My class started with 25 people. I was 1 of 5 women and 1 of 2 African Americans and the median age was around 23 years old. I was the only black woman in my class. I was was 1 of two black women out of 3 classes totaling around 75 students when I started. I pretty much walked in one day one and nobody looked like me. Fortunately I was prepared for this and you should be as well. Whether you are black, brown, queer or a woman… you will be the minority. Fortunately I had a great instructor who I will never forget. On the first day he said he wouldn’t tolerate any “isms” racism, sexism, agism… any of them. At that moment I knew I was going to be alright. That may not hold true for every bootcamp and or job in tech. I’ve heard a lot of different stories from different women, but I cannot stress enough that despite how others see us, what matters most is how we see ourselves. I developed a mantra that I said to myself everyday while attending bootcamp. It reminded me that I belonged there. That everything up to that point in my life resulted in me being there because it’s where I was supposed to be. There’s this thing in tech, called imposter syndrome. Actually it’s not just in tech, but so prevalent in tech that it’s a topic that was covered in my bootcamp. Because of all the knowledge in the industry and the different levels of experience you will absolutely have times where you feel that you don’t belong where you are. This is completely normal. You should never let yourself forget this. It’s a battle you never win, but as long as you keep going you’ll never lose it either and that’s best case scenario. You are representing not just yourself in tech, but all women of color. It’s a responsibility that not all people have to carry but consider the pioneers that came before us. How they presented themselves and the things they represented and said are still with us. So when I go into these predominately white male spaces I have to remember that I am paving the way for someone like you and other women of color who will follow. There is an ideology in the world that exists that says that women of color are not smart. This stereotype is amplified in these settings. It can be frustrating at times but I believe we are not the cause of this problem and therefore us trying to prove that we are smart is not the solution. We simply are smart. Just like I don’t need to prove that I can read or write. I simply can. And shame on them for being surprised when they learn that I can do both better than them. There really doesn’t need to be much emphasis put on this because we go through the world and experience these things on a daily basis. I only bring this up to point out that it is no different in this space. That being said, we are a hot commodity right now because companies are looking to diversify and the talent pool is extremely small. Any woman of color in tech right now who has experience provided via a 4 year degree or bootcamp hardly has to look for a job. Recruiters call me every single day. Not because I am an anomaly, but because I am one in few. One last thing I want to say on this topic, do your research to know what you deserve to get paid. Yes, this industry pays really well, but you do not want to find yourself in a situation where you are getting paid half of what your coworkers are making all because the amount you were offered was much better than any of your previous jobs. I find that people in development talk more openly about what they make because there isn’t a stigma like there is in most jobs of leaving for a higher paying job. It is very common to only be at a software company for 1-3 years before moving on to a better job offer. It sounds crazy but it’s true. Staying in one job too long doesn’t look good. I love this because I get bored easily, and after a year or two at any job I’m ready to move on to something else.
This is one of my favorite things to talk about. It allows me to look back on all the jobs I’ve had up until the age of 35 and exclaim, “WTF was I doing with my life!!!” Aside from getting paid more money, having great health benefits and being able to switch up jobs without having to worry about how it will look on your resume, there are a few other perks worth mentioning. Keep in mind, not all jobs are the same, good thing you can move on without cause for concern. I’ll share with you some of the perks of my job since it’s what I know for sure. I work Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm. I am not required to work a minute after 5pm. Ever. Breakfast is provided by the company every morning. Some days it’s a continental spread, other days it’s pancakes, eggs and bacon. We have motorized standing desks. A gym is provided with a locker room and showers. Free coffee, tea and hot chocolate all day everyday. Unlimited breaks at your discretion. Nobody is checking up on you or questioning you ever. This has been the hardest for me to get used to. Work is project based so depending on what’s going on your work flow may vary quite a bit. If you need to run an errand, doctor’s appointment or something comes up, you don’t have to worry about another employee filling in for you. This also applies to vacation and sick leave. Unlimited sick days. Dress appropriately but as casual as you like. Shorts, sandals, t-shirts, etc. Game room. Ping pong, foosball, video games, etc. The people you work with love their job and actually want to be there! Drug testing isn’t required and if the project you’re on requires it there are no consequences for failing a drug test. There is no drug policy. All in all, my job is super chill and I can say without hesitating that it is the best job I’ve ever had. I think many people would agree even if half of the things on this list were taken away.
Five years ago, had anyone asked me to describe a computer nerd, I would have quickly said “White male in his early twenties, glasses, flip-flops and shorts, furiously typing away on a computer keyboard surrounded by dark-screened monitors, a liter of coke and half empty bags of Cheetos and Doritos. It turns out that I’m not the only one who feels this way and that is a huge problem. In order for us to see ourselves doing something we must first see someone who looks like us doing it. This doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to do things that someone before us hasn’t done, but it’s much more difficult to do or to actualize when we can’t visualize it. If a student can identify with a teacher who teaches science, that student is more likely to pursue science of some kind the following year. Could this phenomenon explain why there are hardly any women and minorities in tech? Now days nearly everyone seems to be able to agree on this. With all the talk of diversity and equal rights many important people have taken notice of the cultural homogeneity of this industry. There is a very long way to go before the world of tech will reflect true diversity. When I became really interested in tech, the very first thing I did was look for youtube videos to watch of people who had taught themselves to code and were in the industry. I quickly noticed that I wasn’t seeing anyone who looked like me. After becoming really specific with my search query, I began to see a very small change in the diversity or what was returned in my search results. This was very disappointing. I vowed then that I would make content available when I broke into the industry, giving people who look like me hope that if I can do it, they can do it too. One of the questions I get asked most often by women curious about getting into tech is “Do I need to be good at math?” I will answer that by saying that I was barely an average math student in high school. I may have taken two or three math classes over the past decade of which I had to take remedial classes in preparation because I didn’t remember anything it was required for me to know. But the real answer to that question is surprisingly this: You don’t need to know much of anything to be a web developer, you just need to know how to find the answers to what you don’t know. In this industry you’ll never stop learning so if learning is something you’re drawn to you will love web development. If you google the answer to random questions that you don’t know, or you google check other peoples “facts” you will love web development. If you find that learning new things cause you to go down a rabbit hole of information until you are satisfied with your level of knowledge on that topic you will love web development. It really is that simple. The capacity to learn is something that we all have. If you are aware of that capacity and you have a desire to pour knowledge into that bottomless pit, you will instantly fall in love with web development.