People In Tech

Many of you will know me as Sheree Atcheson, a 23 year old software engineer who works at Kainos, or as Sheree Atcheson who founded Women Who Code UK (or more likely, Sheree Atcheson, who posts too many photos of her dog).

alfs

As someone who is an advocate for people in tech, I wanted to share my experiences thus far. I never fully realized the gender bias in IT until I made a notable effort to see it. It’s always been that way – in my Computing A Level class, on the forums I posted on in my teenage years, in my CS university class (where out of 100 men, we only had 10 women) and then in work. It’s only when I properly sat down and thought about the huge effect this has on the tech industry, that I realized I needed to do something about it. We cannot innovate with only half the population.

As a software engineer, I write code. I find/create bugs. I do a lot of the same work that I imagine a lot of you do too. As well as that, I’m working everyday to eradicate the gender bias that is so glaringly apparent in our industry. If I look around my office, there are only 5 other ladies. There are 15 men. This is a common head count across the majority of the offices here. Look around your office? What is your split? I have no issue with the large number of men in here. What I do have an issue with is the small number of women.

If I were to ask any of the women in here do they have a problem with the number of men in here, I could guarantee that they’d say no. We’re all here to get a job done, and help each other along the way. I have asked almost everyone in this room for help at least once (their gender isn’t important to me. Their knowledge on my problem is). And every single person has been helpful – both male and female. We are all just people in tech.

I’m writing this post because I’ve seen some very unsettling opinions from women in tech and they have deeply annoyed/upset me. I founded WWC UK because I want there to be an equal representation of both genders in this industry. I want women to know that the current people in tech want them here and that more than that, they need them here. I have actively sourced several male speakers for my events, (and we’ve even had our first male attendee). My view is that regardless of what gender you are, if you can bring something interesting and insightful to my attendees, then I want you there. If a woman is a specialist in a field, then I want her to share her knowledge. If it is a man, then likewise. However, I’ve seen quite a lot of negative portrayal of all “men in tech” from certain women. And this angers me.  Let me share some examples with you.

I attended SXSW this year. I attended several Women In Tech sessions. One session I attended was “Getting non-tech women into tech”.  At this session, a lot of women were sharing their “IT Horror Stories”. I appreciate this. I understand some people have had negative experiences in tech at the hand of their peers. However, this quickly turned into a “sexism against men” session. One lady stated that she was accused of “selling her body for marketing space” by her (male) boss and because of that she would “never (which was strongly emphasised) work for another man again”. Another lady stated that her boss constantly told her she was inadequate and she stated that she “didn’t know what to do because it’s just a standard male insecurity that I have to put up with”. These replies were responded with cheering, clapping and “holla”s. Obviously these bosses are hugely unprofessional and in the wrong, but it is wholly unfair to tarnish all men with that same brush. The issue here isn’t the person being male, but rather that they’re unethical and unprofessional.

I can sympathise with any woman (or man) who has been put in an inappropriate situation like this, however if we veer so closely (and cross that line) to sexism, then how are we any better than the people we have an issue with? These negative traits aren’t attached to one gender – all people can be ruthless, and branding all of the opposite gender because of a bad experience means you are part of the problem.

Furthermore, a lot of you may be aware of the recent Valleywag Gawker article, in which users of a dating app are likened to the Comfort Women of WW2. Obviously, this is grossly inappropriate and offending. People all over the world having complained about it. I noticed however, one lady took her views a step (in my opinion) too far and stated that “Men in tech don’t support women in tech. They assault, rape, harass, stalk us, make jokes about it, stay silent about what happens to us”. Isn’t this sexism? Isn’t this tarring all men with the same opinionated brush?

Sure, her views might be in the minority, but they’re still noticed (which could be seen by the retweets and favourites on said tweet). And just like all of the negative views of the different men in tech we have seen, such as Pax Dickinson, they still make an impact.

I replied back to her and stated that she must mean some men in tech, because saying all makes her just as bad as those men she is referencing. Unfortunately, she swiftly told me to “f–k off”, proceeded to continuously post sexist tweets and that was that.

This issue has arisen several times now, and it saddens me each time it does. Because it undoes a lot of good work so many men and women are doing to try and create equality in this industry. Increasing the number of women in tech is something that the entire IT industry has to be focused on – men and women alike. There is no “them and us”.  I have been helped by so many people in this industry. And I thank each and every one of you for all of your support in Women Who Code UK. Without the help I’ve received from people like Tom Gray, Matt Johnston, Emma Leahy, Basil McCrea, Emma Mulqueeny, Mairtin O’Muilleour , Mary McKenna so many more, WWC UK wouldn’t be where it is today.

At the end of the day, there is one business that we are all passionate about and we best work together to make this sector flourish.

Thanks for reading,

Sheree

- WWC UK Founder

 

Women Who Code London

On the 25th of March, we had the first Women Who Code London event at FDMGroup.

Photo 1

Firstly, huge thanks to FDMGroup for sponsoring our first event and supporting us on our WWC London journey. FDMGroup is well known for it’s efforts in empowering women in tech through many initiatives which you can see here.

We had 50 ladies signed up for this event, and 39 turned up. I consider that a win because this was our group’s (which is relatively unknown) first free event.

After the ladies were seated, Emer Coleman (ex-GDS, now founder of Dsrptn) spoke of how she studied History/Sociology at University College Cork tech. She imparted wisdom on how she took the skills she learnt from that degree and applied them to the tech related jobs that she has now been a part of. I chose Emer for this first event because she is truly inspirational. She honed her skills, decided what she wanted to do, moved her entire family from Dublin to London, and now fronts her very own company.

Photo 3

After Emer finished up, Rosario of Coderwave began the tech session on Ruby/Sinatra. Rosario was exceptional at answering all questions from the audience, putting everyone at ease and ensuring no one was left behind. I look forward to working with him in the future.

Photo 4

Afterwards, the ladies all stayed behind to network and create some future connections. One lady came to talk to me and told me how she was considering not coming along because she didn’t know anyone, but then decided to stick it out and attend. She then said that she was so glad she did because she realised “WWC was a safe non-judgemental learning environment”.

Photo 2

I’d say that’s a pretty big win.

Here’s to the next one, with Zoe Cunningham & Pawel Krawczyk on Dealing with Security Issues in Software.

As always, you can RSVP here for future WWC London events, and if you have any queries about any aspect of our London branch, please email london@womenwhocode.co.uk.

Cheers,

Sheree

-WWC UK Founder

WWC Belfast in The_Thread

Hi guys,

At our January event, The_Thread  came along and shot some footage.

In this interview, I wanted to cover what we’re about and why we’re needed. I hope I’ve done you all proud. As I’ve always said, my main aim is to create a local haven for all you ladies, so as you can hear about the inspirational women on your doorstep and realise “Y’know what? I can do that too!”.

Check it out here.

Cheers,

Sheree

-WWC UK Founder

 

We are one of Belfast’s Leading Tech Startups!

Hi all,

Great news. Late 2013, the Observer contacted me about WWC Belfast appearing in a Guardian article about Belfast’s Leading Tech Startups.

The article was published last week. Check it out here.

photo 2 (4)

The photo, taken in the fantastic Titanic Drawing Rooms, is something we’re very proud to have been a part of.

Observer Tech SupplementWWC Belfast has been hugely successful and as some of you may know, WWC London has just opened last week. Already, we have 77 members and I have no doubt that we will replicate WWC Belfast’s success over in London.

Many thanks,

Sheree

-WWC UK Founder

WWC Belfast’s 2nd event

Hi all,

This week hosted the 2nd Women Who Code Belfast event, hosted in the MC Breakout room at Kainos Software. 

600_322035242
This event was somewhat more technical than the last as it’s topic was Intro to ruby (with Heather Campbell). I chose this topic because I wanted people to be able to try something new, and have a basis for working on it further at home/at other WWC Belfast events (there will be intermediate, advanced etc level classes in the future).

ShereeAtcheson_NaomhMcElhatton

As always, I opened the event then quickly passed to Naomh McElhatton, who I chose as my inspirational speaker.

highres_322035302
I chose Naomh because like a lot of my attendees, she started of in a career completely unrelated to tech (teaching), decided to take a leap and is now in charge of several hugely successful companies (which she founded herself).

Naomh talked extensively about why she chose to make the jump and how it’s mostly always been a positive experience but that you will face opposition and some negativity. She told a story about being the only woman at a tech conference, whilst 8 months heavily pregnant, and having one person come up to her and ask her why she was there since she was a woman. Obviously this shocked the audience, but she cited it as a way for her to work harder and not let silly comments from other people affect you negatively.

Naomh’s main point throughout her session was to always be passionate, and always choose a career that enables you to do so.

highres_322035332 (1)

After Naomh finished, Heather Campbell of Kainos Software , began her session on ruby. Heather’s session covered the beginnings of the world of Ruby and I applaud her on the amount of effort she put into her slides, exercises and ensuring everyone was on the same page. Thanks again Heather!

This event was packed out (same as the last) and from RSVPs on the next February event – Create your own website in a session, the next one will follow suit.

As always, you can follow WWC Belfast on twitter and if you have any queries, please mail queries@womenwhocode.co.uk.

Sheree

-WWC Belfast Founder

BigAmbition Interview

Hi guys,

As you know, more and more people are becoming interested in the work we’re doing here at Women Who Code Belfast.

After I spoke to 300+ girls at BringItOn‘s “IT Girls” event earlier this month, BigAmbition contacted me about an interview for their website. And of course, I jumped at the chance.

You can check the interview out here. 
I’d love to hear back from anyone who reads it.

As a sidenote, WWC Belfast is expanding, and we’ll soon be UK wide. Watch this space.

Have a great Christmas, and I look forward to bringing you some very exciting news in 2014.

Sheree

-WWC Belfast Founder

WWC Belfast on BBC Radio Ulster

Hi all,

As you know, people have been getting very excited about us. I’m very proud to be part of this tech community that is so interested in supporting and watching WWC Belfast grow. So thank you to all involved.

Alongside this, I have been interviewed by the Observer about WWC, and I will be in the tech issue, out on the 12th of January.

Today, I was interviewed by BBC Radio Ulster for Good Morning Ulster 05/12/2013.

Check it out here. I kick in around 56.10.

I’ll also be on Citybeat today talking about what it’s like to work for Kainos Software and how they’ve supported me through my work on Women Who Code Belfast and beyond.

Cheers,

Sheree

-WWC Belfast Founder

Our First Event

Hi all,

Yesterday was the first ever Women Who Code Belfast event. To be in the position of being able to host a successful event, a lot of hard work has been put in behind the scenes – website design, poster creation, networking and harnessing the power of social media. Thanks to everyone for their help and support.

The event kicked off at half 5, with women of all different backgrounds filling the seats. The room was buzzing with developers, designers, founders and some women who just wanted to see what working in tech would be like. Despite everyone’s varying backgrounds, everyone had the same opinion – they were so glad that an organisation like this now exists in Belfast for women to get together, chat, network and learn some new skills from other like-minded people. One of my aims of founding WWC Belfast was to create a haven for tech women to come and grow confidence in their skills, and therefore be prepared to take on any IT related job that may come their way.

After everyone had their fill of pizza, I opened the event. I began by talking about why we need WWC Belfast and what it will bring to all involved. TED recently conducted a survey and found that in the past 20 years, there has only been a 3% rise of women in tech. This kind of shocking statistic hit home and everyone in the audience wholly agreed that a lot of work is needed to rectify this issue. As well as that, only 24% of University of Ulster Computer Science students and 10% of Queen’s University Computer Science students are female. This proves that effort is needed before university level too. Through WWC Belfast, I wholly intend in education the younger generation about all of the career prospects they can have by studying an IT related degree/choosing Computing as an A Level.

Sheree speaking

After I closed, Colleen Crangle, a now Silicon Valley researcher spoke to the audience. Colleen has been a woman in tech since the 70s. She shared her experiences of working firstly in South Africa, to then moving to the US to attend Stanford University, where she received a PhD in Philosophy. I chose Colleen to speak at our first event because she hasn’t chosen a stereotypical path to get into tech. Instead, she followed what she really loved and created a link between it and computer science, proving that not being a stereotypical “geek” is no reason to not get into the IT industry. If there no link between what you love and what you’d like to do in tech, create one!

Colleen then talked about why she thinks there’s a lack of women in IT here and how she can see already that WWC Belfast will help as a fix for it. Several audience members stated that they were put off studying Computer Science because their teachers at A Level told them it was “too mathsy” and “just not for them”, to which Colleen replied that it is no one’s job to tell you what you can and cannot do. If you have an interest, go for it!

Colleen Crangle

After Colleen wrapped up, Jackie Pollock (@kievia), a senior Software Engineer at Kainos Software delivered a precise and informative session on Common Design Patterns in Code. Jackie began by telling us how she came about working at Kainos and why she chose to be a Software Engineer. During her career, Jackie realised how much she loved interacting with clients and knew that she wanted to cross over to being a Technical Consultant. By speaking up and taking note of her skill set, she now works actively with several clients in Kainos, doing what she loves. Jackie is proof that by choosing a career in IT, you are not delegated to just one job – you can branch out and find what’s perfect for you. During Jackie’s session, I noticed a lot of attendees taking notes on her work. This in itself, is proof of how interested these women are and how eager they are to develop new skill sets.

photo-3

After Jackie finished up, I closed the session by putting a call out to all attendees. If anyone is interested in speaking or you have any queries/feedback, please contact @WWCBelfast, or tweet to me directly on @nirushika. If you want to email, contact womenwhocodebelfast@gmail.com.

Once the event officially finished, attendees stayed on and chatted to each other. Some great connections were made and from chatting to the majority of the women, I now know exactly what the WWC Belfast market needs and how to get it for them.

I have already received some amazing feedback on this event, which just acts as an incentive to make WWC Belfast a huge success.

  • “Fantastic event – inspiring and enthusiastic speakers and organisers – this is already a success! Really attracted a varied crowd too – all sorts of professional and academic backgrounds and that’s the ticket for innovation.”
  • “Great, packed event – very inspiring. Looking forward to more : )”
  • “Great kickoff event; can’t wait to see what the future holds for Women Who Code Belfast!”

As always, please sign up to our meetup page, to be kept up to date with all future events, and follow us on @WWCBelfast for all announcements.

Our January and February events can be RSVPed to there, and I’ll be announcing something very exciting for our March event.

Watch this space,

Sheree

-WWC Belfast Founder

New WWC Belfast Poster

posterjpgLook out for this poster over all local companies and universities. The numbers of WWC Belfast are growing every day, with classes filling up in under a week.

Looking forward to meeting all of our new members and if you have any queries, don’t hesitate to contact us on WomenWhoCodeBelfast@gmail.com / #WomenWhoCodeBelfast.

Thanks,

Sheree

-WWC Belfast Founder

The First Belfast Women Who Code Event

Hi all,

I’m Sheree. I’m a 22 year old QUB alumna, having recently graduated with a BEng in Computer Science. Currently, I work for Kainos, supporting different projects, using technologies from Ruby and Scala, to C#. My everyday work is always different – on one hand, I’m supporting a brand new government project, and on the other, I’m supporting a project for one of Kainos’ longest standing clients. Alongside this, I am extremely interested in bringing programming to the younger generation and being an ambassador for women in IT.

To create a haven for women to learn tech together, feel confident and grow in their IT career, I have founded a Women Who Code branch here in Belfast.

To create a more balanced base in the NI scene, I believe having regular tech events, hack nights and career trainings solely for women will help us aid that mission.

The format of each of these events will be the speakers/attendees arrive at a specified time (each event is approx 2.5 hours-3 hours), network a little, have something to eat and then sit down with their laptops and listen to a speaker presenting on a topic of their choice. The topic doesn’t always have to be technical. We want to cover things such as interview techniques, managing careers etc too.

Our first event will be on Design Patterns - a necessary topic for all budding software engineers.

There will be many more events in the future, and if there are any topics you’d like covered, or if you’d like to present, please don’t hesitate to contact me through our meetup.com page, or by tweeting me directly using my handle @nirushika.

I hope to see you at one of our future events.

Thanks,

Sheree

-WWC Belfast founder