Over 325,000 people attended this year's USA Science and Engineering Festival in DC, and I was fortunate to chat with some of them as I womanned the DC Web Women booth in the Career Pavilion.
It's so wonderful to have the opportunity to talk with people, and especially women of all ages, about careers in technology, or how technology touches on the careers they want to be in. I chatted with a couple of young women who were looking forward to working in fields of zoology and biodiversity. At first they weren't especially interested in hearing about tech, but "You have my attention" was their response when I explained to them that my career as a software developer led me to work on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It was fun to speak with them about how they could get a leg up in their fields just by understanding databases and custom software projects.
Throughout the day I was able to speak with young kids, girls in high school and college, and their moms and aunts who were escorting them. I told them a bit about what I do, and projects I've worked on, and listened to them.
By far the highlight of my day was speaking with an older woman who had been involved in software development in the 90s, but now felt out of touch with the industry and didn't really seem confident in her abilities to pick up a new language. I talked about my experiences over the last 15 years, and how finally Ruby and the Rails framework clicked for me. It was amazing to see the light go on for her, that maybe a career in tech was just a matter of applying her old skills and trying different things until she found what clicked for her. We talked about training and educational opportunities, and how DCWW could be a resource for her. Her excitement was infectious and carried me through the rest of the day.
One of the things I miss about living in DC is being able to spend time in the presence of fellow DCWW members. It was really fun to spend the day at booth 55 catching up with Sibyl and getting to know Ashley and Merina. If you're in the DC area, DC Web Women is a great community focused on supporting women in technology. If you're a software developer, graphic designer, information architect, writer, SEO specialist, or involved in any other career that is related to web or mobile, you should check them out.