Career Nav #64: Celebrating WWCode’s 2022 Leadership Fellows – Part Two
Manda Frederick, Program Communication Manager at Women Who Code, sits down with some fourth annual cohorts of the Women Who Code Leadership Fellowship Program. Joining Manda are leadership fellows Eliza Sarobhasa of the Python Track, Bhavya Barta of the Blockchain, now known as the Emerging Tech track, and Navati Jain of the Mobile track. They share some of their thoughts on technology their tech stacks, and the Women Who Code mission.
If you could summarize your experience over the last year as fellows with one word, what would it be and why?
NJ: My word would be growth. I've grown in various ways. There have been so many different challenges to work on. This has been an enriching experience. I've seen the track and volunteers grow and evolve.
ES: My word is fulfillment. I saw everything that the community members wanted to achieve, and they could do it. I shared that inner feeling of success that they had through their achievements. I was happy that they were succeeding.
BB: If I had to explain it in one word, I would call it a movie. In a movie, there's so much happening from start to end. There are so many ups and downs. It's like a long journey, but still very short-lived. So We did so much. The track went through so many things. It was packed into one year, and there's so much happening that you feel like it has been a very long time since we have been associated with Women Who Code, yet it always feels that it ended so soon.
What was your favorite moment of the year?
BB: The highlight for me was that I got caught up in personal situations one week and forgot to follow up. The volunteers were pretty inactive. We had been having issues trying to keep everyone's interest. We tried to understand what they were looking for and how to help them grow. When I could not follow up, we observed that they reached out. It was a major turning point, and I felt accomplished.
NJ: Every time I would meet the volunteers for planning, check-in meetings, or one-to-ones. I felt energized after hosting those meetings. Brainstorming ideas together, feeling creative, and realizing we have this shared passion for our work with Women Who Code and Tech. Even when it was a tiring day or a very intense phase, I would feel recharged. It motivated me to keep going, knowing that this work is impactful.
ES: The BlockDataPy conference because everyone was very energetic and active. The speakers were enthusiastic about what they were speaking about. The first session with the volunteers, the last session, the meetings with them, and starting and wrapping up the series were all fulfilling.
What's your most proud accomplishment from your time as a fellow?
ES: This past year, we've seen the tech landscape. Many people had layoffs, got sick, and had family issues. I'm proud the volunteers felt it was a safe community. If something were happening, they would immediately come to me and say, "Oh, I can't do this." They felt it was a comfortable and supportive environment in the Python Slack community. They felt ownership of what they were working on.
NJ: We successfully launched some interactive sessions and series that brought the community together. We had the iOS Study Circle and got through an entire book. We also had the Android Study Group. We've also launched another series called Let's Talk, where we talk about different mental health topics. We have plans to talk about some personal and professional growth topics. It was nice to get feedback from the participants. They felt validated and appreciated. I'm proud of them for making all of these series successful.
BB: For me, it was organizing the Solidity boot camp. We wanted to organize something that was a hands-on session to onboard them into the space. It was hard to find someone who could conduct an entire thing. Thankfully, we could do it last month, and it went pretty well. That was a turning point for all of us because we understood that this is something that we can implement in the future as well.
What excites you about your tech stack?
NJ: I enjoy Mobile because you can create apps for handheld devices. There's so much scope and so much to learn. You can create apps to help you with your productivity, habit-building, and mental health, or you can make a fun app. There are so many different problems that you can solve. You're not just restricted to mobile devices. Android and iOS are getting more and more similar. It’s great because some similar frameworks are coming up, like declarative UI. There's just so much to learn and play around with. I love that about this field.
BB: I picked up Emerging Tech as a stack because there's so much uncertainty around it when you're working with Emerging Technologies. There's so much space for innovation because there's nothing set. There's so much that can be done. That has been a pretty exciting space. Being in a community with a track like this increases your network of people who are naturally risk-takers. Everyone will have a different perspective to how it works because no one has set boundaries about it.
ES: Python makes it easy and convenient to automate certain tasks. It's pulling information from the files, creating documents, automating workflows, and creating dashboards. You can use it for gaming, to call out internet things, 3D printing, etc. There are so many things you can do.
How will your time as a Women Who Code fellow empower you, or has it already empowered your career?
ES: It's helped me look at both sides of the interviewing table. If you're hiring someone for your team, how can you identify the team vibe culture fit, and how can you help support them and grow their career?
NJ: Being on the other side of those interviews gives insights that you get from running a community like this. This is something I'd like to do more of. I have expressed interest in how we can make our interviews inclusive. I've seen growth for me at work. I believe it's taught me to speak up more, take on more risks, and bring up advocacy topics. Around the time I became a fellow at my company, I joined an Employee Resource Group. They have an allyship pillar. I started to talk about neurodiversity. We had a company-wide event called The Day of Inclusion. I was asked to host a panel and interview some of our colleagues. I remember reaching out to Gracie and Stephanie for some tips. My company seemed to appreciate my involvement with Women Who Code. They invited me for another session to discuss what I do at Women Who Code.
BB: I had always been interested in business, but given my background, I was always working as a technologist. I wanted to go on to more managerial roles, where I work as a strategist and a partnerships manager. I had always felt a block in communicating tech to non-tech people. When I came here, I had an opportunity to network with so many people, specifically to be in a community like this that constantly motivates me. I became comfortable in front of the camera. I became comfortable doing podcasts. Women Who Code made me start streaming as well. I decided that, okay, it's time I pivot, and I go to a more strategist role. I'm leading Women Who Code, which has completely changed my game.
Why should people join Women Who Code?
NJ: Women Who Code is a great way to find folks you can talk about tech topics and what it's like to work in tech. You can find that support. Women Who Code communities take their code of conduct very seriously. The communities are very inclusive and foster a safe space for you to have these discussions. You get to learn from different perspectives. You have folks from different parts of the world and in different tech stacks, and you can learn from them. If you want to help with the issues that we have with diversity or representation in tech, you can help be an ally and advocate for this. It's a great way to find mentors and peer mentors. It's a wholesome experience, basically, yeah.
BB: You'll always have people to help you navigate. You keep updated with the trends and what's happening in the industry, and you can start a discussion. It creates a safe space for you to try out new things. The best part is that you grow here, learn here, experiment here, and then have access to so many jobs. You find a friend here, you find your recruiter here, you find your co-founders here, so it's amazing.
ES: Obviously, there are more women here. It's also a sense of a warm community, the camaraderie, the coziness. You walk in, are welcome, and are supported when you want to learn something new.
Which resource from Women Who Code do you find most valuable?
ES: I ask what they want to learn, focus on, or grow. That can help narrow it down. If it's a student, they're looking for more projects to work on, maybe the scholarships, opportunities, and upskill themselves. If it's someone career-related, listen to the podcast, watch the events online, and connect with people who are maybe on LinkedIn, people who spoke at the conferences or on the podcast, learn more. You can get technical mentorship.
NJ: We have all these resources and recordings on our YouTube, and I love that we have different formats. We also have the podcast if you want to consume it as an audio thing. You could find a lot of career topics being covered. If you are considering being a speaker for the first time, there's a lot of content that we've produced about that.
BB: For someone who does not have a fair idea about what they want to do in the community, I would say the podcast is a good place to start. It gives you varying perspectives from senior leaders, fellows, and volunteers. You get a perspective on technical concepts. You get career navigation advice. You get to know more about the local networks and tracks. It's a good introductory format for the community.
Why should someone apply to be a Women Who Code leadership fellow?
NJ: It's a leadership fellowship, so you can practice your leadership skills. You get to learn more about yourself as a leader. It's a great way to build some skills that complement your technical ones and also a great way to create an impact on the community. You get to empower volunteers to work on events and tasks that interest them. You help them grow. We celebrate the efforts of volunteers and members. Just like the culture at Women Who Code, we applaud one another. This is a great leadership skill to increase the visibility of the other folks in the community because I think that's a great way to also help with the diversity representation in tech.
ES: I was previously director, so I was familiar with the Women Who Code community and running events, podcasts, and designs. One of the main philosophies that I've learned is just giving back to the community. I received so much support and resources from being a community member, participating, and attending.
BB: You are learning leadership skills from people all over the world. It's a great avenue, especially for someone seeking senior leadership roles. It is a great space to experiment and make mistakes because this place will put you out of your comfort zone and ask you to step up again and again. You will enjoy it if you apply.
Host: Manda Frederick, Program Communication Manager at Women Who Code
Guest: Eliza Sarobhasa, WWCode Python Track Fellowship Leaders
Guest: Bhavya Barta, WWCode Blockchain / Emerging Tech Track Leadership Fellow
Guest: Navati Jain, WWCode Mobile Track Leadership Fellow