On today’s episode of Agile Coaches’ Corner, Dan Neumann is joined by Betty Pierce, a Senior UI/UX Developer at AgileThought. Betty has extensive skills in various front-end frameworks and libraries including React Native, React, and AngularJS. She is also the Director of Women Who Code Tampa and Trainer for GDI Tampa Bay. Her main passion is building front-end architectures for enterprise apps.
In this episode, Betty gives her perspective on the coding groups for women; the women’s groups she is a part of; how she, as an organizer, makes these groups accessible and welcoming for new members; how she runs the groups and participates in them; and how to get involved in these women-oriented groups yourself. She also gives her tips on how to get started and break into the industry as a woman!
Like what you heard? Check out our podcast page for more episodes full of interesting discussions, agile insights, and helpful resources.
Intro: [00:03] Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought, the podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.
Dan Neumann: [00:17] Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner and thank you for listening. I am your host Dan Neumann. Agile Coaches’ Corner brings you agile topics in an approachable way. The views and the opinions expressed on this podcast are solely those of the host and the guests and these views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought, other organizations or any other individuals. If you have a topic you’d like us to discuss. Email it to us at podcast@AgileThought.com or tweet out to us with #AgileThoughtPodcast. I’m excited to have Betty Pierce joining me today. She is a senior consultant, a UIUX specialist, but a full stack developer. And one of the things I like about Betty and kind of how we first started communicating within the company is about a lot of your volunteer activities. Betty, you’re engaged with several groups, uh, Girl Develop It at girls who code, Women Who Code. And for our folks who aren’t familiar with those groups, I thought maybe you could give a little introduction to what those groups are about and how you got involved.
Dan Neumann: [03:11] That’s awesome to get children. And then specifically girls in this instance involved in thinking logically thinking of how a computer works and those skills translate outside of just programming. And they’re great for sciences. They’re great for writing. If you think about the logical flow of your English and the way you communicate. So to be clear, Women Who Code and Girl Develop It are both for adult women as I understand it. And of course you welcome men. You’d, you’d said that and Girls Who Code is for that mid elementary school up through high school and really introducing um, girls becoming young ladies into computer programming. That’s awesome. You mentioned with Women Who Code a couple of different facets. There was a technology side of it as well as the community part being really important for helping women stay in the technology profession in the software development field. I thought it was really interesting that it kind of the pairing of those, the intersection, so it’s not just about keeping your skills relevant and it’s not just a social group. Can you maybe elaborate on how those two things fit together within a Women Who Code?
Betty Pierce: [04:24] Sure. We’ve actually found, I think it was more of the trial and error. We’re really technical. We’d love to have tech talks, but women gave us feedback. Actually, we just want some more time to socialize. It’s so nice to talk to other women in development, um, and just hang out. We found that we really liked hanging out together. Um, so we, we decided to do a mixture of both. Um, because it’s, it’s nice to have somebody that you can relate to, um, yeah. Everything from, Hey, I returned from maternity leave and of course I have to take all these breaks to pump milk. Um, and I’m working with a bunch of men, you know, oh, I know exactly how that feels. You know, who else can you talk to in an environment where that’s relatable. Right,
Dan Neumann: [05:08] Right. You get that, the empathy of having that, that shared experience of trying to merge the, a certain aspect of your life that you know, that men might try to empathize with, but they don’t have that firsthand experience of those trials and those challenges.
Betty Pierce: [05:23] No, men don’t know what it’s like to show up to work and have parts of your breast pump missing because you forgot.
Dan Neumann: [05:33] I have certainly never had that experience. That is, that is true. I’m not going near that. That’s dangerous waters, men talking about women’s stuff. So we’ll uh, yeah. So I am curious that you not only have participated in these though, you’ve taken on a leadership role within these groups and I’m curious what maybe drove to go beyond just participating, uh, as one of the attendees to really feel drawn to the leadership role and helping these groups continue to be thriving entities?
Betty Pierce: [06:11] Really the past leader. She, she pulled me into it and she said, you’re really passionate about it. We need a somebody who’s going to take it on. She wanted to start writing a book and she was moved into a managerial position that was taking up a lot of her time as well too. So, um, it was kind of dropped in my lap very carefully. Um, but I wanted to, I didn’t want to see, um, the organization not have a presence in Tampa Bay because we really do enjoy it. Um, and if I was going to show up, how much more work is it for me to just get a sponsor and facilitate the event and we have a leadership team so I’m not the only one. I said, okay, I’ll do this but I need some help. Um, you know, we’re a community so it’s not just one person. And I do have a code director as well too. Um, that was the other agreement was that she was going to help me find a co-director because we’re serving all of Tampa Bay that Saint Petersburg, Clearwater, um, and Tampa in crossing that bridge is, is kind of a bear. So we try to cater to the different regions within the Tampa Bay area.
Dan Neumann: [07:16] While these groups, you haven’t described him specifically as as agile groups. I tend to look at things with an agile filter and pairing, having a team that can work together to deliver software to deliver this valuable experience for all the members of, of Women Who Code, Girl Develop It. I think that team concept is really important as well. And the, you were alluding to that you have, uh, your, your a leader, but you have co-directors, you have other people on the team that you rely on as well. How do you make it more welcoming for people to attend the first time? So as an organizer and potentially people who are reluctant to, uh, maybe go try something new. I’ve been not developing code at this point longer than I was developing it as a consultant and a professional software developer. But I’ve been out of it now. And the thought of starting again is intimidating for me. Even as somebody who used to write code in C++ and some other languages, how do you make these groups more welcoming for people who are new as Girl Develop It, as you said, that’s for people maybe who are trying to transition into or even Women Who Code where you’ve got professional software developers and maybe now this bringing the social aspect to the professional aspect is maybe a little intimidating or something they have not done
Betty Pierce: [08:37] Well the first thing is picking a location that’s accessible to all about accessibility, right? So setting up logistics, making sure parking is free. Um, because if I’m not working or I’m, I’m on maternity leave or if I’m taking a break to care, it’s not just about mothers. A lot of our people are taking care of older parents as well too. So there’s a lot of reasons that people take a pause from development, um, and want to come back and they asked, I want to go back to coding. I’ve been doing this. Um, so the other nice thing about Women Who Code, all of our events are free. So money’s not an issue. Making sure that we can get there, that it’s a central location within the city and then we do a lot of introductory level type of things because part of it is there’s so much going on in the tech community you want to show up and just get a little nibble of knowledge so that I can speak to that technology if it’s something that can fit into the realm of what I’m doing right now. Um, so that’s all part of it. We do have higher, uh, we’re actually going to have one in September on that net security. Um, so some of it might be a little bit more advanced and we let people know ahead of time. Um, but again, you know what? I always encourage people whenever we’re learning anything new, just kind of absorbing, keep a lot, keep up with what you can when it goes over your head. Just relax and kind of take it in. A lot of times, think about how many times we have to hear things before and apply it before we really understand what we’re doing. So really encouraging and coaching people to, okay, you know, this might be an advanced topic, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be in this industry or it doesn’t mean that you can’t even code in this technology. It just takes time to learn it. Give yourself time,
Dan Neumann: [10:19] That need to keep learning. The intro classes, there’s always going to be a new technology. There’s always giving me an intro to whatever the next language is, or a new framework or a new pattern. And, and so that comfort with continuing to learn. Continuing to feel a little uncomfortable because there are always new things. I think that that’s one of the challenges for software developers regardless of of gender, right? It’s just, hey, how do you keep up? How do you stay relevant? And so these classes, um, and the sharing of things like .net security, it seems like they would really be helpful. Betty earlier on when you were talking about girl develop it, you mentioned kind of a ratio of 1 to 20 female to male in the industry. And that’s also a, a pattern or a ratio that I tend to see at a lot of agile conferences. Maybe not quite that stark, but it’s still feels like there are fewer female presenters, fewer women presenting than there are men. And so for somebody who is maybe looking to share their ideas in the setting of a conference, you’ve done that and I was curious if you have some tips for how to maybe get started and, and overcome that, uh, breaking into that area.
Betty Pierce: [11:51] It actually started with the opportunities I was given through Women Who Code. With the director, I went to a hackathon up in Atlanta, Women Who Code hackathon, which was really cool because I’d never been on a team of all women developers. That was a fun experience, but she encouraged me to share what I learned at the hackathon to our local Tampa Bay group. And I had done corporate training, software training, um, for years before. So I was kind of comfortable speaking in front of people and I was like, sure. Um, but talking in tech, I was scared to death. I was scared to death about the questions they would ask. What if I don’t know the answers? Um, what if I start, you know, when I start coding and, and showing some of the applied skills, everything breaks. And then I just, you know, the demo gods as we call them and IT, um, so I started by speaking at it, my local meetups, and then I just spoke at the front end, a meetup as well too. So I kind of practiced in a smaller local community. Um, but one of the talks I did was on intro to metaware and internet of things and how to hook up to little data sensors and things. And that was kinda cool. I showed some live coding and things like that, but that topic was so good three years ago. Um, people who build conferences attend a local meetups. So I literally had a guy come who without my knowing, I was actually auditioning to be in his conference. So afterwards he’s like, I really want you to be on my conference. I’ve got this and this going down in South Florida. I’m like, I’ve never spoken at a conference before. I’m not a conference speaker, you know, but he’s like, yes you are. I just saw you. I’m like, no. And he’s like, no, seriously, come do it. It’s fine. It’ll be just the same thing, just the same format. So I was really coached into doing that and encouraged, you know, it’s very humbling when a, when a conference planner comes to you and says, I want you to speak at my conference, you’re like, what? Okay. Oh my goodness. So that’s Kinda how it started. And then one thing led to another and people invite you to do things. Um, I also noticed that it’s, um, being a female gender it actually helps me to actually make it into, in there because like you said, they do want those numbers up. Um, so if you are a good presenter and you are female, you, you have a leg up already. They like are a more feminine voices and women approach things differently. We have more feminine traits, so obviously more communative and um, it’s just a little bit different, you know, so it gives us diversity of thought and diversity of approach, but I didn’t intend to, to do that at all. It just became an opportunity. And again with that theme of getting uncomfortable, trying new things. Um, and, and I discovered I liked it. But the other thing that’s really cool that I would like to share with people on the introduction classes are so much more popularn at conferences again, people are going to to just get negative and for little nibbles of information, um, the advanced classes have very low attendance and think about it if you’re already in an advanced in, in a, in a certain practice, what do you want to listen to another advanced talk on? Um, so really keeping things in an introductory level. In going back to composition 101, what’s your three main ideas? You know, you want to tell people I start my topics with, I want you guys to know how to do X, Y, Z or to be open to, um, using this by the time you leave and that’s really good because when I do open it to questions, anything that’s still saying, okay, well how do I get this, this CLI started. They’ll ask me questions because they know that’s my objective and they want to help meet that as well. They want to walk away with the same understanding.
Dan Neumann: [15:36] Yeah, you’d, you’d talked about how your start was with a hackathon. So those tends to be, at least from, from my perspective, kind of a low stress in a way. And there’s the stress of doing the hacking, but it is, um, a bit of a private experience. You’re not on stage, you’re with a group of folks and it’s a chance to, to practice with your craft. And then from there into some local meetup groups, again, my experience of meetup groups, it has been, they’re pretty welcoming. They’re, um, they’re not out there to embarrass a speaker. They really want to see speakers succeed and give them support and learn little bits. And so those are kind of steps towards the conference, like you said, somebody saw you and was impressed with what you had done and invited you. Other times it may be entirely appropriate to submit a conference proposal or an abstract without being invited certainly I think that’s the majority of people’s experiences. Just getting out there and trying and, you know, realize that the demo gods may come bite you once in a while, but it’s, it’s an experience. And, and being okay with a kind of that live theater.
Betty Pierce: [16:44] Well, in my background, I actually started my career as a musician, so I would get on stage and perform and there’s nothing more frightening than getting in front of people and performing in your face and your failures right there. What do you do when you miss a note? What do you do when you choke? Um, so even when you have your piece memorized and you get to that part, you forget we’re all human. Um, so I had learned younger, um, through, through my music career of you just keep going and just, you know, um, it’s all an entertainment industry and you’re there to entertain your audience. Um, so you just play it off and, and you can’t take yourself too seriously. The most successful people, um, that I’ve ever known, the few times I’ve met billionaires, you know, they’re very candid, casual people and they, they laugh at themselves. So be able to laugh at yourself on stage. Like, oh my goodness, this isn’t working. Okay, so we’re going to move on. And you know, when you just kind of have your liners to keep it going. Um, but that’s how we do every day we’re on, we’re always facing our failures. You know, do we, um, let it conquer us or do we just take a pause, rebuild ourselves and, and keep going? Right.
Dan Neumann: [18:07] Things will not go smoothly. There maybe an AV hiccup, you might have a question that you really don’t know the answer to or weren’t prepared for or that conference attendee who maybe wants to become the presenter. And so a little bit of a chance to kind of live on the edge with the, the live theater of conferences. So we’ve talked a little bit about your role as a host and and making the environment welcoming for folks, for people who are maybe wanting to experience the Girl Develop It or Women Who Code or maybe get their daughter’s involved in Girls Who Code. What are some, some tips for them may be overcoming the momentum of, of not being involved right now. Maybe speak to those folks for a minute.
Betty Pierce: [18:53] Well, it’s just like, if you want to lose weight, you got to get off the couch. You gotta get, you gotta put yourself out there. And I always encourage the younger next generation, if you’re a girly girl, wear that makeup, do your hair. You know, you are very welcomed in the tech community. Other women are totally fine being all natural. And that’s cool too. Um, but going back to how do I get there? Well, you call your friend and say, Hey, I’m looking at going this conference. Why don’t you go with me? I’m looking, hey, did you see this meetup? Let’s go with me. Um, I used to bring my BA o you know, uh, the, the product owners with me too, we were friends. I’m like, Hey, let’s go check out this tech talk on stuff. And I would do that just because I, I would do that to a traditional meetups because they weren’t run by women. I knew that I might be the only girl there, so at least I have a friend that I feel comfortable talking with. So bringing a buddy with you is always a good thing as well. Um, but that’s why the, the Women Who Code’s always kind of fun because you know that there’s going to be other women there. We’re not a judgemental group. So that kind of eliminates the barriers. It makes women feel more comfortable attending in IT.
Dan Neumann: [20:03] Yeah. Maybe no secret to people listening. I’m a dude and, and so I very rarely have that experience of being a minority. I mean, you know, I’m a dude. I’m a white dude. Like the, the experience of being in technology and being, um, you know, not part of the majority is, is difficult to explain. But when I have found myself in a situation like that, I’ve noticed, I’m like, Oh wow, this is potentially a little bit uncomfortable. And so having, yeah, having that parent, I don’t know what it would be like to live with that potential discomfort pretty consistently. And so, yeah. Making, you know, hosts making the environment welcoming and then participants finding a way to um, grow their comfort level with, you know, bringing a friend, bringing a buddy, calling up somebody, finding a group that, that works for you and kind of your, your demographic, your perspective, your worldview, whatever that case might be. Some of these things. Um, do people have to commit long term to something like a Girl Develop It? Women Who Code is that, um, show up once and if you don’t show up again for another month, that’s okay. Like what, what type of commitment level do you see in these types of groups?
Betty Pierce: [21:19] Yeah, show up once. That’s fine. Uh, we actually had a person show up to our holiday party, I think Chicago. Um, and she was just in the area and she saw us on meetup and came and she’s like, yeah, I just wanted to talk to tech and see what kind of girl, women Dev community you had here. Um, so sometimes we have a lot of people from out of town. I love that we also have a slack channel so people can keep in touch with via slack and we always encourage people to attend conferences that we have nationwide as well. So it’s really whatever you’re comfortable with. A lot of times it’s about the topic on, you know, if it’s a tech talk,
Dan Neumann: [22:00] Is there a like a central place, you mentioned the national conferences. If somebody’s looking for some of these groups and we’ll put the link in the show notes, but I wasn’t sure what website they should be going to.
Betty Pierce: [22:11] Sure. Womenwhocode.org is where we have all the Women Who Code conferences and all the meetups, nation wide or global actually. And we most of them use meetup. So using Meetup.com for all of the adult groups. Now you asked earlier about um, the things going on for kids, for children as well. Um, here in Saint Petersburg we have the Suncoast Developers Guild and we do run children’s classes through that as well. So again, checking meetup for tech, we do have some locally for, for kids classes. They’re not gender based, but they are aged based. Cause there’s a big difference between an 8 year old and a 16 year old. So we going keep the younger kids the eight to 11 together and then um, 12 or 13 to 17, uh, is a, is a separate group
Dan Neumann: [22:57] And Girls Who Code is also national, correct?
Betty Pierce: [23:00] Yes. And that’s more complicated because you really need a facilitator. Um, and there’s a process. You actually have to take a coding class, pseudo code, a test to become a facilitator, um, for Girls Who Code. And then, uh, you would, you would have, like I said, a community group, whether it’s a, um, it’s a local library or um, the one we’re helping with is through Hillsborough County schools. Um, so that’s a little bit more difficult to find things and ask for it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. So if you’re looking for talk to people,
Dan Neumann: [23:41] We really appreciate you sharing, um, the topic and maybe you’ve inspired somebody to either join a group or start a group or bring their daughter to a group or who knows who knows what they envision the next group or another unmet need and start getting something going. So really want to appreciate that.
Betty Pierce: [23:58] Well, and just the demographics are changing quickly. Um, I saw an article and it was years ago, I was trying to find it, but the women who have been coding for more than 10 years in, in, in 15 years, I’m at about 18 years now. Um, we’re, we’re really like 2% of the industry, which is really sad. Um, a lot of women leave. No, we have life changes. We have babies. We go on maternity leave. And just like you were saying for your own journey, you haven’t coded for so many years. Women have the same challenges. I don’t know that I can keep up. I don’t know that I can learn. I’ve got so much more responsibility. So there’s a lot of reasons why women leave development in, in, in the tech industry as a whole. Um, but so we really want to retain these young women as they’re coming in and make them feel comfortable after getting married after, uh, um, maternity leave and the other women who are taking breaks to care for their spouses or to care for their, their parents. There’s a lot of reasons why we take breaks from professions, um, but we just want to engage them, make sure everybody’s feeling welcome. But again, there’s more women that show up now, even to the front end devs. I’m seeing a lot more, um, women involvement. So if you are a woman, you know, don’t, it’s changing quickly, which is good. The momentum’s there and I think we also talked about, that’s kind of what I like to see as my legacy. I want to make sure that the next generation, they feel more comfortable, they feel engaged and it has. Um, but now it’s just the, the, the attitude, the culture, the tone that compassion is there and it wasn’t there. And I want to continue to make sure that that’s there for the next generation. And I always tell those young ladies, don’t take advantage of it, you know, appreciate it and be thankful, but don’t take things for granted because there was a lot of women before you, it didn’t have any of the benefits that you’re enjoying now.
Dan Neumann: [25:50] I think one of the phrases: improvement’s the goal not perfection. And so hopefully the industry continues to improve and make the playing field more a more hospitable for everybody who can contribute in tech. Because one of the things, tech’s obviously a pretty lucrative type of field relative to a lot of other ones. And it also can be very flexible in terms of what hours you work, where you work from. So trying to balance a myriad of needs regardless of your gender. Tech can fit really well into that. And so, um, and there’s always a need for more. I haven’t been to a company that like, you know what, we have too many of developers. We have too many really good developers. You just don’t hear that. And so there’s so much opportunity. Hopefully, uh, these groups and, and uh, people like you taking leadership roles and inviting others in can I continue to grow the talent pool?
Betty Pierce: [26:43] No, it is a very, it is a blessing and it’s extremely empowering for a woman who’s going through problems. You know, she’s in a bad marriage and she needs to leave it. You actually are making enough money in tech to be able to, to, um, change your life. When we find ourselves in problems, that’s one of the things we don’t have to worry about. We can move to another city and find a job. And, and that such a wonderful empowering feeling than I would love to give to other women, um, in various parts of their lives. It is just very, and, and again, those career changers were very, very unsure, but you have so much experience already, your professionalism that you’ve learned and all these other industries that you’ve already been in. We want that. We need that professionalism as developers because we get a lot of people that have never, you know, they’ve never had a, had an office job. They don’t have all of those professionalisms and, and um, attention to detail. Those are things that we learn from experiences in life. So regardless of your background, all of that is relevant as a developer.
Dan Neumann: [27:48] Yeah. All those soft skills that get brought in paired with the technology part. Absolutely. Yeah. There’s no, there’s no heavy lifting, you know, the computer doesn’t know the age of the fingers and the brain that are working on it. So it’s entirely approachable. Yeah. Outstanding. Thank you for joining today. Really appreciate to you, uh, sharing and I’m sure have you back and maybe sharing on a more technical topic next time.
Betty Pierce: [28:12] Yeah, it’s all, I have really adopted a lot of the agile practices. Timeboxing is used every day in my life. Um, you know, really helps you refocus things. So there’s so much within the agile framework and the methodology that improves your day to day. You know, I’ve got a combine board in the kitchen of all the chores that I start to do.
Dan Neumann: [28:35] Very nice. Very nice. One of the things we like to ask a guests when they’re on here is kind of what they’ve been reading and maybe how it’s been helpful or impactful for them? I’m curious. It can be a blog, a book, a fiction, nonfiction.
Dan Neumann: [29:57] I’m sure you can hold on much longer than that. Do you have some favorite places to go to for your front end library wake when you’re trying to learn about those?
Betty Pierce: [30:04] It depends on that one that you’re going into really. Um, but I, I definitely see, look for design patterns, um, those that take enough time to build design patterns, uh, kind of give you a key to the puzzle that you’re building, right? It’s like the picture of the puzzle. I’m still looking for design patterns. AIRBNB has some really good ones for react. Anger has, has, uh, you know, they have everything in there. Those are kind of the big popular ones. Um, and again go to meetups, talk to people, uh, share your struggles. If you’re having the same problem looking in in stack overflow, you’ll see that you’re not the only one that is one blessing about being in developer in today’s world. There’s so much help in the development community and get out there and ask that question in those forums and answer questions too. Pay it forward.
Dan Neumann: [30:58] Absolutely. Yeah. So not a traditional kind of bound book type of reading, but certainly tons of learning between trying to keep up with the, the different libraries, the blogs and kind of where these patterns are going in which patterns are going to be helpful.
Betty Pierce: [31:11] Oh, I wish I had time to read for pleasure.
Dan Neumann: [31:18] Uh, sounds like you are though, the way you described the, uh, the passion for the Front End Development and those types of things, just not fictional reading so. Well, thank you again. Really appreciate you sharing with the community and sharing with me. I feel a little smarter now.
Betty Pierce: [31:35] Yes. Thank you so much for having me.
Outro: [31:40] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner Podcast brought to you by AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips from this episode and other firstname.lastname@example.org/podcast.
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