Women in Tech: Let ‘s Step Up Our Game!

Women in tech, let’s get out from our comfort zone!

When I moved to the area, I had a hard time finding tech meet ups in the area. I remember taking a bus from Niagara Falls for two hours to go to a lone PHP meetup where I would be the only woman in the group. It was intimidating going to a meeting where I didn’t know anyone, but getting out of my comfort zone paid off. In fact, if you decide tl;dr right now: at least take this away: getting out of your comfort zone in a small way every day will pay huge dividends in the long run. Do what feels uncomfortable until it becomes tolerable and then take the next leap.

It was thanks to my willingness to go and surround myself with like-minded people that I started a chapter of Girl Develop It in Buffalo and discovered the hidden potential of the female tech community.

In my role of a chapter leader, I meet a lot of talented women who are interested in getting more involved with tech community but don’t know where to start. I even meet superbly intelligent women who do themselves a huge disservice by underestimating their skills and thus don’t feel the confidence of taking a step up in the largely male-dominated tech world. If you’re going to wait until you feel confident to do something, you may as well be waiting forever.

So how about we all stop waiting, making excuses for ourselves and start acting? It’s not easy. I am not perfect with this, but I try not to be the kind of person who says “I am just not good at public speaking.” “I am just not a X” (insert whatever you make an excuse for here). I still do this from time to time, but when I act in spite of my excuses or fears, it pays huge dividends down the line.

When I talk to women, one of the most common excuses why they don’t take on more active role in the tech community is because they think they know their subject well enough or are afraid of public speaking. But the truth is, who is not afraid?

Think about the possibilities of overcoming your fear and self-doubt and taking the first step. Here are just some helpful resources that I’ve found useful. Don’t let this huge list overwhelm you, simply exploring one of these options is a step in the right direction. Which one most resonates with you?

Toastmasters International – non-profit organization that helps to practice pubic speaking in supportive and friendly environment. There are many chapters in Buffalo, and you can find one near you here

speaking.io – Built by a Github employee, it walks you through every step of the process from choosing your topic to analyzing how well you did on your talk.

Follow @ladies_in_tech on Twitter and subscribe to their blog – Co-founded by one of GDI instructors Jenn Lukas they showcase a wide variety of stories that will make you laugh and get you inspired.

Listen to Lisa Marshall’s Public Speaker Podcast – Listen to podcasts about the topic on your commute

Follow these public speaking tips by James Altucher – In my opinion, he’s one of the best bloggers who shares his experience and view on life from being well-off to going broke and his roller coaster of a life. His stories are written in a simple and relatable way. In the this particular article, he shares tips on public speaking, but check out the rest of his writing for tips on all sorts of things in life.

What else can you do to get involved?

There are 20+ technology groups within a 20-mile radius of Buffalo according to Meetup and Nextplex. A lot has changed in the last 4 years and I’m so grateful to help be a part of that.

Contribute a video to the High Visibility Project. Made by GDI Chapter Leader, Jen Myers, the site collects stories of women in technology and allows them to contribute their experiences and ideas by video. Submit an entry here.

Plan to attend TEDxBuffalo, TEDxWomen or Barcamp. At Barcamp, you can opt to give a short talk on anything. It’s a great low-pressure casual way to practice your public speaking skills.

Go attend StartUp Weekend Buffalo. Join a team. Build something, even if you think you don’t have many skills to contribute to the team. Trust me and yourself. You do.

Go to a FIKA Buffalo meetup at the Dig coworking space – Coffee & exchange of ideas in a very cool coworking space downtown? Why haven’t you already attended?

Continue to practice your skills and you can even apply to speak at TEDxBuffalo. Don’t fall into the trap of undervaluing yourself and believing that you have nothing unique to offer. It just requires courage to dig in and figure out what that is.

So dig in. Be uncomfortable. Conquer your fears. Own your entrepreneurial spirit. Your community will thank you and you may even surprise yourself.

"Thanks to Yasmine Mustafa, GDI Philly chapter leader for inspiring this article"