Women Who Code 2016 Conference – Takeaways

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Women Who Code CONNECT conference in Seattle. It was a two-day-long technical conference featuring a ton of awesome technical and career talks from inspiring women in tech, plus workshops and networking and all that good stuff.

All the speakers were fantastic. Some of the highlights for me were Maira Benjamin, Director of Engineer at Pandora, who shared some of the valuable lessons she learned during her 30 years as a woman in tech; Neha Batra from Pivotal Labs, who did a tech talk on pair programming that convinced me that I really want to try it; and Nandini Ramani, VP of Engineering at Twitter, who shared her compelling life story and lessons her grandmother in India taught her.

I came away from the conference with a lot of notes and action items. In no particular order, here are some of my takeaways:

  • Monitoring – there was a really good session by Tasneem Minadakis,  who recently implemented a monitoring system at Yelp. Having never built out a monitoring system myself, it was really interesting learning all that goes into it – identifying and visualizing metrics, thresholding, determining alertable metrics, and alerting. I might try making a simple one for one of my apps, just for the experience.
  • Try to meet one new person a week. Emily Carrion talked about this in her Informal Mentorship session – if you meet just one new person a week, that’s 52 people a year! Connections are very very important in this industry (and really any other), so a lot of opportunities can come from that. I’ve been achieving this goal by attending at least one meetup each week.
  • When you’ve learned all you can at your current role, that’s usually a sign that it’s time to leave. Several speakers actually mentioned this. You don’t want to be stuck coasting along after you’ve hit a plateau – you want to be in a position where you are constantly learning and being challenged. It’s nice to be in a comfortable and easy position, but that’s typically not how people grow and improve.
  • Manage your tech career. This was the subject of a whole workshop by Elizabeth Ferrao. The important aspect for me was having a goal of where you want to be in so many years, and a plan for exactly how you are going to achieve that goal – including a)extracurricular activities you can do, and b)identifying skills that will help to get there. For example, I’m always working towards becoming a better software developer. My goal is to become a “senior” software dev – not in title, but in terms of gaining the experience and knowledge necessary to be an excellent software craftsman. So in my case, an extracurricular activity I can do to become a better developer is continue teaching coding/CS concepts to others. A couple skills that I identified as being helpful along the way to my goal are system architecture and design patterns, so I’ve been refreshing myself on those.
  • Pay it forward! I’ve been lucky to have had some awesome people supporting me during my career journey, and I’m looking forward to doing the same for others. During the conference, a few people who were just starting out in their tech careers, or thinking about starting, asked for my advice. It was uncomfortable at first, because I’m really only a few years into my career myself and certainly no expert, but it felt good to pass on some of the things I’ve learned along the way, and hopefully help others out so they don’t have to learn these things the hard way (like I have a few times!). One thing I definitely want to get back into is volunteering, so I’ll be doing that as well.

Overall it was a great and inspiring conference, and I’m looking forward to next year’s!

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