Whenever you are blue or lonely or stricken by some humiliating thing you did, the cure and the hope is in caring about other people.
Today, we wanted to share some remarkable stories with you. Specifically, we want to talk about inspirational women that have impacted the way we work, think, and live.
Being inspired is an intimately personal thing, but we hope these reflections will help you to take some time to think about what drives you forward, and makes you tick.
Annie Lowney on Saron Yitbarek
Having a non-technical background can sometimes be a barrier when you work in tech. It can be an intimidating place of foreign terms and expressions. At this stage in my career I’d say I have pidgin technical. The usual thoughts appear when I listen into a technical meeting:
- What does that mean?
- Yes! I know what that means.
- Repeat the word so you don’t forget it and Google it after the call.
- What should I get for lunch?
- Must concentrate…
- I’m too thick for this.
The technical world seems overwhelming and difficult. Despite that, I want to know more. I want to understand.
Saron Yitbarek had the genius to identify the fears of people like me. She makes coding welcoming. She created CodeNewbie; stories from people on their coding journey. She also creates Codeland which has a sweet site that you should fawn over here.
I chatted with Saron a while back for a project that I was working on. She’s confident, articulate, and very thoughtful. Let’s break those traits down a bit more.
It was no surprise to learn that she has a degree in English and worked in journalism prior to her career change. She has a natural gift for communication and she knows innately what works at a technical conference.
“I make sure the talks are all good for newbies. Any technical words are explained, any jargon is explained. I make sure that the talks are short. I make sure it’s really focused, tight and high quality. It’s designed so that new developers can’t get lost. Our conference booklet is an accompaniment to the talk. If I was to speak at Codeland you can open up the booklet to my page and you can see the words that I use, the definitions and the resources. Basically any info that will help you follow the talks.”
One thing that resonated with me from our chat is the amount of thought she puts into the attendee experience.
“Design the attendee experience. From start to finish, what is the user story of the attendee? I went through many iterations of Codeland. What made me get to the final version was me asking myself, okay I’m new to tech, I’m new to the world of coding. I walk in the door of the venue what is the first thing that I see? Literally walking through step by step. Your conference is your product. Just like you try to get your users to press that button on your website, you’re trying to get your attendee to be excited about a talk. What can you do to help them get there?”
If I was wearing a hat I would take it off to Saron. As I’m not, I will take my virtual stetson off in her honour. To change careers is daunting, but not only did she make it work, she decided to make it easier for the people after her. Women like Saron have an energy that people are attracted to. She saw something that could be done better and the world gets to benefit from it.
Maria Keenan on Chloe Condon
I remember when I was six, we were asked in school who inspired us and, amid the panic, I said “my dog”. Since, I still like dogs, but I’ve come to realise that, when people ask that question, they usually want a human answer.
The question of how we figure out who inspires us, to me, comes down to a few things:
- What qualities do they have that we want to emulate (with our own twist, of course)?
- What do they do with their time that makes them different?
- Do they treat the people in their lives well?
- Do I just… like them a lot?
For me, the person that fills those criteria most closely is Chloe Condon. I first heard of her, as a lot of people have, from a viral Medium article she published about bathroom lines and man caves. Literally. It’s called What It’s Like to Be a Woman at a Tech Conference. Please read it.
Chloe started out as an actress, and is now a developer advocate for Microsoft. I was inspired by her writing and her story. I felt an urge to share that because I felt it could help people see that they too could break into coding regardless of their background. I DM’d her on Twitter to ask her for an interview for the Tito blog, and she said yes.
During that conversation, I was taken by her humility, fears, acumen, honesty and, above all, unending generocity to lend me time. You can read that conversation here. I learned that Chloe’s not afraid to be the girl fighting for women who code and women who want dresses with pockets in the same breath. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.
Women are often penalised when they express their quirks because popular patriarchal nonsense implies that those quirks are incompatible with professionalism.
I call bullshit.
Wear your sparkly glasses. Use the this is fine gif. Slay. By no means should any credence be paid to the man on the internet replying with ‘didn’t happen’ to every woman sharing her experience. Men who have the privilege and gall to tell you what to do with your life are nothing more than a distraction that doesn’t deserve your time or emotions. That’s something Chloe emulates and something I aspire to remember when unwelcome advances or insults come my way online or IRL.
Because what’s the point of developing any sort of ‘persona’ if you can’t be yourself? The proliferation of #personalbrands has become nothing short of a toxic excuse for you to highlight an ideal life on the internet that isn’t truly yours. See: Instagram.
So, with the inspiration of Chloe at hand this International Women’s Day, fuck the haters.
She’s keynoted MuCon and DjangoCon and yes, she’s had to deal with cyber bullying. All the while she stands by her ambition: she is passionate about bringing humor, empathy, and human-ness to tech. And, to dissuade anyone from trying to bring her down or from achieving those aims, she injects her personality:
?⚠️PSA⚠️?: ANY FUTURE DUDES WHO JUST DM ME “hi” OR GET CREEPY WITH ME, ILL SEND SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ??♀️ YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
— Chloe Condon ? (@ChloeCondon) April 28, 2018
And her intellect. I’m going to spend the day reflecting on what those qualities mean to my life, and I encourage you to do the same. Be kind, be thoughtful, but most of all, be yourself.
Vicky Carmichael on Ruth Yarnit
I can think of no better person to honour on International Women’s Day than the woman who first gave me an opportunity to enter the tech industry: Ruth Yarnit, owner of White October Events.
Despite not coming from a traditional technology background herself, Ruth has been a force behind building some of the best-loved tech events in the industry, including AngularConnect and The Lead Developer.
These events are known not only for their world-class content, but for their diverse lineups, sense of inclusivity, and how they set the tone for how the tech industry should be. Ruth and her team have managed to build a sustainable and profitable business, delivering conferences that feel like community events. This is no small achievement!
Of course it helped that WOE was born out of a digital agency, but I think the real key to the events’ success is less about technology and more about people. Ruth cares deeply about treating everyone with warmth, thoughtfulness, and respect, and she has built a team of people who share these values.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how divided we’re becoming as a society. How quick to anger and how prone we are to outrage or to judge, each side blinded by our own righteousness.
Image Description: Ruth Yarnit photographed at The Lead Dev conference.
When I find myself doing the same, I think back to a meeting I was once in with Ruth and another person. I found myself getting angry and defensive over something the other person had said, and I spluttered some kind of retort. Afterwards, Ruth took me to one side and gently suggested that instead of getting indignant, I listen to what the other person had to say—even if I disagreed with it—and try and see their side. She was right. The other person wasn’t trying to get at me. They were just saying their piece.
We could all do with being more patient, more empathetic, and listening just as much as we talk. There’s real strength in knowing what you stand for and acting with quiet integrity, all the while treating people with kindness.
Ruth embodies this for me and is a personal inspiration for how I conduct myself in society, how I treat people, and how I want to contribute in my job and to my community.
The tech industry doesn’t just need more people like Ruth, the world does.