to the few other women at these events, I realized I wasn't alone -- we all had this shared experience of being talked down to and not taken seriously. I wanted to create a safe environment where women could learn and grow together. Hear Me Code has become a space where students become teaching assistants and teachers. By focusing on leadership development and peer mentoring, Hear Me Code doesn't just create cookie-cutter coders -- it creates a supportive community.
Pass it on!
Aliya Rahman is a constant inspiration to me. She's incredibly talented and hardworking and one of the most dedicated women I've ever met.