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Career Nav #63: Celebrating WWCode’s 2022 Leadership Fellows – Part One

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Written by WWCode TeamSeptember 18, 2023

Manda Frederick, Program Communication Manager at Women Who Code, sits down with women from the Fourth Annual Cohort of the Women Who Code Leadership Fellow Program. This program supports the development of six outstanding technologists through hands-on mentorship and training. The tracks are Mobile, Frontend, Cloud, Data Science, Python, and Blockchain, known as Emerging Tech moving forward. She talks with Luz Aracely De Leon, Front End Specialist at Accenture and WWCode Front End Leadership Fellow, Mansi Aggarwal, Student, Data Scientist, and WWCode Data Science Leadership Fellow, and Rashmi Muralidharan, Software Engineer at VMware and WWCode Cloud Leadership Fellow.

What is one word that you would use to describe your time here in the last year as a leader fellow? 

Rashmi: One word is inspirational. I'm inspired by the way people want to learn something new. They want to deliver something new and share their ideas with the community. 

Luz: My word is revealing. I didn't know how much I could handle. I am in charge of ideating social media strategy and planning events. At times, you wear many different hats. Between managing the work and the Track, I didn't know I could do all of it. I feel more prepared and empowered to have more direction.

Mansi: I would say rewarding. I'm very fortunate that I had good managerial leadership experiences early in my career. I had no prior experience in managing or leading teams. It's been fun meeting people across the world. It was nice to have women managers and powerful, inspirational women around me. 

How did you do it?

Mansi: Women Who Code is a very nourishing community. Before joining the fellowship program, I volunteered with the data science track for a year. My previous fellow, Zareen, encouraged me to apply. She let us all know that we were doing good work and made sure we were aware of our accomplishments. Women Who Code stands by its mission and appreciates the work of its members. We celebrate each other's very small achievements as well. That was encouraging.

Rashmi: Grecia and Stephanie support us. Every time I've reached out to them for any help or if I've made a small mistake, they were so cool. That’s the kind of encouragement and support I got from the community. All of us need a community where people appreciate us and accept us.

Luz: Grecia and Stephanie have been an amazing support to us. Somebody always had the answer whenever someone asked something widespread the rest of the Women Who Code team. It felt like friends that were working together. It made you feel more encouraged and empowered in your role. 

Aside from community, what was your favorite moment over the last year as fellows?

Mansi: We hosted a mentorship program for the data science track last year, where we onboarded 25 mentees and six mentors. It's nice that it's reaching the people we want and it's creating the impact we want to see in people attending our sessions. 

Rashmi: Stephanie and Grecia were asking me if I felt that there were a few volunteers who had the potential to be promoted to other roles. One of the volunteers was doing well. She was taking a lot of initiative. I told her that she was getting promoted to the lead role. The moment I told her, she was on cloud nine. That's my most favorite moment.

Luz: It was when I started seeing the volunteers taking more action over activities I used to handle. Seeing that they felt empowered in the community to do something was rewarding.

What did you accomplish this year that made you feel extra proud? 

Luz: I feel proud that the community is a safe space where everybody can join, do coding, partner, join the events, and be themselves. 

Rashmi: During my journey here, as a leadership fellow, I have learned to be a leader, I need to have a good relationship with folks around me. That's one thing I'm proud of because that's one skill that I've really picked up through this journey. 

Mansi: Under my fellowship, I had an amazing team of volunteers, and the data science track reached 5,000 members on Slack and, eventually, the website. Knowing I was a part of that felt good. 

What excites you the most about your technical track or your tech stack? 

Luz: It's a practice. Frontend can be crossed with other practices like cloud data science and impact. Almost all the tracks have a collaboration event with Frontend, which is amazing. 

Mansi: I think the flexibility and the nature of data science can be applied to any industry because all industries generate data now. Seeing that many people from very different backgrounds join our track, the growth that the data science track and the field, in general, are seeing is very exciting. It's nice to see that people appreciate data's power and how to use it judiciously.

Rashmi: Everyone wants to learn more about cloud security now that they are hosting their applications on the cloud. So, most of them are very curious to learn about cloud security. Cloud security and cloud is a huge concept, but getting deeper into security excites me.

How do you feel that your experience doing the fellowship program will benefit you and your tech career? 

Rashmi: One notable thing is that I've connected with many folks, specifically a few who've pivoted into different roles and technologies. It's been very inspirational. They've given me some tips and tricks as to how I could grow.

Mansi: There was a significant moment last year when I came to a new country and had to get into academics. It was a big change. I applied for a pan Victoria women in technology scholarship by the Zonta Club of Melbourne. I talked about my work with the Women Who Code Volunteering Fellowship, which greatly impacted my getting that scholarship.

Luz: Besides the network, I believe it allowed me to polish my leadership style. I had the opportunity to polish it with a more human perspective and be able to work with different cultures, which is amazing. It allowed me to be a more consistent leader. It allowed me to polish my communication skills. 

Why do you think other people should join the Women Who Code Community? 

Rashmi: It's such a big, inclusive community. You meet a lot of new people. Another thing is for those who want to receive mentoring or assistance from folks, not within their actual workspace. Then I think this is the place. 

Luz: We all shared the same struggles and should have that support and empower each other. You will extend your contacts; it is a network that shares the same core values and mission. That's an amazing thing. You have nothing to lose. 

Mansi: When we talk about our resources and work, it's very accessible. We try to reach the grassroots basic levels, like teaching people how to code. I appreciate that Women Who Code does what it says, and we stand by our mission. 

What do you think is a really valuable thing that Women Who Code is offering to members? 

Luz: The learning resources. 

Mansi: Yes, the resources, YouTube and GitHub especially. 

Rashmi: I think pretty much the same thing. 

Why would you tell them they should consider applying to be a fellow? 

Rashmi: I think the Leadership fellowship is a big opportunity where you can pay it forward. This is such an amazing community. We have a lot of folks, volunteers, and leaders who will help us and guide us throughout the journey. There's no need for any apprehensions or fear in any form.

Luz: It's easy to think you are not ready or don't qualify. It happens to all of us. You have nothing to lose and an opportunity to polish your skills in whatever direction you want to take on your career. 

Mansi: It's important to see things through in your career or academics and not pass on opportunities. Apply even if you don't get the program; you get access to a wonderful community and can co-contribute in other ways.

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