Sometimes, a bad joke is the only thing there to help out

I still had a couple hours until my technical workshop at Women Who Code Connect Forward started...

I still had a couple hours until my technical workshop at Women Who Code Connect Forward started...

But I was already experiencing the various stages of pre-public speaking nerves: butterflies in my stomach, brief bouts of imposter syndrome, dry mouth.

If you’ve ever presented anything to a group, you know the feeling. A few minutes into the presentation, though, I finally found a foothold that levelled things out: a corny Lord of the Rings-influenced joke about the “one bot to rule the mall.”

My nerves were actually just a short prelude to an enormously fulfilling experience. The event — a virtual global conference focused on providing education and opportunity to women developers, by women developers — was insanely gratifying from start to finish, and I’m so glad I was lucky enough to be a part of it.

The conference and everyone involved with it, created a wonderful space for women to learn from, share with and connect with each other. The organizers fostered a wonderful, supportive environment not just for women, but for LGBTQ attendees and the larger community. There were talks about career advancement, leadership tactics, skill and knowledge building like the workshop I led, along with lots of other topics.

We need these spaces

It was really nice to see this happening in action, and it’s also really important. Women have different experiences than men —especially in tech. We have to deal with a lot of BS, intentional and not, that men don’t have to. Whether it’s someone being dismissive of your ideas, not recognizing your experience or leadership, or “mansplaining,” the lovely art of a man explaining something to a woman online who is already an expert in that thing. It happens in all different contexts, places and degrees of severity in our professional lives.

I always think about a time at a past job at a consultancy where I went to present ideas to a client along with my male boss.I was the lead on the project for everything technical — the design and coding of the app we were working on. We all sat around a huge boardroom table, myself, my boss and nine other men, and they asked my boss a question about the things I was in charge of, he deferred to me and I answered. Then, it happened again. And again, and again.

I was the person with the answers in the room, but also clearly on the wrong end of the power dynamic.This is not an uncommon experience.

A supportive environment to grow

Another thing that made it so great to lead this workshop was that the reason I got to participate in Women Who Code CONNECTForward is because I know I have a whole team of supportive co-workers and leadership behind me.

During my two years here, SOUTHWORKS has been an incredibly supportive environment. I have never felt that being young or being a woman has held me back at all. I get brought into projects to help if they’re in my areas of expertise and our entire culture is built around listening, trusting your teammates and letting them do what they do best. It’s wonderful to be valued because of my knowledge instead of my gender. This made attending the conference as a representative of SOUTHWORKS that much better.

Not every workplace is like this however, so conferences like Women Who Code CONNECT Forward are essential. Events like these let women know that, despite what they’ve been taught or told, they can do this, and that message alone is really important. If I hadn’t heard from a high school teacher that I had potential as a developer, who knows where I’d be right now?

I’m so happy that I was able to contribute something to this community (a contribution, by the way, that wouldn’t have been possible without the help I got from the team here at SOUTHWORKS who helped build the workshop and the presentation).

And also without League of Legends and geeky humor.

As I sat with Vivian, the coordinator who helped prepare me for my talk, she noticed I was a bit nervous and, being the pro that she is, had read that I play League of Legends and immediately turned our conversation over to that. A few minutes of talking about mages, slayers and tanks calmed me down a bit.

All that was left to do was tell a bad joke.