[Original post from Nov. 2, 2018 at Rupa’s Blog]
Finally, after almost ten years of being in the proverbial "shadows" while the press, media and industry raged about the "pipeline" problem and focused solely on recruiting/hiring and massive marketing campaigns geared towards such things, I am seeing glimmers of realization from the press and some industry stalwarts, that the "retention" issue might be a serious problem (56+% dropout rate?).
And that all the progress on the recruitment initiatives are going to be futile without a bigger and much more serious commitment to retention initiatives from the tech industry. It is much harder to move the retention needle than the recruitment needle.
So, two weeks ago, I tendered my resignation at my full time job, flew to speak at an open source conference in Scotland (opensourcesummit.eu) and returned to US soil earlier this week with serious jet lag.
Nov. 1 was my first day as full time staff at CodeChix as CEO & Founder.
No, I'm not getting paid anything. Yet. Bootstrapping it is - just like all good startups :).
Given that all sister non-profits in the "Diversity and Inclusion" space are doing rather splendidly as far as funding is concerned, I am confident I can get to a point in the next few months given our track record and reputation where we will have enough resources so I can get paid and build CodeChix to the next level as a global organization with serious impact to move the needle in the retention space for women engineers and technologists. And hire some wicked-good product managers and engineers to catapult us. And build a board to match our ambition and trajectory.
We are poised for growth, to challenge the status quo and to help the tech industry disrupt itself to become the leaders and role models with regard to retaining women engineers and technologists.
We need everyone's blessings and help with fundraising (DevPulseCon sponsorship, individual donations) in the next few months so we can achieve our goals.
If you are passionate about our cause, have the time and energy to dedicate to volunteering for us to move the needle on retention, please reach out to me (rupa at codechix dot org). We are seeking high-calibre individuals with a variety of backgrounds (Product Managers, Engineering Managers, Retired engineers, Finance, Legal, Marketing, PR etc.) in order to tackle the difficult problems in this space.
Stay tuned to codechix.org, @codechix and @devpulsecon on Twitter as we launch our campaigns. If you can donate and get matching funds through your company, please help us (codechix.org/donate). And please do share in your network - it is the only way we can grow our impact and make a difference.
And we are expecting DevPulseCon 2019 to be a landmark conference as we catapult ourselves to lead the retention space.
May the code be with you.
@akkakk & @rdachere
First fundraising for CodeChix at ShesGeeky 2014 by auctioning a couple of telescopes that Akkana had built. Raised $70 !!
Tearing myself away from my obligations on the east coast is not a fun thing to do, but I do it for significant events. CodeChix conferences are really good reasons for me to do so.
Like many women who have established themselves in tech for quite a while, I disrupt my schedule, and even travel great distances, to learn. I want learning experiences where, if I pay a bit to attend, I have the guarantee that the material will be highly technical, and that my personal information is not being monetized without my knowledge or consent. I very happily forego free events which feel like marketing ploys, don’t protect my privacy, or don’t offer highly technical content. I turn down invitations to such events on a regular basis.
Much like when I buy coffee, buying a ticket to a women’s tech event means I won’t feel good about it unless it is single-origin, locally grown, and supports the local community in grassroots ways. Large organizations raising millions to try and figure out how to monetize this model won’t get my money or attention. Volunteers obliviously doing the hard work while paid staff reap the benefits and plot parallel for-profit business ventures is not something you’ll ever see in CodeChix. It is a pure of heart, high-tech, low fluff, zero bullshit organization, whose sole mission is to provide mid to senior level female techs with solid learning content. This is rare, and very desperately needed in our tech communities.
Mid to senior level female geeks who do what they do for the sheer love of tech itself tend to be, well, “geeks” in the best sense of the term. They don’t like to waste time, they appreciate privacy, and they thrive on learning. Parties, drinks, happy hours, free intros with marketing material, and recruiting events just aren’t good lures for such people. Large organizations where “following the money” reveals something resembling an Amway pyramid scheme isn’t appealing at all for many highly skilled women in tech. They are usually well educated consumers, conscious of the source, and wanting to fully understand and feel good about the structure of what they support. Good wifi and collaborative high-level classes hosted by and in support of members of their community are the types of events which will draw such techhies.
The second of these impressive events hosted by CodeChix, called DevPulseCon, delivered once again. I flew to the west coast a second time since November, and attended this event with high expectations, all of which were met. The event was well organized, the volunteers were incredibly psyched about their material and tasks, and the material was very high tech, yet presented in a palatable form. All teachers and TAs were capable of answering advanced questions on the material in a down-to-earth, non high-brow manner, and were patient enough to properly pace themselves and present difficult topics in coherent ways.
The organizer, Rupa Dachere, is articulate, sharp, and well organized, not just scratching her own itch to learn at her advanced level, but doing so for an entire community of like-minded and similarly-skilled women. It’s a lot to pull off. Many women-centric tech organizations try to achieve this level of complexity and success. Rupa does this quite well, where most others fail. Of course it’s no surprise that she has a dedicated team of excellent volunteers. Like draws like. There’s no mystery or drama regarding where the money comes from and goes in this organization. Funds are raised for the event, the event is well executed with zero commercialism and fluff, and the community benefits. End of story. It’s quite easy to feel good about supporting this effort.
I look forward to CodeChix future events, and plan to disrupt my schedule to attend as many as possible.
At a CodeChix conference, I heard that women often sell ourselves short in the workplace. Someone in a keynote talked about how men always apply for jobs that are beyond their skill set and that they always negotiate for a better salary. The speaker advised us to start thinking differently about our skills and what we are capable of doing, and reminded us that we are worth more than we are offered. I took that advice to heart.
When I got laid off a couple of years ago, I looked for jobs that were a bit of stretch for me and applied for those. I was hired at Stanford doing a job that I am definitely qualified to do but that also required that I step out of my comfort zone and wing it occasionally when something required of me wasn't quite in my wheelhouse. I've learned a lot and have been very successful, becoming a critical part of the team.
As for salary, the initial salary offering was well below what I was expecting and what I had been making before. I negotiated a $20k increase in my starting salary. I wasn't eligible for a salary increase in my first year, so the first increase was to come at about the 18th month of my employment. The raise I was given was well below what I deserved, and even further below even a basic cost-of-living increase. I expressed my disappointment to my manager and reminded her that I hadn't received a raise last year because I was a new employee.
She acknowledged that she had forgotten that I hadn't received any salary increases for 18 months and she did some research and discovered that my salary was below the average for other people at Stanford doing similar work. She went to her management team and asked for a correction and I got a very generous salary increase.
It definitely pays to have confidence in yourself and your abilities and to remind others that those abilities are worth rewarding.
First published March 2017
This is a very special International Women’s Day. It is unlike any other in history.
While we have made tremendous progress in breaking barriers and venturing into “forbidden” fields of research, development and engineering, we are in a world that is about as unpredictable as we have ever seen in our lifetimes.
Today, women are facing unprecedented hurdles on every front – hurdles that we had fought and conquered well in the past. Hurdles that our predecessors had sacrificed their lives and families for. Hurdles that none of us had thought would rise from the ashes to take new form and confront us like a vengeful demon.
And because we are faced with these unprecedented challenges on this particular International Women’s Day, I want to say that we, at CodeChix, will continue to pursue our mission and persevere through these difficult times.
One day, I hope that I will not have to celebrate a special “International Women’s Day”. That, everyday will be special for women. That, one day, we will celebrate an “International Equality Day” to recognize and internalize an equal footing for both men and women in the workplace, at home and in the community.
To all the formidable, strong, fighters (both women and men) who fought for our rights, our freedom of choice and independence of lifestyle and thought, I hope that we will overcome the formidable hurdles in our way once more and prevail.
The path is long and brutal. And completely worth fighting for. For ourselves and the generations that are watching and learning from us. For our future leaders. We must stand together and lead the way through our actions. Every little bit counts.
May the code be with you. Today and always.
Founder and Executive Director
Saturday, April 23, saw the return of the Bay Area’s only highly technical conference that is organized by women, for women. DevPulseCon, presented by CodeChix, was a fantastic and inspirational gathering of technical women from a variety of backgrounds and stages in their careers.
The day opened with a celebration of the progress that CodeChix has made over the last year. It was made clear just how important events like DevPulseCon are when we were reminded of the startling fact that the dropout rate for women in engineering is increasing and is now over 50%. CodeChix aims to reverse this trend by helping women stay up-to-date with their technical skills, provide advice and support for career advancement, and improve cultural environments which encourage a more diverse workforce. DevPulseCon delivered on these aims and more.During the morning’s panel session, attendees received a wealth of information on strategies to progress up the technical career ladder. The overarching theme of the discussion was definitely the importance of gathering evidence. When planning for a promotion, we should start the conversation with our managers early and set clear, tangible goals that can be reviewed frequently so evidence can be collected to make the most of our performance reviews. Gathering evidence is also crucial for salary negotiation. Titles and associated salaries don’t always match, so it’s important to know what the market rate is for someone in our position with our skillset. By interviewing regularly, even if you’re not looking for a new job, you’ll get an idea of how your skills are valued and also find out which areas you should focus and improve on.
Following the panel session, there was a fantastic selection of technical talks offered and it was difficult to choose which to attend!
Te-Yuan Huang from NetFlix discussed the complexities of what happens behind the scenes when you do something as simple as pushing the “Play” button, from the importance of video encoding to support multiple devices, to designing a Content Delivery Network and pushing content as close to users as possible. All of this is done to ensure the best user experience for their customers.
Neelima Mukiri from ContainerX taught us about how to develop a clear strategy when debugging and how defining the problem clearly can make a huge difference when tackling issues in complex software. By collecting data and tracking all changes and effects, you can reduce the pain of debugging and solve the problem sooner.
I was really fortunate to be able to present alongside Madhuri Yechuri as she told us about her experiences of contributing to open source projects and how building up a portfolio of contributions can help you learn a variety of new technical skills. Myself and Madhuri led the group in learning about how to fork a project on GitHub, create pull requests, and make their first open source contributions.
The final panel session of the day covered the topic of preparing for technical interviews. The panelists discussed the top things they look for when interviewing candidates such as excitement from a candidate about what they’ve worked on and contributed to, how motivated they are, and how quickly they can adapt and learn. It’s also important to stay up-to-date with current technologies and to care enough to have opinions on technologies that you use.
All in all, it was a fantastic day and I’m so glad that I was able to attend. It was inspiring to be among such a large group of talented engineers with a wealth of experience that I could learn from. I’m feeling ready to unleash the engineer within me! 🙂