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Jennifer Konikowski - Hot Takes on Being a Woman in Tech

Season 4, Episode 3 | October 18, 2021

In today's episode, Dan and Bekah talk to Jennifer Konikowski about building community for women in tech and her own experience as a woman in tech. She gives us some of her hot takes, and we are here for it 🔥


Jennifer Konikowski's profile photo
Jennifer Konikowski

Jennifer has 10 years of experience as a software engineer, working in Ruby and Rails, Go, Swift, Scala, Rust, PHP, Javascript, Java, Perl, and Python. She was the founder and organizer of PyLadies Boston and a founding member of Boston Ruby Women. She currently resides in Pittsburgh and works remotely at Splice. She also really loves Negronis.

This week we welcome Jennifer Konikowski to the show to talk about being a woman in tech and building community for women in tech!

Jennifer brings her experience creating communities like Py Ladies Boston and Boston Ruby Women to the podcast, and talks about the value of learning to code even if you don't want to be a developer. She also talks about getting through toxic work environments, moving forward, and her hot takes on community and being a woman in tech.


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Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello, and welcome to season four, episode three of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. I'm Bekah, and this is a podcast that features members of the Virtual Coffee community. Virtual Coffee is an intimate group of developers at all stages of their coding journey. And they're here on this podcast, sharing their stories and what they've learned. And we are here to share it with you. Here with me today is my cohost Dan.

Dan:

Thanks Bekah! This week, we got the chance to sit down with Jennifer Konikowski. Jennifer has been a software engineer for over 10 years and has worked with a million different languages and helped found and organize PyLadies Boston and Boston Ruby Women. She's currently a senior engineer at Splice. We had a great time chatting with Jennifer. She talked about her experiences building communities, how she approached navigating different workplaces through her career. And she shared some hot takes to get us through the week. I had a great time talking with Jennifer and I know you're going to enjoy it.

Bekah:

We start every episode of the podcast like we start every Virtual Coffee. We introduce ourselves with our name where we're from, what we do and a random check-in question. Today's question is which vegetable is best with cheese. We hope you enjoy this episode. Hi, I'm Bekah. I am a front end developer from a small town in Ohio. The best vegetable with cheese is most definitely broccoli. There's no other right answer.

Dan:

Um, hi, I'm Dan. I'm a front end developer from Cleveland, Ohio, and yeah, I don't, this question is bizarre. Uh, I don't, uh, I don't really like broccoli with cheese. Like I prefer broccoli, just like, you know, without cheese. If I had the option between the two, um, I would choose no cheese. Uh,

Bekah:

rice broccoli casserole Okay

Dan:

Is potato a vegetable.

Bekah:

Yes,

Jennifer:

going to be my question

Dan:

I don't know if it is or not. That's going to be my answer for sure. If

Bekah:

root vegetable root vegetable

Dan:

I'll I'm stealing potato. That's my that's my answer

Jennifer:

Hi, I'm Jennifer. I am a senior backend software engineer at splice, um, out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And I'm also like if potatoes are considered a vegetable, I guess potatoes, you know, who doesn't love some poutine, cheesy fries, you know?

Dan:

Yeah

Bekah:

is a good call. I was thinking just putting it on your mashed potatoes

Jennifer:

No, I don't. If potatoes aren't Fried I generally don't eat them.

Dan:

I think mashed potatoes, but again, without cheese, but like there's a lot of fried situations that I think cheese.

Bekah:

like mashed potatoes with cheese and bacon and why I know a Greek yogurt

Dan:

Like a big potato cheese.

Bekah:

Yes Um oh welcome Jennifer Thank you so much for being here and tolerating my strange question for our intro.

Jennifer:

I had to miss Virtual Coffee this week. So to be honest, you know, this is, this is my comeuppance.

Bekah:

Oh yeah

Jennifer:

I had to get at least one weird question this week to answer.

Bekah:

Well Tuesday Tuesday was all kinds of weirdness And at the beginning we won't go there because it got a little dark but we're glad to have you here with us today and we always like to get started with your origin story. So can you tell us a little bit about how you got to this point

Jennifer:

Oh boy. Um, I, so I grew up in Alabama. I wanted to leave Alabama. And at the time, my best bet to decide to start as a biomedical engineer at Georgia Tech. Um, after I was like, I don't want to do that switched a couple of times, ended on industrial engineering, uh, really enjoyed that actually I've in statistics and operations research. Super fun. Through that, um, Georgia Tech actually makes all their students take at least one computing class. had two extra as part of my program. Um, I think that ended up putting me in a good position because when I was graduating, I didn't have the highest GPA. So I was going in the career fair to like all the companies that had shorter lines that like weren't as cool. And I ended up getting a job at Home Depot as a. Oh, shoot. What was the, it's a weird job title IT developer. what it was. It was pretty similar to a project management position. And from there I had thought I would be doing more development per the job title, and there were a few things that for me, I actually overall I think had a pretty good experience with Home Depot as a company, but my particular team was a bit of a disaster, which I think is sort of a theme my whole career. And at a certain point of like, know, it's look at the common denominator. I'm like, oh crap. it is me. Hopefully not though. Um, I think I'm just really bad at where to work. I swear, Splice is great.

Bekah:

So far so good.

Jennifer:

Yeah, so, so good. Um, so I changed jobs. I joined the deliverability team at MailChimp for a couple of years, and then I moved up to Boston. And at that point, um, obviously with a job in email delivery, there's not that many. It's hard to find another place where you can do that. Uh, without against an actual non-compete, uh, in dealing with trade secrets. So I was like, okay, I definitely can't go get a job at Constant Contact. Cause there's no way MailChimp wouldn't go after me. I learned, I learned some Python, so I'm like, I guess now I can be a developer and. I, this was,

Dan:

Yeah.

Jennifer:

was back when this was, uh, October, 2012. So mostly pre boot camps. So caveat, this is, I feel like an origin story that is really hard to come by these days I got hired to be a warm body, as a contractor, um, through like a sort of third party TripAdvisor and it got experience without having to do almost anything in the interview. And, you know, from there, I worked at a variety of startups, in the Boston area. Uh, I also worked at Occupy for a couple of years, uh, moved to Pittsburgh uh, since then I worked at Stitch Fix for a couple of years, Testable for one I've been at Splice now two over two weeks. For no, exactly. Two months.

Bekah:

That's...

Jennifer:

oh, and I've mostly done Ruby on Rails back in, but as I'm sure a lot of this know, uh, it's very hard to get away from being full stack.

Bekah:

I know. So you've done a lot of work, I think throughout that time. With community and building community. And I think looking at your thinking about your origin story and of the different steps of your journey to get where you were, I love to talk a little bit about like, why you decided to start PyLadies when you were in Boston or like, what was the thing that made you think, like, I need to start working to build community for women and minorities and tech?

Jennifer:

So, I mean, I think mostly like, since I've started in the workforce and had any sort of power, I have personally always felt the need to try and bring people up with me. Um, and I know, so when I was in Atlanta, my friend, uh, Laura had started Atlanta and we were just like a little study group of people trying to learn Python and that helped me much. And that I, that when I moved to Boston, I wanted to do that in Boston as well, because I saw Boston has this really great Boston Python group. They're wonderful. But at the same time, the group is massive. And I know for me, it was really intimidating to go, especially because it's all dudes. It didn't matter that they were generally like extremely kind and welcoming. you go in a room with like 200 people and there's maybe. You know, 10 women, you know, I've, even if I'm, even if I'm generous, let's say 40 out of those 200, know, it still feels very overwhelming. Um, so wanted a safe for women to come and learn Python, maybe just experience it. And even though I was a Ruby developer at the time, the reason I sort of chose Python because as much as I love Ruby, the community is entirely focused, pretty much on applications and APIs great. I love them. That's what I do. But I find that Python has more applications outside of being a software developer, uh, data scientists use Python, academics, use Python, There's I, I knew a lot of linguists actually, who were part of Boston. And I thought that was cool. And if my overall goal was to sort of, part of my goal was to also more women how to code, not even necessarily make them software developers, but to be like, Hey, is a thing it's not actually that hard. you can do it, you and it will help you do your job faster and more efficiently, and you don't have to become a software developer. You can learn this skill and it can benefit you where you are. Um, but obviously I also wanted to help. If people were interested in switch, I wanted to do everything I could to support them in that. And so, and I was also as a Ruby developer. Um, my friend, uh, Melissa Z uh, Boston, Ruby women. And I would go to that. I was one of the founding members of that group and I would help organize that. And for both of those groups, I would host like weekly study sessions for Boston review women. I. I'd be like, oh, like I'm going to be at this. Uh, I think it was, I, I went to area four in Kendall Square and be like, I'm going to be here from 12 to one during my lunch break, come meet me. Like, I'll answer any questions that I can. I'll help you work through things. I'll talk about job applications. I'll review your resume. Like literally whatever you want. I'll be there. hanging out here for you. then for PyLadies, I'd do the same thing on the weekend. I used to try to do like some sort of class. And I found that it was really hard to get people to stick with something at the same pace. So having it be more open-ended I think was better for everyone because otherwise people would be like, oh, I couldn't make it to this one. So now I'm out. Which is the thing that I, I think maybe if I had, if I made people pay for it, they would've stuck with it, but at the same time, like I wanted this to be accessible for everyone. And I know. I know a lot of people who have gone to bootcamps, and I know a lot of great developers out of bootcamps, but I feel like bootcamps are really expensive. And one of the things that I saw in Boston that I really didn't like was that the bootcamps were, um, themselves as the only way to get into tech and to switch careers. And that. I really didn't like that because a lot of people were switching careers they were not in a good space with their job and they did not, they were not making that much money. So to be like, oh, the only way to switch is because you pay us $15,000. And I'm like, no, like, mean, you can do that. If that's the best fit for you, you know, maybe you need like the extra accountability, the extra classes. But I, one of my big things I like the community be able to be providing those mentoring resources that people. They get out of bootcamps. You should not only be able to find that in bootcamp, you should not be able to only network. If you went to a bootcamp, you you, shouldn't be able to only like learn in a group setting in a bootcamp. Um, so I felt like as a member of the community, like I wanted to do everything that I could, build that up. fortunately Pittsburgh is a lot smaller, so didn't really, I didn't really do the same thing in Pittsburgh because at the time maybe I would now, but at the time we had Girl Develop It and I felt like that would, we weren't big enough to really have like competing women's development groups. of course now girl develop it sort of imploded, but I maybe I'll revisit later. Cause it is obviously a passion of mine.

Bekah:

Yeah I mean, there are Pittsburgh, surprisingly has a lot of tech stuff already going on, which is really nice to see. And I think, you know, I want to hit on this idea that you were talking about having community as part of the learning experience. I think one the things about bootcamps that is tough is it just kind of puts you in this place where you only talk to the people in your bootcamp. And so it doesn't exactly mimic the larger experience of what being a developer is and communicating with other people, all different stages in, in what you're working on. Right? And so of have this insulated experience, but if you're working with a community of people, or if you're developing this open conversation, allows you to create, I think, good habits of communication, maybe,or something that, that could really be one of those things that allows you to be really successful in ways that boot camps.

Dan:

I, I, yeah, a lot of the stuff you said. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about like, so with groups, you did study groups, right? Um, so open-ended study groups. Can you, can you just like, me through, like, what one, like what, what one session, what, what would happen, you know, at a study group? Um, you know, in particular, like at once pick one.

Jennifer:

yeah, it would really depend on who came. Uh, so like one example is over a period of weeks, this one woman, um, regularly and was trying to find a job. So part of what was actually just encourage her and tell her that, like I knew where she was. So I'm like, I know you have the skills to do this. Like I think you should apply you know, absolute worst thing is get rejected, but I think you have a really good chance of getting this job. You know, I helped her review her resume and make it pop a little bit more. And emphasize if she was coming from the restaurant industry, it was applying to a program. No, it was project manager position at a tech company. Um, because that's that was a particular position that I felt like, that she was interested in that would take the skills she already had professionally and could work them into a much higher paying And so that was one of the things that would happen. But then sometimes people would come in and be like, oh, I'm working through. This section of this tutorial, I don't understand for loops and I would try to go through it with them, give examples, walk them through, maybe like, cause sometimes I think sometimes people need like a number of different examples or to hear things a different way. So maybe like the first thing I say, like doesn't make sense I used to be like, okay, let me try another thing. And, um, I, I give sort of like another type of example of how it was supposed to work.

Dan:

totally.

Jennifer:

eventually like generally, eventually they get it. And occasionally someone would come with some sort of like pandas question I'm like, we can try and struggle through this together, but I don't know pandas.

Dan:

Yeah.

Jennifer:

FYI.

Dan:

That's I mean, that's, that sounds really cool. And so like, this was pre COVID or whatever. Right. So, so like, would it be people would just like, I'll bring their laptops and sit around a circle or, I mean, I'm just trying to, because I'm like, I'm used to, like, you know, I've been to a lot of meetups that are mostly just presentations and hang, you know, social time afterwards or whatever. And this sounds a little bit more, you know, a little different of a, of an experience that I'm really interested in.

Jennifer:

So I feel like it was similar to the size of like the Virtual Coffee breakout rooms, because the group wasn't that neither of these groups were huge. Well by numbers, Py Ladies Boston is bottom was huge, but the number of people who would come to the actual big monthly meetups, wasn't that big. And the number of people that come to these where maybe three to seven, you know, so I'd just be hanging out in this coffee shop and we just sort of take over a table. I didn't get space, but yeah, I think that's an, another thing is for, for me, also overall like Boston Ruby Women. We basically didn't even do presentations at all. It was more, but I think this is in a way, like more relevant for, uh, women and underrepresented minorities. It really helps to have a group where you can talk about like what's going on at work. And the other people in the group, like really understand because they're in similar situations. Um, so Boston Ruby Women we base, it was borderline just a Ruby Women's Happy Hour got sponsored by thoughtbot, know? So we just like chill out at thoughtbot half the time be talking about like, what's going on at our jobs and with PyLadies Boston, I also didn't want it to be presentations all the time. A. Because it's, as an organizer, it's really hard to actually get a monthly presenter, like someone who wants to present every single month. And one of the things I ended up doing was, uh, rotating. So I'd have presentations one month. talks the next a panel, usually about work. Those were very popular. So I'd get like six different women. Sort of like different stages in their career and doing different things about like what they do and like what work is like, what problems they run into. Um, what else did I do? Oh, I started doing mob programming, which was also fun. It was hard to get people to want to volunteer.

Bekah:

you describe what mob programming

Jennifer:

sure. mob programming, at least the way we did it. It's. Uh, the whole room is looking at the same problem. So I would, other piece, I would usually put myself as a Guinea pig for any of these. Like, I always had to have a presentation ready or some code because if we ran out of time, I'm like, well, got to keep it going. And so. For example, I had this silly Python game I had written a while back and took it up there and I would run people through like the premise of what was going on in the code and then asked for suggestions on things that I should consider changing or like what they see that could be improved, anything like that. So, It's fun. Not a ton of places do it at work, but occasionally people do sort of like pairing with a massive group. So if you're in a good environment, it can be really fun.

Dan:

Yeah. Yeah. We tried that one. We tried it once with the Cleveland React meetup, it was, it was a it was interesting. I feel like with some practice, so yeah, you can, you can make it like a pretty cool thing. That's awesome. I love how the concentration of like the small groups and the kind of like the less of... you said, the happy hour, like less, less of talking of technical issues and more of just laying, you know, community support and, um, like just coming together, you know, um,

Jennifer:

Yeah. Also with our, um, with our lightening talks, uh, one of the things I encourage was just like, you can give a lightning talk on anything cause I wanted it to good place to. Encourage women to feel comfortable giving presentations. so like one of our members did a presentation that everyone loved on birds like birdwatching, you know, and, and getting, and there were plenty of people who did technical topics, I think oftentimes, um, and I still feel this way. I like if, when it comes to submitting a talk to a conference on like, I'm not an expert on any technical topics. So I can't give a talk on any of those. And I know that's not necessarily a healthy thing to think about, but at the same time, I know that's what a lot of people feel. So I didn't want to be forcing people to technical talks and have that be the only option I felt like you need to build up confidence in other ways, like be okay with public speaking first and then deal with.

Dan:

Yeah,

Jennifer:

insecurity around getting a talk on to on something technical.

Dan:

That seems like pretty good advice that reminds me of, um, was that organization that, that Gant worked with, um,

Bekah:

Toastmasters

Dan:

as there's like a, uh, organization just about, you know, public speaking and getting good at it. And so they would do talks all the time, but I doubt, I doubt it. I'm some of Gant's were technical, but I liked the idea of, I don't know, getting used to it without having to like, worry about all the extra stuff. It's like learn one thing at a time, you know, like, you know, yeah. No, I love that. I love that.

Bekah:

I keep wanting to do like a lightning talk session with Virtual Coffee. That's like five minutes and talk about something you're interested in. That's not technical because I think it's also a really fun way to learn new things and oh, that's the person that I can talk to about rock climbing or, you know, whatever Um, of the things that this reminded me of, and I wanted to talk to you about, so talking about this idea of talking speaking technically. And I think one of the things that I was told early in my career is not to do community because women are often seen as, you do community, then people only know you for community. And they think that you're non-technical. So I wanted to get your take on that and kind of like what the balance is.

Jennifer:

That's probably partly true, but part of me is like, I don't care because I want to help people. And if someone thinks that, you know, running. a user group is, is women's work well, A like that's, that's really frustrating. I'm sure there are a lot of people who think that, that seems extremely real to me, even though the majority of user groups are run by men, uh, you know, who tend to get plenty of conference talks because they run like a massive user group or something. Um, And I guess on the flip side, I think it was overall beneficial to me. it, I don't want to say publicity, but I feel like it got me a lot of like sort of tech, publicity, um, in a way that I don't think I was necessarily expecting. Uh, so I would have people reach out to me. Um, That I don't think they would have if I wasn't so uh, doing the work with PyLadies Boston. So I, I think it was overall good. I'm sure there were some people are like, this person spends all their actually time on user groups gross, but if it always feels like lose, lose, like it's like you're supposed to do all of this stuff. You know, and you are supposed to network, know, but you're also, um, supposed to be coding like nonstop in your free time, which actually like that's, that's another thing I feel like I used to think negatively about and I think it was PyLadies that changed my mind. And that's partly because I realized that. Really, like, like real networking is building actual, meaningful relationships, but they happen to be with people who are in your, um, wow. I'm totally forgetting a word, but sort of like your work circle, you know, that, and. 'Cause. 'Cause I think sometimes people think like, oh, I'll just out to this rando on LinkedIn, you know, and see if they'll refer me, that's networking, you know, or I'll ask this random person I met once, know about this company and that will matter. And I'm like, that does not matter, you know, but if you're actually building up relationships like. Yeah, I I've definitely referred like really referred to jobs. Like there's, there's just like posting my referral link. I don't really count that. in the first startup I actually worked at, after I left, the contractor that I was under with TripAdvisor, uh, I referred the woman who was co-organizing who stepped up to help me co organize PyLadies Boston,because I was like, I, this point feel really strongly that I know her work ethic, and I know that she would be an asset here. And so I advocated for her, you know, and to me, that's what, that's what you really want out of networking. But you only get that if you relationships and show people like what you're about and. And what you, I guess, like what you value, right. And they're like, oh, I want that person on my team. They're so great. Like I want to work with them and you don't get that from a one-off interaction. And I think that's one of the things I liked about Virtual Coffee. I like that we do the small breakout rooms and I think it gives us a chance to build those meaningful connections and make us more likely that in the we'll be able to actually refer each other, you know, and advocate for each other when trying to get people hired.

Bekah:

It's

Dan:

absolutely. My list of Virtual Coffee members that I want to work, can work with is very long, you know? And it's, it's all, it's all that, it's the, it's like the longterm, you know, connections. The networking metaphor is interesting. You know, it's if you meet somebody once and then walk away, is it. Are they really in your network, you know, if you're like building on purpose, you know, like that means strong connections. And that means, you know, actually spending time and effort on it, you know, um, the, the term has gotten loaded with a lot of negative connotations for sure. Like, I like everything always does after a while, but it's one of the reasons why, like, you know, LinkedIn is a dumpster fire, but like the, the, the fact that like the interesting part of the LinkedIn model is like the first connection, second connection, you know, like that sort of thing, you know, um, is like valuable information or, well, maybe not on LinkedIn, but you know, be, you know, that sort of thing. Right? have like a strong connection with this person. I have worked with them or I've, you know, uh, and then you're like, okay, well, If Bekah recommends somebody to me that I don't know, that person is going to be higher on my list than people that I don't know at all. Right. So it's like, sorry, there's somebody slamming doors outside, but, yeah. So I don't know. I, I liked the way that I liked the way that you were, you were thinking about that. It's it's cool. Let's see. Interesting stuff.

Bekah:

You were saying, you made a lot of connections through building community for people who reached out to you for jobs I know been true for me. And one of the nice parts of it is I have a whole group of people that I can recommend. And so I think, you know, when you get to that point you know people, then you make those personal connections and it's really great to see, you know, how far that goes out. You know, I recommended a person for a job. there. And then when they left, they recommended another person. Right. so then this whole cycle of, know helping us advocate for each other.

Jennifer:

a hundred percent.

Bekah:

So, okay. So the second. One of the second pieces of advice I got after starting Virtual Coffee. this resonated when you were talking about not making people pay for PyLadies was, well, if you're going to do community, then you, you have to charge a membership fee, right? Like you have to get paid for your time. And that's something at Virtual Coffee that we've always had a strong stance against. You know, we never want to make anyone pay for access to and the content that we produce, because think it's important to allow that and for everyone in our community. So what, was what, I guess, what are your thoughts on that of like people have to pay for your time?

Jennifer:

Uh, if it's not clear here I a hundred percent agree with not so with, with things being free. here's the thing. to me, it depends on who it is. Like a company is asking me for advice or someone is basically asking me to effectively consult their work. Yeah. No, pay me for my time. Like. You know, I'm doing work to further the capitalist machine. Like I want money,

Dan:

Yeah.

Jennifer:

when it comes to people who are potentially unemployed, you know, and are just trying to better their own life situation, like, no, I don't want your money. Like, especially. I think, especially like where, where I was like Coffee is obviously a little bit broader, but at the same time, there are so many juniors in there. I'm like, I don't, I never felt right. my primary audience with PyLadies was people who are not developers being like, yeah, I'm a developer making, know, a good salary or. Can you pay me to, to, to help you get there too. I you're not making that much money, but give some more of your money to me.

Dan:

Okay.

Jennifer:

I don't know. Maybe I, maybe this is like the socialist in me

Bekah:

Okay

Jennifer:

where I was like, no, I want to help build people up. And I guess maybe I also like don't necessarily. I think that highly of myself, that, you know, by advice is worth money. So I would feel really bad asking someone to pay for it. And the other thing is I'm not necessarily creating the content. Right. You know, there was some times where sure. Like the class I could have maybe charged for that. I didn't feel right. Doing it. But for the most part, yeah. members are giving presentations. Why should I be paid for this? Like if anything, maybe I could've been like, Hey, yeah, I'll take donations for, for the cost of the meetup, but it's really like, even a meetup is only like, I dunno, like 80 bucks every six months or something. It's not that huge in the scale of things, especially if you're making a software dev salary within the U S so I was just like, to be honest, it's not even worth it. Cause then I have to think about taxes

Bekah:

Okay.

Jennifer:

about getting gifts and paying, like, to me, the other thing I'm like, it's not even worth the potential tax headache of creating like a business and getting paid for this. When also I to do this. I want to help people, like I'm not doing this for money, I'm doing this because like, I think, I mean, I think everyone should learn to code period, I also think being a software developers is stinking easy job. Like it's frustrating, but it's not that hard, you

Bekah:

Yeah.

Jennifer:

And I think pretty much like anyone can do it. We paid way too much. And there are too many jobs. Like even now, Where it's really hard for juniors to find a job. I know, at the same time, it's because companies are like, I don't know, we can only hire seniors. And they're an absolutely absurd amount like Amazon, which I'm pretty sure they wouldn't want to hire me anyway for a number of reasons. Um, like they keep emailing me and I keep like this last time, I think I responded back with, how do I get blocklisted by Amazon? Like, please let me know. I want to be on a block list. also that is, I think proof, like, there are a lot of people who think like, oh, if I do like then this massive company is never gonna hire me. No. I have like twitter account that how unions are, you know, and Amazon recruiters are so like, "Want to for Amazon?"

Bekah:

Uh,

Jennifer:

like, frickin' no, I don't, you know, but, sorry, I just

Bekah:

that was fantastic. No, no. I love that. I wish that everybody could have watched you give that speech there because your body language was fantastic.

Jennifer:

I'm just full of like rants and hot takes about tech.

Bekah:

my like when you're in my breakout room, I'm like, yes.

Dan:

Oh man. Yeah, I did. This podcast needs more hot takes. Anyway. I think, you know, if there's one thing missing, I like the, I mean, I I agree with everything you said though. And. You know, we, as, as people, like when you're running a community and stuff, you'll get advice or whatever, and part of it for me, the way I've been thinking about it, what you know is like, it's not a, it's not a product, right? We don't have people, you know, you get people that come in sometimes to communities and want, just want something and to, you know, leave again, you know, but, uh, I think. That is another benefit of more intimate communities, uh, you know, is, is you get a lot less of that, you know, if you had, if your group was just like people coming in and saying job, please, and then leave, you know, like, uh, all the time, then that's like, okay, let's turn this into a product. And just like charge people you know, but it's not, um, that's not what like most communities are about. Uh, it's certainly possible to turn a community into a product and make money off of it. uh you see lot of people doing it, but you know, it's, I don't know. Then it's then I start thinking of it as a different thing than a community at that point, you know, you know what I mean? It becomes... a

Jennifer:

as organizers, like you also get a ton out of it. And I think that's the other thing that felt weird. Cause in a way I'm like, well, I'm probably actually getting the most out of this. Like not only am I getting to constantly try to you know flex my mentoring muscles and get better at that. Um, because I'm the one like making up the random extra time, you know, I have to give way more presentations I'm still not the world's greatest public speaker, but did I improve drastically from having to give a bunch of mediocre presentations at PyLadies? Hell yeah, I did. know, and I was the one there every single month, which means got to meet a bunch of absolutely amazing people. So yeah, it's like, I, I'm getting the more out of this than anyone else. Why should people pay

Dan:

Yeah

Jennifer:

also to basically just meet me?

Bekah:

And pay for your autograph.

Jennifer:

tell you right now. Don't don't pay for that pleasure.

Dan:

When you put it that way and that makes me want to charge people.

Jennifer:

Just charge for autographs.

Bekah:

We told you we were charging for this podcast episode, is one.

Dan:

We'll send you, we'll send you the bill.

Jennifer:

I'll S I'll send them the same one we can do, you know, in, in trade it kind trade for the pleasure of of each other's company.

Bekah:

All right, so I'm ready for some more hot takes. So you are, have done a lot of work to get women and minorities into tech. So are things that companies are doing that exclude women or the red flags that we should look out for?

Jennifer:

Uh, well, my favorite is the stuff you don't get until you're actually there. And especially this. think it's specififcally towards possibly some other minorities, but I think specifically women where you get called, like you're more likely to be called like cynical or shoot. I'm trying to think of another thing from one of my reviews. at splice, but at a recent company that will not be I an article put in my review. Again, I'm a native US English speaker how to be more polite and tactful in American English. You know, so I stopped doing those things, like, you know, think about If you're a manager

Dan:

did they think you were like Canadian or something

Jennifer:

N no, for

Dan:

Sorry

Jennifer:

sure. For sure. Not, but even if, Canadians also like really any like Um, you're a manager listening to this

Dan:

and have been

Jennifer:

like, well, I got feedback from this woman's coworkers on how she was. So brusque consider if that feedback might be gendered and maybe don't give it to him, to her and,

Bekah:

Yeah.

Jennifer:

tell him. The people who gave you that feedback, but they should probably sit with, their, uh, preconceptions of how a woman should speak. Um, but to me, like the biggest struggle, and I think why we've had so many trouble, is often aren't ton of glaring red flags in Um, cause honestly, so one of. You can't even count on diversity. One of, one of my favorite teams that I worked on was me and all white dudes. But they were wonderful Like I still talk to a lot of these guys. They were the most supportive, I think of almost any other team worked on. You know, one of them would regularly if he was working on something interesting. Call me over to, to pair be like, I think this would be really fascinating for you. Like, um, dig into this. And this was when I was only maybe like a couple of years into my career. So. Like still pretty junior, like, you know, egging into mid-level. I know at this point, like people are like senior after two years, whatever. Um, it's all meaningless. Um, you're senior after two years, where are you going? Like your career is going to be like fricking 30 years plus years long. Um,

Bekah:

burnout.

Jennifer:

go at a certain point. Um, that's another. Okay. Uh, And versus a company that I worked at that was extremely diverse or, well, extremely diverse was like, okay, on gender issues. But if we brought up any sort of racial or ethnicity issues, it was, it was bad. It was, it was real bad. I was at one point accused of anti Southern bias. At that I am a Southerner by the way, I grew up in Alabama, as I mentioned, I lived in Georgia for seven years. I still that's still most of my life, so I still very much identify as a southerner. And yeah, I was because I had mentioned something about long voting lines throughout the south and I'm just like, well, hi. I remember standing in a really long line in Atlanta. I don't know about you.

Bekah:

yeah,

Jennifer:

so. I've I've basically found that I don't feel. And the other thing is I've, even if you're trying to judge based on diversity, you might not even be giving answers. Like when I asked at one point in one company I joined the interview about like, what, uh, of like how womendo do you have in engineering The guy was like, oh yeah. You know, like, I don't have the exact numbers, but like, know, yeah. We have like, women are in engineering management. And then I joined looking at the org chart and there like three women in engineering. Me, woman on my team, one person in QA, there is no one in management. I was like, What So, so. I mean, honestly, like, I feel like the big things for companies I'm just like, stop doing most of what you're doing. Um, like it's, it's all bad. Um, but like don't, don't lie to people because also if someone really cares about that, going to be put off and they're going to leave quickly. Um, you know, try to be honest about where you are, like this is for any hiring managers. The honest about where you are and where you actually are trying to go. Um, and the other thing is when people, and people of color your company and give you feedback on how the process is going. I think. Don't react negatively. Like don't get defensive I think that's the, the hardest thing. Cause I've been in many places where I've tried to be like, Hey, I think we should consider doing this. And people have gotten extremely defensive and it's like, I didn't care, I would just leave. I don't need to stay here. Like I'm only giving this feedback and trying to make it better because I care about where I am and I want, I want this to be like a better place to work. I want people to, to love it, you know? And, and I think a lot of times people miss that, you know that if you are giving, if you're trying to get involved in, in, and that's, the other thing is don't don't necessarily make. Women and minorities do D I efforts, but also consider talking to least some of them if you're consider implementing a change, because I've seen a lot of changes for the good of equity and diversity rolled out that were quite poor

Bekah:

Yeah

Dan:

Sure. Do you have any, do you have any advice for for. Somebody Who, so, so maybe went through the interview red flags, you know, landed in a position like that, where they're uncomfortable, maybe like, and I suppose the experience is going to be different if you're coming in as a senior or somebody, you know, a little more comfortable. I mean, I don't want to speak for you, but I would imagine you would have no problem just quitting a job. Right. Uh, you know, like if you're uncomfortable, but if you're, if it's your first job, for instance, a first tech job, especially something like that, you have any, I any

Jennifer:

If first job, it's extremely toxic. If it's extremely toxic just start applying You got one job. You can probably get another don't. I would generally not recommend quitting before you have another job. I've only ever done that once. And it was a really, really, really bad environment. But I also talked to my husband about it and was like, can we afford to do this? And he was like, because I'm tired of you complaining this terrible place Um he still didn't get rid of me complaining about that for probably like two years. Cause it was that bad. Um, so it's, if it's really bad start looking for another job, like if it's extremely toxic, it's. Just a bunch of things where you're like, Ugh, this is really annoying. Try to buckle down. And know, if it's your first job, even getting just a year of experience is going to make you put you in a better position to get a better job. And I, I generally don't think you have to stay out of a job for a year, but again, when it's your first tech job, you need experience. Um, so being able to say just suck it up, hopefully people with more. Power in that particular workplace will speak up. I don't want to, I, the reason I try to speak up is because I am confident in my ability to quickly get another job. If things go downhill, do I want to be fired? No. But, you know, do I feel like it's my responsibility for people who are coming in, who are more junior who have less power, like to make sure that they're in a safe as safe a work environment as I can make it. Yes. But if you are that person who is more junior, do not feel obligated to speak up because you're just not in the best position to do that. Once you start getting. Next level senior, maybe start advocating for others a bit more because it really is important we all, like, I don't think it should only be up to, um, women and underrepresented minorities to call out racism and sexism in the workplace. Um, and. It can be a little frustrating. Um, when you know, I'm working with, uh, a bunch of guys and they're all, they're all really great, but you know, they're not really, they're not dealing with the same crap that I am, cause they're not putting themselves out there and pushing back against bad policies. So,

Dan:

Yeah

Jennifer:

but if you're junior, on tight, uh, it'll get better. Don't give up, even though tech is mostly trash, like, our most workplaces, you're a bunch of people talking about quitting tech and I'm like, nowhere's better. Everywhere. Sucks.

Bekah:

Yeah

Dan:

Uh, my, my,

Bekah:

academia's awful

Dan:

yeah, the academia. Um, I have no my imagi I always imagined just going into the woods, you know, by myself. If I, when I imagine quitting you know it there's no people around him. I imagined, you know, ideal job, trees and stuff. I don't, I don't know what the job is

Bekah:

Dan Daniel also work with me

Dan:

don't know going to oh yeah. Well, you're fine. You know, most times, but, uh, no

Jennifer:

You can

Dan:

just tech is

Jennifer:

ranger.

Dan:

tech. Yeah. Forest ranger. I feel like I I

Jennifer:

There's

Dan:

ended up.

Jennifer:

there.

Dan:

Yeah. I feel like you just ended up having to like, be chasing kids out of the park that had smoking weed or so they're not, I don't know, whatever, you know, like, you know, just being like a security guard, almost ranger I need something yet. I need like a trail maintenance. I don't know where it's somewhere somewhere, far away so I can just disappear for a couple of months and then come back

Jennifer:

Rural Canada.

Dan:

Yeah I'll go in Algonquin. It's something like that. Anyway. That's

Bekah:

I found one of the things that's been helpful for me is in having a community and then having a network. There are enough people that I know or connections through people. I know that I can ask What what is this work environment like and get an honest answer. And that has been so important. So networking is important to find a job, but also it's very important to find a good job. And like, I don't mean pay, I mean, good place to work.

Dan:

And actually that just made me think that another bonus is having people to ask advice of in, in, if they're in situations, you know, where they're not sure what to do or whatever, you know, actually having somebody who's been through that, uh, to, to ask us bonus of community.

Jennifer:

I think that can help. But caveat is like one of what was for me, like one of the jobs I've had was that a place that friends worked at and they loved and other people I knew work at in loved, but. Like I ended up not only did I get under leveled when I joined and that's something that's hard to tell because every place is leveling is totally different, know? So I don't know until I joined it, I'm like, wait, what? Now I see everyone's levels This messed up. Um, it's also a lot of places to really dependent on your manager. And so the people who were. Being like, oh, this is such a good place. They all had a different manager than me. I did end up switching teams at a, at a point, but like original manager was really, really bad. And like that, that's sort of the thing with. What have you said about like a home Depot? I had net positive experience working there, partly because I did coworker and I ended up talking to HR about situation and they were able to remedy it for her, but not for me because straight up part of it, I was like, well, I don't think this job is right for me. Like, if I had a different manager, um, But I think my experience would have been totally different and I probably would've stayed longer than like eight months. I'd had a better, a better manager that I know did exist there, you know? So

Dan:

Oh, on.

Jennifer:

really, I feel like it can help. It can potentially get you away from like really bad situations, but not a guarantee. Which sucks, it did help. Like one of, uh, one of my really good friends works at Splice we talked a lot before I even applied. And she was like, oh yeah, like here's the crappy shit that's going on. Or that has gone on, you know, is going on. And I was like, oh, that all actually sounds fine to me. none of those are deal breakers. I'm, I'm good. I'll apply. That sounds great. Sounds so much better than now.

Dan:

I'm trying to think. I don't even know. Are there any other hot buttons can push or

Jennifer:

One take I'm planning on writing on my blog is that may, which I think getting to be less and less of a hot take. Good. Um, is that being a full-stack developer is bullshit. one, no one is truly a hundred percent full stack because it is fricking impossible because it is hard enough to keep up with all of the front end things only. And it's hard enough to keep, uh, to fully learn a backend language, to get to the point where you're end optimizing your database, every, like it's hard enough to really gain any sort of expertise either side and anyone who says they're a full-stack developer, I'm sort of like, Hmm. But what's your favorite because that's what you're actually good at. And the other thing is just the thing you're sort of forced to do. And you're probably not doing very well. I say that as someone who has been a full stack developer and has been poorly doing HTML and CSS forever Script probably fine. Like I've had to do it for long enough that I I'm fine at it, but put me on like some real like front end front end. And I'm like, where's bootstrap. Oh, I have to make a change to bootstrap. lets not. just, let's just make this super bootstrappy and then we're good.

Dan:

Uh, as somebody who's been like actual front-end concentration for a very, very long time. I absolutely agree with you back end stuff. is hard to, and it's like hard. It's hard to do it well, and there's, there's so many I don't know I'm with ya. I'm with you on it. If you need a pull quote or something

Bekah:

Okay

Jennifer:

maybe I'll ask for some quotes. That'll be fun. I'll ask all of us. That is a question. And in Virtual Coffee, who wants to give me their hot takes on why being full stack is not, is real

Bekah:

what I think it's so hard. a lot of like full stack bootcamp programs out there. then there are people coming out of those boot camps, looking for full stack jobs. I just. Struggle with that path because your learning and just come out of a big learning experience, but it makes more sense to to be able to focus on one aspect and understand the other for sure, but to really dive deep into that. So you can, so you can level up and get to a mid level position

Jennifer:

Yeah, I totally agree. And I think the. Like what's really pushing This is companies who want just one developer who does their front end, their backend and their operations. you know, you should know

Dan:

okay.

Jennifer:

I'm just going to go with, you know, rails, Ruby. Uh, PostGrest AWS. I'm probably probably missing a couple, you know, probably a Reddis, you know, gotta toss in Reddis just for good, good measure or something

Dan:

my pet Webpack or whatever, whatever. Well, I guess if you're in grab, you can use whatever ridiculous nonsense of rails does, but, uh

Jennifer:

Hotwire now

Dan:

yeah. Hotwire

Bekah:

no more no more React

Dan:

it's so funny cause it's like how it always used to be and then it wasn't and then it was, and you know, it's like, there's this golden age where. You know where there were really just backing in front of developers, you know, cause it front and got complicated enough. Backend was harder than that. It's just,

Jennifer:

I think always been complicated enough. I say that as someone who was like, you know, messing around with my angel, FireSIGHT when I was 13 and, you know, trying to get scrolling text, I wasn't that great at it then. And to be honest, I really haven't improved that much.

Dan:

yeah, no, it just keeps getting more complicated.

Jennifer:

I can get solid scrolling text going by but That's about it.

Dan:

Dope.

Jennifer:

My personal built in Squarespace because you know don't have time for that shit.

Dan:

That's what somebody was just asking about that on, on, um, on Virtual Coffee, I think

Jennifer:

Oh, really?

Dan:

it's okay. Like their backend developer there, it was like a Ruby developer maybe or something and, um, yeah. And they were just like, is it okay if I don't, if I use a template or whatever, you know? Um, yeah. I mean, my answer was emphatically Yes. Like,

Jennifer:

Yeah.

Bekah:

a front end developer. I use a template.

Dan:

Yeah. I mean, whatever

Bekah:

It decreases the barrier to entry for me. Like I will sit there and trying to design, I'm not a designer. Right. Or like get all of the things Right. It's just, it's too much work to have to think about that and, figuring out all of the things. So

Dan:

Yep.

Bekah:

somebody has already done it. They have done it well, it cost $37

Jennifer:

Yep.

Dan:

hard to work on your own stuff too spend time on it.

Bekah:

Well, I think that's an excellent hot take to end on. So thank you so much, Jennifer, for being here and giving us all of your hot takes and sharing with us, your journey. this is really a really great and a lot of fun. So thank you.

Jennifer:

You're Welcome. I'm always here for hot takes. Anyone can hit me up in Virtual Coffee for the hot take of the day.

Bekah:

Oh yes. We need hot take of day

Jennifer:

We should

Dan:

imagining like a lightening talks except hot take lightening

Bekah:

Oh Oh, well, if we're going to do

Jennifer:

That should be of the weekly reminders. What's take

Dan:

Ooh, I like it.

Bekah:

well, we need a slack bot. All right.

Dan:

Oh man. Yes. I'll add my, thanks to this. This was really great. I appreciate your time and appreciate you coming on.

Bekah:

All right, we'll see you soon. Bye.

Dan:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel, and was edited by Andy Bonjour at GoodDay Communications. If you have questions or comments, you can hit us up on Twitter at VirtualCoffeeIO or email us at podcast@virtualcoffee.io. You can find the show notes, sign up for our newsletter, check out any of our other resources on our website at virtualcoffee.io. And of course join us for our Virtual Coffee Chats every Tuesday at 9:00 am Eastern and Thursday at 12:00 pm Eastern Please subscribe to our podcast and be sure to leave us a review. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next week!


The Virtual Coffee Podcast is produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel and edited by Andy Bonjour at GoodDay Communications.