The Women Who Code Portland’s Networking Night Series is a speaker series that highlights the work of women at a different tech company each month, organized around a selected theme.As the sun set over the Willamette River in Portland, the Women Who Code Portland (WWCode Portland) community gathered for another great evening of networking. Only, this wasn’t just any ordinary night. On this special night, this amazing group gathered to celebrate its fifth anniversary.An amazing group gathers to celebrate WWCode Portland’s 5th anniversary!What began as WWCode Portland Senior Director and Founder Caterina Paun’s desire to “find others in tech she could hang out with” has since blossomed into a “career support group” for so many women in tech across the city and surrounding area.WWCode Portland Senior Director and Founder Caterina Paun, with Co-Directors Richa Khandelwal and Keeley HammondWhat a better place to hold such a milestone event than in a space named for Ada Lovelace, renowned mathematician and writer, a space that New Relic makes available to bring groups together across Portland (it holds nearly 20 events here monthly). New Relic has hosted each of WWCode Portland’s anniversary celebrations, and the group is thankful for their support. Erin Dieterich, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at New Relic, offered a warm welcome and congratulated WWCode Portland on such a significant milestone.“Congratulations to WWCode Portland for this miraculous milestone of growth and community. We’re happy to play a part in this community, and hope everyone is able to achieve the dream of their career.” — Erin Dieterich, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at New RelicMarty Nelson, CEO at Alchemy Code Lab, home to WWCode Portland’s office and operations, also joined the festivities to compliment the group on such a great accomplishment.“We have a shared value for providing opportunities for women in tech, and are proud to congratulate Women Who Code Portland on this significant milestone.”—Marty Nelson, CEO at Alchemy Code LabMarty Nelson, CEO, Alchemy Code LabThe room buzzed with energy as Caterina and Co-Directors Richa Khandelwal and Keeley Hammond welcomed all of us. They reflected on what they’ve accomplished in their last five years, and encouraged us to do the same. “We’ve grown so much in five years. It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come,” said Caterina, who had just graduated from grad school the day before.Co-Director Keeley Hammond addresses the audience and shares her experience over the last five years, moving to Portland and from the advertising world into tech.“It was about five years ago that I changed careers and entered tech,” said Alex Altieri, WWCode Portland’s Networking Nights Lead, who then took the stage to talk about the group’s mission. With over 175,000 members in 60 states and 20 countries, this non-profit group seeks to empower women with the skills they need to stay in tech and advance their careers. By creating a thriving community of women, the group uses the power of its network to connect its members to life-changing opportunities. The Portland chapter itself boasts 35+ leaders and volunteers who host over 350 events a year for its 3,500+ members, which include networking nights, study nights, workshops and an annual IoT Hackathon. In addition to these events, this community is sustained through a Slack channel and monthly newsletter as well as channels on Github, Medium, Twitter and Instagram. And the community takes its Code of Conduct — and the enforcement of this code — seriously, ensuring an inviting, inclusive environment for everyone.The theme of the panel: Leading with IntentCaterina then welcomed four incredible women to the stage for a thoughtful discussion focused on Leading with Intent. The lively discussion focused on challenges, accomplishments and insights gained over the women’s careers — from the importance of finding strong mentors, advocating for themselves and managing burnout, to advice they would’ve given their younger selves and where they’d like to be five years from now — with a surprise twist at the end!“If somebody has lifted you up, you need to lift them up.” — Miki DemeterMiki Demeter—Security Researcher, Intel; WWCode Portland Evangelist; Founder, Women of Security, Portland Chapter; TrevorChat Crisis Counselor; Member, Board of Directors, Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District; and Portland Women in Tech Ambassador; Diana Initiative.Miki Demeter is a vibrant, positive force, both in the world of security and in advocating for underrepresented women and minorities in the STEM fields. As incredible as her 35 years of experience in hardware, software and open source experience is — she’s currently a security researcher at Intel — her community work is equally amazing (perhaps even more so). Miki is a WWCode Portland Evangelist, Founder of the Women of Security’s Portland chapter, TrevorChat Crisis Counselor, Board of Directors Member for the Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District, Portland Women in Tech Ambassador, and actively works with the Diana Initiative.After introducing herself, she quickly followed with, “I would not be where I am if it were not for great mentors, and people who have worked with me, and people who have lifted me up. If somebody has lifted you up, you need to lift them up.”Replay of the Introductions and Panel: Leading with IntentMiki reflected on her journey over the last five years with wit and humor. “I tell people I literally get paid to argue! Intel is one of the largest open source contributors in the world — they’re also one of the largest open source consumers. [Miki is a product security expert for open source issues and manages internal dispute resolution for the open source whitelist process at Intel.] When I worked as a security engineer in Intel’s Open Source Technology Center, I was finding that I’d argue with people but couldn’t tell them what to do, so I finally decided to go work for the corporate level of security. Now I actually get to tell people, ‘No, you can’t do that,’ to which they say, ‘But, I want to,’ and I say, ‘Well, go ask your VP or Business Unit (BU) Leader to sign off on that.’ None of our VPs or BU Leaders want to put their necks on the line, so I don’t get overruled anymore!”Caterina may have had the perfect response: “I think there’s a theme there: Don’t mess with Miki!”Miki shared her insights about the importance of mentorship. “Never underestimate the power of finding a good mentor. I’ve been in this business for 35 years, and I found the right people to help me learn and help propel me. Research the people you’re thinking of who can help you, and think about what you can you give back to them,” she urged. She continued by explaining, “I work in open source, so I looked at who was contributing, submitting pull requests, getting their features accepted, being vocal on mailing lists. I reached out to people like Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox early on and said, ‘Tell me what I’m doing wrong, how I can do better.’“Never be afraid to ask questions,” Miki reflected. “In the tech business, there really is no dumb question. The only thing you want to avoid is not learning from doing, not learning from your mistakes.”Over the last couple of years, Miki has become more visible and vocal. Today, she receives abundant requests to speak publicly, both at Intel and in the community. After thanking WWCode Portland — and Caterina, specifically — for nudging her to step outside her comfort zone, Miki talked about the opportunities and drawbacks that have come with this visibility. “Once you become a very visible, vocal advocate, folks come to you for answers, which can be very hard,” she explained. “But the good has outweighed the bad. I’m able to advocate better for women and for LGBTQ people, and give back as much as I can.”Managing burnout has been one of Miki’s greatest challenges: “It gets very hard to say no once you start doing this — it’s one of the hardest things I’ve found. I get so busy and then, when there’s a lull, I feel like there’s something wrong. I keep looking for more and more, and I keep submitting for more and more.” When affectionately prompted by Caterina for how to manage through this, Miki added with a smile, “I drink wine!”In our careers, we often face difficult choices — which opportunities, or paths, do we pursue? Miki provided candid advice, as she considers a significant career shift. “I’ve been working in software, hardware and open source for 35 years, and now I’m actually looking at making a complete career change — working in diversity and inclusion — which is much more aligned with my passions,” revealed Miki. “Don’t be afraid to branch out. Don’t be afraid to change your career direction.”When asked what she anticipates within the next five years, Miki reflected on her advocacy work and the ageism that women face, “Ageism is a real thing. Men don’t face the same ageism that women do; women are overlooked. I look forward to advocating for older women.”“Ignore the 1%.”—Vaidehi JoshiVaidehi Joshi—Engineer, Tilde Inc.; Host, base.cs weekly writing series; Co-Host, base.cs podcast series; Producer, base.cs video series.You need look no further than Google to find that Vaidehi Joshi is a prolific writer, blogger, podcaster, speaker, coder and so much more, with a vivacious, effervescent style that makes you want to sit down with her for a lengthier discussion to pick her brain about varied topics. In June 2014, she moved from freelance writer to coder, switching the trajectory of her career and marrying the creative with the technical to do all the things she loves. Her passion lies in creating friendly resources and insights for others based on what she has learned in her own career. As self-proclaimed Rubyist, writer and former teacher who loves creating things for other humans, Vaidehi is an engineer at Tilde Inc. (she works on Skylight there), host of the base.cs weekly writing series, co-host of the associated podcast series and producer of the base.cs video series.So where did Vaidehi start, and how did she navigate her journey? “My first step was to start. I started by writing down what I didn’t know \u0026amp; googled those things. I decided to bite off a little bit at a time and take baby steps to fill in the gaps. This then led to other things. You’ll always have things you don’t know, so figure out how you learn and how you fill in these gaps.”She shared what motivates her about her work as she reflected over the last five years. “I used to be terrified to give a talk,” she explained. “Today, it’s really nice to be invited, to speak about anything I want. It’s empowering to go into communities that maybe I’m not even a part of and feel like I have something to say. For someone who creates content (for free), it’s really awesome to get the feedback that something I wrote or talked about or podcasted helped someone in some way, helped someone get that job. It’s validating, especially when you’re online, to get that feedback from your audience. It’s easy for some folks — the 1% — to criticize without thinking about the 10 hours invested to research and write a blog post. The more you lift others up, and the more you validate the value of what you bring to the table and what you’re capable of, you start to ignore that 1%. Ignore the 1%!”About managing burnout, Vaidehi explained, “Early in your career, it’s a funnel problem — you put things into the funnel with the thought that ‘I hope one of these works.’ As your career grows, it’s no longer a funnel problem, now it’s a pipe problem — there are more opportunities coming in [than what you can handle]. You still only have 24 hours in a day and you can’t say ‘yes’ to all of these opportunities or your pipe will get clogged. But I think the way I’ve reframed it — and it’s made me feel less guilty about saying ‘no’ to things — is that you need to think about it in the big picture. Careers are long — and it’s important for you to be there in 10 years, in 20 years, in 30 years. If you front-load everything, and you get exhausted and burn out, then there’s a chance that you may not actually make it to 30 years. That’s such a terrible shame because you have so much to offer. Reframing it as, I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything because I’m in it for the long haul, has really helped me.”Many of us face Imposters Syndrome, and Vaidehi talked about how she addresses this very real issue. “The sooner you get comfortable with the reality that you will never know everything, especially in this industry, the better. Reflect on what you do know, find confidence in that, and share that knowledge with others.”So, what are Vaidehi’s aspirations for the next five years? “To lead a technical team to solve really hard problems. To teach and mentor others, and to be there when the lightbulbs turn on for them.”“It takes a lot of hard work and advocating for yourself, but I truly believe that once that happens, people start recognizing you.”—Steph NguyenSteph Nguyen—VP, Product \u0026amp; Design, Flashfood; Director, Women Who Code Toronto.Last year, Stephanie “Steph” Nguyen was named Tech in Motion Finalist for Best Tech Manager. While Steph is a highly accomplished designer (UX/UI and graphic design) and software developer, it was clear during the night’s panel discussion that inspiring others to achieve their career aspirations lies at the heart of her ambition. Her passions include “bridging the gap between technology and humans, advocating for visible minorities within the industry, and building usable products to get them into the hands of real users.” When asked what she’d like to accomplish in the next five years, she responded, “I don’t have a personal desire to elevate in my own career. I really want to build a strong, healthy team of designers, product managers and software engineers.” Outside of her current position as VP of Product \u0026amp; Design at Flashfood, Steph volunteers as Director for Women Who Code Toronto, planning community events and encouraging women to excel in their technology careers.By sharing her journey in tech, Steph emphasized the importance of advocating for yourself. “It takes a lot of advocating and hard work, but I truly believe that once that happens, people start recognizing you,” said Steph. Steph held a stable, secure job in education at a university — and designing for clients on the side — when she decided to leave the security of this job, learn how to code, and pursue a career in the tech world. Pushing herself hard, she worked initially as a software developer at a small startup, and then moved to Flashstock, which was acquired by Shutterstock, where she worked in product design and was promoted to Design Lead.“When I worked as a Design Lead at Shutterstock, I had more responsibility but … I wasn’t learning as much and wanted to learn more. I asked myself, ‘How can I learn more? What was I ready for?’ I decided I was ready for a larger team to mentor. There was a Canadian crypto company, Coinsquare, looking for senior designers. I told them, ‘Let me know when you’re looking for design leadership.’ And they got back to me. So, I saw an opportunity, met with their VP, got a job as a Director, then pushed \u0026amp; advocated for myself.” Steph took a position as Director of Design at Coinsquare at time when crypto currency was taking a dip, practicing a high degree of risk taking. Today, she works as VP of Product and Design of Flashfood, an app that allows users to purchase quality items at steep discounts while enabling grocers to reduce inventory loss and increase revenue.Steph also provided creative tips to seek career advice: “Be self-aware and figure out what you want to do … Show what you want. You have nothing to lose.” She wanted to be a manager and sought out folks she thought could help guide her for advice through LinkedIn. “I reached out to Directors of Design at high-visibility companies via LinkedIn. I asked how to build a stronger team. And I gained two years’ experience of being in the field, and validating my thoughts. This was very useful to me. You have nothing to lose — the worst thing they can do is ignore you or tell you no. I received a 75% response rate.”When asked how she manages burnout, Steph responded, “I like to live under the mantra of, ‘Work hard, play hard.’ Balance my work with things that I like to do … Eliminate the stuff that you’re not passionate about. I started to feel burnout when I was doing a lot of things that weren’t interesting to me. Right now, I do a lot but it’s all stuff that I’m really passionate about, so I’m not feeling burnout.”“Share where you want to go, ask how to get there and put yourself out there.”—Amber MilavecAmber Milavec—Senior Principal Technical Architect at a footwear manufacturer in Beaverton, Oregon; Creator, We Code Hackathon for Women \u0026amp; Friends.As a senior principal technical architect at a little shoe company in Beaverton (wink, wink) where she has worked for eighteen years, Amber Milavec shared a similar chord with Steph, but with a different yet equally successful outcome. When asked about her journey over the last five years, Amber shared that, as a self-proclaimed introvert, she has navigated her way through the professional ranks by putting herself out there, sharing what she has learned and communicating what she has to offer. “Share where you want to go, ask how to get there and put yourself out there,” she encouraged.Amber’s starting point — what she calls her “icebreaker” — was a presentation about Elastic Beanstalk in front of 300 people at AWS re-Invent in 2013. Since then, she has become a frequent speaker at Nike Women of Digital and Women of STEM events, regularly runs architecture Community of Practice sessions, and created a We Code Hackathon for Women and Friends. Today, she designs cloud-based (AWS) solutions for product launches at Nike Digital ensuring that the latest shoe launches come off without a hitch.It’s important to understand and do what inspires you, even if it doesn’t align with others’ opinions, as Amber revealed. Through unique experiences, she has discovered that she savors the role of individual contributor at highly innovative companies. She explained, “Throughout my career, I had people pushing me towards management — they thought I’d be a good manager, but I wasn’t sure. I had an amazing opportunity a year ago to shadow the CIO. It was the most amazing day of my career … to see how leadership at that level works, to observe that level of influence, how they listen, and what kinds of decisions they face. And I thought, this is not what I want to do. I found that I wanted to continue to be an IC for a while.”As a result, Amber has pursued increasingly senior individual contributor roles. “I looked at our company’s career grid. I was working within the third level in my area, and I found that I was already doing many of the things in the fourth level and a few in the fifth level as well. So, I asked ‘How do I get to the fifth level?’ I began sharing where I wanted to go, asking how to get there, and putting myself out there — in multiple conversations.”So, how does Amber manage burnout? “I read more — and turn everything off. And instead of going back to work after my kids go to bed in the evenings, I’ve been playing really ridiculous games from the 90s, like Red Alert! I’m not back at a computer working 12 hours a day.”Panelists turn the tables on their fearless moderator!As the panel discussion drew to a close, Miki turned the tables, delighting the audience by asking Caterina where she wanted to see the Women Who Code Portland group in five years. “The best thing about WWCode Portland is the incredible community we’ve built. We’re not only friends, we’re our own amazing career support group in many ways. In five years, I’d love to see us continue to grow, continue to be each other’s support system, and remain a force in this industry!”Now let’s turn the tables on you, our readers! As you reflect on the last five years, what are your greatest accomplishments? And looking forward, what would you like to accomplish and where would you like to be?Check out this highlights reel of the evening!Highlights Reel of the event, featuring our speakers discussing what Women Who Code means to them.