Nevertheless, Kaleigh CodedMarch 06, 2020
I wanted to share how I got started in tech, despite being the only girl in MOST situations. Originally shared on dev.to
I think the very first time I coded, I was making a website for my Girl Scout troop. I can’t remember when this was exactly but I was probably in 5th grade or so. This was in 2000. I remember being frustrated that no one was visiting my site (thanks to visitor counters on every website). But also, it was the year 2000, everyone was still on dial-up, and that’s IF you had a computer and IF you had internet.
I’ve been into computers since I was in diapers. My mom’s side of the family has deep roots in IBM so we’d always had a computer. I loved playing games, writing, changing settings, and just being on the computer.
Fast forward to college. I started out as a Music Performance major (violin and piano). I knew very well that not only was it something I didn’t see myself working in 10 years, but I wouldn’t be able to support myself. But my parents encouraged me to start out college in music since I knew it was something at that time that I loved to do and I’d figure it out.
Well…the music school was undergoing renovations at Georgia Southern when I started so all my classes were in random buildings throughout campus.
My piano class was in the IT Building.
Whenever I’d go to piano class, I would always wonder what the IT majors were learning and thought how cool it would be to be one myself. I wanted to be on the computer all day too! After a full year as a music major, I decided it was time to switch. I met with the dean of IT, as well as some other majors as well. I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to do IT but also wanted to check out other options as well. I felt so ‘jazzed’ after my meeting in the IT building and knew that was it. I did do some research on what of the 3 options (CS, IS, IT) had the least amount of math and then went with Information Technology.
My first classes were awesome, but I did notice that I would be either the only girl or one of a few. I didn’t let that deter me. It did make finding study buddies, or people to be in my group projects with harder because it seemed like the guys were scared of me, or didn’t think I knew what I was doing. But nevertheless, I coded.
After I got my undergrad degree, I went straight into my master’s program. I knew at the time I would thank myself later, and boy, do I ever. I’m so glad I got it out of the way!
In my cohort for my master’s in Internet Technology (now Business Technology), there were only 4 girls, including myself. At times it was intimidating, but we all came from different backgrounds and were all different ages, so gender was just one of the many differences between everyone.
I received my masters in 2014, and ever since I’ve worked in all sorts of environments. Small start-ups, large corporations, mid-sized companies, and they all have their differences in the struggles of being one of the odd ones out in terms of gender. But nevertheless, I coded.
At both my previous and my current job, I’ve started and led our internal Women in Technology groups. I don’t start these groups because I’m trying to separate us from the men but to form a community that doesn’t necessarily have to rely on friendships in a cliquey sort of way. I love these groups because we can not only support each other in multiple ways but also influence the next generation of women in tech. Holding events where we show school-aged girls what exactly a web developer does is so fun for me! If I had that when I was their age, I might have dived deeper into tech earlier (not to say I didn’t enjoy playing violin and piano – I still love to play, and it gave me SO MANY amazing opportunities). But as the world becomes more tech-focused, I want to make sure we all have the same opportunities, and that there’s a community out there that will welcome anyone and everyone with open arms.