In October we were fortunate to host four women working in Seattle Tech, particularly in computer science, who shared with Ada’s their experiences. The follow recap of the event was written by regular event attendee and friend of Ada’s Books, Veronica Lim.
A-board approval from our favorite shiba.
On Saturday, October 18th, Ada’s hosted a presentation and discussion about Women in Technology where the primary topic was: What is it like to be a woman working in Seattle Tech? Four women in Seattle Tech, including Susie Lee, Kristin Smith, Karen Caplan, and Elise Worthy shared their work and experiences with a packed room!
Susie Lee comes from a visual arts background and admits that she doesn’t code, but that hasn’t stopped her from working in Seattle Tech. Susie is the CEO and founder of Siren, whose purpose is to put women in control of their visibility in a mobile dating application. Siren asks the question: “How does a person transcend a physical distance if they don’t want to meet people in a workplace or existing small circles?” Where Match, Tinder, and OkCupid are static images that exist like posters or items on a shelf, Siren employs technology in a more nuanced way because it’s a constantly changing dynamic–just like the people who use it. Siren take signals inspired by real life interactions and places them in a digital space. Siren has captured the media’s attention and is already successful. Regarding its achievements thus far, Susie is ‘Unapologetic that a woman CEO has formed this company.” Susie notes that finding women in tech is difficult and it’s not a matter of voicing a social justice opinion but the numbers are indicative of the gender gap. Especially when she first entered the scene, Susie was left feeling like “You can’t find [women in tech]…it’s like finding unicorn.”
Kristen Smith spent eleven years in e-commerce working on supply chains, operations, product management, and merchandising at companies such as Zulily and Amazon. During this time, Kristin discovered that the biggest single problem was not being able to find software developers. With this in mind, Kristin joined Code Fellows and was named its new CEO in May 2014. Code Fellows is a Seattle-based digital trade school that actively helps people every day in the community. Launched in 2013, Code Fellows is already well established and focused on providing their students course content focused on three integral concepts: guidance, feedback, and support. Nonetheless, Code Fellows doesn’t have as many women in the program as they’d like. There are about 27% women in these classes (which further contributes to the disconnect between users and web developers as women use the internet 17% more than men overall). Kristin delved into the benefits of gender cooperation by explaining that men and women working together is as much of a business, economic, and cultural decision as it is a social justice one. Kristin and her team measure a team’s success by its cognitive intelligence, and she notes the best way to gain more cognitive intelligence is by hiring more women.
From left to right: Elise Worthy, Karen Caplan, Kristin Smith and Susie Lee
Karen Caplan is a Ruby developer who has worked on several different projects in Seattle. She began as a case manager, receiving a degree in Psychology before she “burned out.” Karen made the shift into the Seattle Ruby community and Seattle Tech overall when she received a book from her husband on Ruby. With a father as a coder, interest in web development, and a book to further drive the motivation, Karen began learning as much as possible and took a University of Washington Ruby extension course as well as enrolled in Code Fellows. From there, Karen was hired at Siren as the lead Ruby developer and cites her time there as a valuable learning experience. Karen discussed the matter of intimidation that revolves around women in tech and notes that it does in fact exist. However, when women are a part of these communities, the dynamic of the community and the end results shifted towards progress. When Karen spoke to her father about her experiences, he mentioned to her as well that he always saw the addition of women to teams would improve end results and productivity.
Elise Worthy is the CTO and co-founder of the Ada Developers Academy (ADA), a tuition-free, intensive software developer training school for women. ADA is competitive and highly unique as the curriculum is year-long and consists of six months of classroom instruction and six months of an internship with the companies sponsoring the institution. The first graduating class of 15 women out of the 24 in the program all have jobs lined-up, making the success rate extraordinary. Elise believes the work at ADA is making a difference because it speaks volumes about women working in tech. Elise used the Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO, controversy in which he states women should not ask for raises, as an example of the tipping point in which women in tech are encountering. Nadella’s comments are dreadful, however the fact that this made national news means women in tech as a whole is making national news. As a result, we’re beginning to see standards changing.
A very full house for Women in Technology
All four women are doing incredible work in Seattle Tech and making it known that women are a vital part of the community. What’s fascinating and inspiring about each one of them is that they all began their careers in tech in non-traditional ways. Kristin pointed out that Code Fellows spends time educating people that there are alternative ways to learn, and not just the computer science degree route often seen in the industry. Most of the questions during the Q&A revolved around what it’s like for women working in Seattle Tech and what progress is continuing to be made, such as initiatives to stay in touch with alumni at Code Fellows, having conversations with recruiters and staffing agencies, and using language when talking about women in tech that isn’t polarizing. Collectively, each speaker believed that a good team is a good team despite the number of women and men there are. However, it was made clear by all four that hiring women in tech leads to greater results. Susie, Kristin, Karen, and Elise are all strong, brilliant, and talented women in Seattle Tech and they’re just a few of the many strong voices in a community that continues to grow.
For more information about women working in tech, check out this great podcast on NPR Planet Money.