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Google LGBTQ Tech Summit Lesbians Who Tech

Finding Her Voice at Coding Boot Camp

 

Confidence Matters: Sharon’s Story

I had the profound honor of being selected as a fellow for the 4th Annual LGBTQ Tech and Innovation Summit + Fellowship at Google in Washington D.C. The summit, founded by Lesbians Who Tech, is an opportunity for 140 unique and innovative minds to join together in leveraging technology for the benefit of positive social change.

One of the pillars of the fellowship is working on a group project that embodies that mission. My project, led by the Tegan & Sara Foundation, aims to build a web application to aid LGBTQ + individuals in finding safe and culturally competent medical providers.

The fellowship was a result of more than just my bootcamp experience. I, like many fellows at the summit had spent years volunteering and working on various social service initiatives. In fact, some fellows had no direct tech experience at all but we all see technology as an invaluable tool for ameliorating disparity and improving society. What WCCI did provide, however, was the training to make me capable contributing productively in that environment and beyond.

During our first team conversation, I sat in a group with talented and experienced individuals, some of who are leaders in their fields of health policy, product management and tech. The conversation seemed to run rapid fire and was led by a few of the more outspoken and experienced fellows.

Because health access is an initiative I was already passionate about, I had quite a few opinions. Initially, knowing when and how to speak in that environment was a bit difficult to navigate. Thankfully, though, part of the training I’ve received at WCCI also covers etiquette in tech spaces and confidence in one’s ability to not only feel that you belong, but that you will be able to contribute something of worth. As a result, I found the confidence to offer an idea for the project which was adopted as one of the key components of our product.

One major take away from my experience thus far is that We Can Code It’s mission statement of fighting for diversity and inclusion is directly reflected by their actions.

What I hope organizations understand is that diversity is more than just a buzzword. The causes of segregation and inequality are still at play. To actively fight against those causes you have to do more than simply open space and say you want diversity to fill it. You must also address the barriers that maintain segregation, inequality and underrepresentation. That is complicated and challenging work. But it can be done.

I have seen WCCI do that challenging work in every conversation a classmate or I had with administration about fears, doubts, and identity. It was present in the generous sponsorship I received to attend the summit because they understand that opportunities mean little without the financial means to access them. It is present in the makeup of the faculty who try in all their own ways to train, coach, challenge and encourage us to take opportunities because we may not have the mindset that we are worthy.

I have only been immersed in programming and tech for a little over 3 months. And as I continue to find myself taking my seat at more tables, being trusted to add my voice to important and necessary conversations, I am continually and increasingly thankful that my education began at We Can Code IT.

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