How WWCode Portland Changed My Life
February 27, 2019
Before I Found WWCode Portland
When I first entered the Portland tech scene, I didn't feel like I belonged. I had been to several meetups and always felt like an outsider. As a non-white, woman in Portland tech, it can start to feel very isolating...double that with the fact that I was in a code school and had a major case of imposter syndrome. This all changed when I went to my first Women Who Code Portland event, I felt included and accepted. We all know that Women Who Code is an amazing organization, but I want to highlight how absolutely amazing the Portland chapter is. The organizers all deserve recognition and big pats on the back.
The 2018 IoT hackathon
Prior to attending the 2018 IoT Hackathon, I had never participated in a hackathon. I didn't even know what IoT was, I had to Google it...multiple times! I hadn't even been to a Portland tech event by myself. I was self-conscious about being in a group of strangers who would judge my newly acquired coding skills, I was worried I would hold my team back, worst of all I was worried that it would prove to me how bad at coding I thought I was. After pushing myself to just dive in, I got one of the scholarships offered by the organization so that I wouldn't have to pay to participate out of pocket. Now I had to attend.
Long story short, the event was flawless. It seemed to go off without a hitch. The organizers, volunteers, and mentors were all fantastic, and the participants were so supportive. As my team, SeatPeak, was building out our project, I found that the supportive engineers on my team were spending too much of the precious time trying to teach me React, something I had never worked with. It was at that point, I decided to branch off and figure out something else to do.
Guess what? It barely involved any code! I ended up making a marketing campaign around our product, built a static HTML/CSS mock website for our product that we presented instead of a slideshow, and made a short commercial. I knew that my creative talent could be better utilized doing something else than stressing about a coding framework I hadn't learned.
Winning the Hackathon
My team ended up taking first place, because of our engaging demo (that worked!) and our thought-out product. It turns out I was able to contribute to the success of the team without writing any complicated code. It was my creative ideas that pushed the demo over the edge. After that event, I felt like I belonged in tech. I learned that you can participate in a hackathon as a code school student and not feel major imposter syndrome. I will always be grateful for WWC Portland for giving me that confidence in myself.
As a result of winning the hackathon and seeing how great some meetups/organizations can be, I decided to start my own with a code school friend. We created Portland Future Leaders in Tech which is an organization that focuses on the development of folks new to tech. Whether you are a student or a career-changer, designer or developer (and anything in between), we wanted to make an environment where people could safely learn about the tech industry. WWC Portland inspired me to make a difference in the Portland tech scene (and beyond), which has been so important in my personal life and career trajectory. Thank you, thank you, thank you (from the bottom of my heart), for giving me a purpose in this industry!