Kelsey Leftwich may live in Tennessee, but she remains dedicated to Kansas City Women in Technology and its programs like Django Girls KC.

Kelsey LeftwichWhile Leftwich is originally from Kansas City and she attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City, she moved to Tennessee about a year ago, where her husband is attending graduate school. However, Leftwich is back in town this summer as her husband completes an internship at Saint Luke’s Hospital over the summer – and she jumped at the opportunity to mentor again for Django Girls KC.

“I feel like Kansas City is the best place to be a woman in technology and a big part of that is the KCWiT community,” Leftwich said.

Leftwich works as a software systems developer. She works closely with clients and subject-matter experts at her firm, where she develops software systems for businesses. The firm is made up a small, core group of people, and Leftwich is the only consultant whose focus is technology.

“I get to wear a lot of hats like server administrator, database architect, and ColdFusion developer,” she said.

Django Girls is a free, one-day programming workshop that connects women and girls with resources necessary to build their first web application using HTML, CSS, Python, and Django. While applications are now closed for the 2017 Django Girls Kansas City event, you can learn more about the event online, as well as see the complete list of organizers and coaches.

How did your interest in coding begin?
When I was in grade school, I borrowed a videotape from the library and learned how to make rudimentary HTML websites using Microsoft Notepad. Like a lot of people, I had a bit of coding experience personalizing my Xanga. (Social media sure has come a long way!) When I went to college, I decided to take a programming class and fell in love with programming through Python. I got a bachelor’s in Information Technology from UMKC and work as a software systems developer for a consulting firm.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
My work requires me to think about resources and how they are organized and connected. I know from experience detailed implementation is important but so is viewing the larger system as a whole.

I also think that part of the programmer culture is to seek out the best tools and avoid excessive or redundant work. I try to think about optimizing other areas of my life in the same way. It can be as simple as organizing my kitchen and meal prep or as complicated as organizing a community event.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Working on a really interesting project and getting into a programming flow state – hours fly by!

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
I am the only consultant in my firm with a technical focus. It can feel isolating, especially since we all work from home and are far flung. Finding communities like KCWiT has been really important for me.

What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
I learned a lot watching Lynda.com videos and working through their courses. It benefited me to try a lot of different programming languages and put hours into coding and probably more importantly debugging.

If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
There is creativity and craftsmanship that goes into making quality products. There is an artfulness to software development that non-developers might not be aware of. I take a lot of pride in making products that are functional, efficient, and maintainable.

How do you envision STEM continuing to evolve into our daily lives?
I’d love to see more interdisciplinary dialogue. We all have a lot to teach and a lot to learn. I think STEM professionals can bring a valuable set of skills to the table.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Continuing Education Specialist at the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.

 



The academic path that ultimately led Annie Ingham to pursue a career in computer science begins at the University of Kansas with studies in economics, German, and international relations.Annie Ingham

Upon graduating from KU in 2006, Ingham said she considered attending law school or studying economics in graduate school. “It’s funny because at that time, I doubted my math ability,” Ingham said, smiling. Instead, out of college, Ingham worked professionally on research projects, in addition to teaching elementary school. It was her move from Kansas City to New York in her 20s that allowed her time for “soul searching, as far as career choices go.”

While living in New York in 2013, Ingham worked as an administrative assistant, which gave her the time to learn computer science and coding on the side, in the evenings, and on the subway. The MIT OpenCourseWare Introduction to Computer Science course, Ingham said, became the course that helped her the most, as she bought the textbook and watched the videos, which introduced her to Python. She also studied front-end web development at General Assembly.

By 2014, Ingham practiced fundamental web development skills at Startup Institute, and soon after started a three-month internship at Reelio in New York. That internship then turned into a full-time role as a full stack web developer. Today, Ingham works as a software engineer at a web security startup.

This summer, Ingham is preparing for her third time mentoring at Django Girls, a free, one-day programming workshop that connects women and girls with resources necessary to build their first web application using HTML, CSS, Python, and Django. Prior to moving back to Kansas City in 2016, she mentored at the Django Girls event in New York City. She moved back to Kansas City in time to mentor for the summer 2016 event. The level of enthusiasm and organization of volunteers and the attendees “made it such a fun experience, and I thought, ‘I don’t want to miss out on this again,’” Ingham said of her continued involvement.

While applications are now closed for the 2017 Django Girls Kansas City event, you can learn more about the event online, as well as see the complete list of organizers and coaches.

How did your interest in coding begin?
When I was a lot younger, I loved to play on the computer, but then there’s a big gap when other things seemed more important at that time. What piqued my interest again was that I was working for a professor, and they needed someone to update the website. They sent me to a free HTML course, and I made three, incredibly basic updates. That’s when I realized it was possible to do, and I didn’t do anything with it for 10 years. In New York, then, I was reflecting back on what it was that I enjoyed about all the jobs that I enjoyed. I liked the analytical aspects and the critical-thinking aspects, as well as that it was ever-changing. I liked the flexibility that it could provide – you’re in demand, so you have a lot more options that way.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
The most immediate application that I can think of is spinning up websites for friends and family. That’s a fun hobby, too, and it’s something I enjoy. It’s a little more creative, too, than the backend development.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love what I do, and I love the company that I work for and the people I work with. What I enjoy the most is when you’ve been working on a problem for a long time, and you get a solution, and it works. I enjoy that good feeling of being able to solve a problem.

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
Right now, my big goal is to advance to a more senior level and to constantly evolve my skillset. Sometimes, it’s hard. For me personally, it’s making sure that I am setting realistic expectations for myself, and not growing complacent with where I am, but not getting too frustrated with where I am, either.

What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
I would say, “Do it,” first of all. Don’t be afraid to take baby steps and verify that you enjoy this. Go into it with an open-minded. Try a little bit of everything, and then focus on what you like. And, don’t be intimidated. Deep down, so many people are willing to help, if you’re willing to ask.

If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
It’s a very diverse field. There’s no one person or type of person who embodies what a software engineer is. And, it’s open to everybody, and I like that. The more, the merrier.

How do you envision STEM continuing to evolve into our daily lives?
I think if you just look at how things have changed in the last 10 years, and how we were with cellphone usage and Internet usage, and how now you can’t go an hour without checking your email or something on a website, I think it’s only going to continue to accelerate.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Continuing Education Specialist at the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.

 



JavaScript is everywhere. This is something that I already somewhat understood prior to attending Coding & Cocktails on Saturday, June 10. After attending part one of the two-part Programming Concepts series, though, I can now see how JavaScript is a driving force behind one of my favorite web-based activities: Reading as many news websites as possible online, particularly The New York Times.

One of my favorite aspects of The New York Times homepage is its simplicity paired with elegance. The homepage also mirrors closely the very traditional sense of The Times’ ink-based front page. Prior to digging into the session’s worksheet on June 10, I asked Coding & Cocktails’ Curriculum Director Kayla Hennegin to walk me through the different elements of the The Times’ homepage, so I could get a sense of what features are driven through HTML, CSS, and finally, JavaScript. Kayla also showed me how it is possible to turn off JavaScript in Google Chrome, which I did not previously know was possible.

As I progressed through the evening’s worksheet, I quickly realized how closely HTML and CSS work alongside JavaScript. I appreciate how Coding & Cocktails is structured to where you can join at any session throughout the course of the year-long curriculum, but I wish I hadn’t missed out on the introductory HTML and CSS sessions in January and February. I’ll definitely be picking them back up on the next go-around.

Lastly, a great deal of camaraderie took place at my second-ever session of Coding & Cocktails. At the PC table, I sat near two brand-new, first-time participants who had first learned about Kansas City Women in Technology via social media, and they thought it would be great to give it a try. I also saw several familiar faces of participants from my first session in May, and it made me feel at ease to see the loyal dedication of other coding newbies like myself.

My favorite experience of the evening came when I looked up from my laptop, and I saw a participant sitting at the Mac table with a Vu Le sticker on her computer. I instantly had to go over and speak with her – it is always great to meet another fan of Vu Le (pronounced “voo LAY”), who is somewhat of a celebrity in the nonprofit organization community. (He is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.) The participant, too, had attended his talk for Nonprofit Connect this January when he was in Kansas City. I briefly shared the experience on Twitter, and Vu was pleased and said that he felt encouragement.

July will be yet another busy coding-immersive month for me. Programming Concepts 102: A deeper dive into JavaScript is set for Saturday, July 8, and I am looking forward to building upon what we learned in June. The July TechTalk on Wednesday, July 12, is a joint meetup with KCWiT and Kansas City’s PHP User Group. While I know practically next-to-nothing about PHP, it will be exciting to learn more, as well as to see the beautiful facilities at Stowers Institute where my best friend works as a postdoc fellow. And finally, I am pleased to say that I was selected to participate in KC Django Girls on July 21 and 22. I am ready to learn more about Django and Python, as well as meet other girls and women who sharing my love for a growing knowledge of technology and its applicability in our daily lives. Without Kansas City Women in Technology, I’m not sure how else these opportunities would be available for me at this juncture in my life.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Continuing Education Specialist at the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.


Not too long ago, my best friend surprised me with a small, chunky notebook similar to the first one I had as a child that developed my love for notetaking and journaling. On the very first page, I scribbled two sayings that I’ve somewhat recently adopted as my adulthood mantras: “Start where you are,” and similarly, “Wherever you are, you’re in the right place to begin.” I love the applicability of these quotations toward my evolving appreciation for computer science and all that it entails.

I was unsure of what exactly I should expect ahead of my first attendance at Coding & Cocktails on Saturday, May 13. Alongside an improvement in my overall patience, I am learning to let go of predisposition while heading into a new experience or skillset, especially if it involves math or science instead of my natural strengths in the arts. I did know, though, that my participation in Coding & Cocktails was seemingly long overdue.

First, a little history is in order for why I am involved with Kansas City Women in Technology in the first place: A year ago, Alex Peak Turley, a college friend of mine for 10 years and the co-chair of KCWiT’s then-newly formed Marketing and Communications Committee, put a callout for committee members. I quickly volunteered for the committee because of its natural fit among both my long-standing and ever-evolving interests: I graduated in journalism and mass communications, and I was a professional newspaper reporter for five years, so I knew those skills would transfer well in profiling mentors and leadership on KCWiT’s blog. My husband also is a software engineer, and his passion and dedication to computer science has reignited my own interest in technology that began in childhood. Lastly, my interest in KCWiT has grown throughout the past year because of its 501 (c)(3), nonprofit organization status, and my current pursuit of a Master of Public Administration, with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The older I become, especially as I turned 30 a year-and-a-half ago, the more I am gravitating back toward the interests that held my loyal and unwavering devotion as a child. One of those childhood interests included spending hours alone at the computer, tinkering with word-command games or very elementary word processing programs on MS-DOS, and later, Windows 95. Although other participants and a solid core of helpful mentors were in attendance at May’s Introduction to Front-End Architecture, I also felt that same sense of independence and ability to try (and fail – and try again!) things on my own that I experienced as a 10 year old.

I feel encouragement because of the challenging content that was presented as part of the Introduction to Front-End Architecture, and I am looking forward to what will hopefully be a coding-filled summer for me. In June, I will attend Coding & Cocktails once again, where Programming Concepts 101 will incorporate JavaScript and jQuery, why they are important to front-end developers, and how to incorporate them into websites. The following week, Julie Stark will speak at the June TechTalk about her experiences at the first Django Girls KC workshop and her experiences with Python.

The July Coding & Cocktails theme of Programming Concepts 102 will allow a deeper dive into JavaScript, building upon lessons learned in June’s session. These two summer months offer a lot of excitement for a newbie like myself, but most of my anticipation lies ahead with my application to attend Django Girls in Kansas City. If I am accepted (applications close on May 26), I will have the opportunity to attend a weekend workshop geared specifically toward beginners who crave even further introduction to coding and programming.

Part of attending continuing education of any kind is starting where you are, learning what you can in a moment, and building from there. Alongside studying Python, R, and HTML independently on Coursera, attending Coding & Cocktails does not have a specific end goal or finish date in mind; I simply want to continue to build these skillsets, and hopefully, mentor others at some point. I am starting where I am, with the understanding that it is the right place to begin.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Continuing Education Specialist at the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.


Eric Poe started attending CoderDojo KC during its second session, and since November 2013, he has remained an active volunteer. Today, as Director of Curriculum, Poe said he enjoys seeing the children learn and seeing “the light bulbs” come on in their early development work, as well as his own networking with other mentors.

Mentor Profile_Eric Poe (CoderDojoKC)“I enjoy seeing the kids work hard to learn something, build something out of it, and then present it after three hours,” he said. “Seeing the joy of the kids as they show off their hard work is what kept me coming back.”

Poe has worked as a Programmer Analyst for three years at Stowers Institute in Kansas City, and previously, he worked for 15 years in a public school district as a manager of information technology. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2012, as he studies in the evenings while working full-time during the day.

Poe’s hobbies outside of work and CoderDojo KC include spending time with his family, watching Kung fu movies, and studying. “I try to devote at least an hour per night of studying various topics: usually programming, but I also work on studying foreign languages,” said Poe, who also is an organizer of Kansas City’s PHP User Group.

How did your interest in coding begin?
My grandfather sent me a book on BASIC when I was a teenager. He thought it would be cool if I became a developer. I read it. I did a few things. I took a class on it in high school, and I couldn’t really see myself becoming a developer. A long time later, I started doing tech support for Gateway 2000 and learned about the Bachelor of Information Technology program at UMKC. I thought that would be a good fit for me. I went into that hoping to get more information technology knowledge, but mainly, it was just a programming thing. At some point, during that degree program, I started to enjoy the programming side of it and the challenges that it provided.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
I have recently started going to conferences as a speaker. So, that has certainly helped.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy having big problems that we can then divide into smaller problems and divide among the team. I enjoy it when people appreciate using the tools that I built for them. I enjoy the social aspects of programming, as well.

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
Figuring what people are asking for when they are asking for something – their ideas change as the project becomes more mature. It’s challenging, but I also enjoy it; it’s all the same.

What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
It’s OK, to try out something, but once you’ve decided to do it, go all in. Learn what you need to to get the job done, but also learn much more. I didn’t start enjoying programming until I dove into my studies and learned the whys and the whats, which allowed me to play with the code with a deeper understanding. Also, attend a local user group that deals with that topic – there you can learn from others, ask questions, and discover neat things about the topic you’re learning.

If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
It is a social activity. I think the lone the developer in mom’s basement is a myth, or rather, an outlier rather than the rule. In writing code, you’re writing it more for other people to read rather than just for the computer. The computer understands it, but it’s secondary.

How do you envision STEM continuing to evolve into our daily lives?
I think STEM, by itself, is not all that interesting, without the arts coming into play. I like to think of it more as STEAM, rather than STEM. Science is great, but science without playing or without imagination, doesn’t go very far.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Continuing Education Specialist at the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.


Mentor Profile_Dan Holmes (CoderDojoKC)The mentorship role for Dan Holmes came together quite organically in October 2015.

Holmes organizes Kansas City’s PHP User Group with Eric Poe, CoderDojo KC’s Director of Curriculum. Holmes’ daughter also was 9 years old at the time, and Poe’s daughter was already attending CoderDojo KC, “so it just seemed like something fun that we could do together,” Holmes said. His role as a mentor came next.

As a senior software engineer at The Nerdery, Holmes earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems at Ottawa University. Outside of CoderDojo KC, he enjoys playing a great deal of Minecraft with his daughter, as well as continuing to be involved with the PHP User Group as much as possible.

How did your interest in coding begin?
Certainly as a child. My first memories are either with an Apple II at school or at home on a Commodore 64 with BASIC. I remember having computer magazines that had software in them, and you would have to type them all out. I remember doing really well with the basic stuff back then.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
I’d say troubleshooting comes up all the time. I think troubleshooting can take on different forms for different technical disciplines, but it’s also a pattern of solving different things. Seeing how something works now, seeing how you want something to work from there, and breaking down the little steps down from there on things to try – challenging your own assumptions as to why something isn’t working.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Solving people’s problems. I really enjoy being able to help companies get to that next level. It’s definitely about the people and supporting the customer’s vision and where they want to take their business and how I can help them get there.

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
It’s always changing. There’s very little room for learning one thing and sticking with it. You always need to be learning that next thing because to someone else, it’s already the current thing.

What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
I would tell my younger self to stop worrying about everything being so perfect. People need solutions that are better than what they have now, and while perfect is still a good goal, it’s really, really expensive. … There also is so much online training, if that’s your format. For example, I like to point out to people that if you have a Johnson County Library card, you can sign up for something like Lynda. But I also recognize that not everyone wants to learn that way. Picking a little project, and picking one or two technologies, that something that you can do with what you can. You are going to be Googling a lot and reading a lot. Find what works for you.

If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
Solving problems with code is really just breaking everyday concepts down into itty bitty steps. At the end of the day, that’s what we do: We figure out how to large, complex systems or complex ideas, and break them down into small, repeatable steps.

How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
When I was a kid, certainly if you wanted that more advance technology education, you found yourself at Radio Shack. You found yourself getting kits to build crystal radios and electronics projects. And so, I still see the future of STEM being similar to that, in that taking components off the shelf and learning how to do it yourself, how to build little contraptions that solve a problem or doing something cool, that still doesn’t large education systems. It just requires access to the materials and ideas of what to do with the stuff. I think Raspberry Pi and Arduino are excellent for doing just that. Ultimately, the application of science and art come together in everyday ways. I hope we get to the point where doing cool things with technology is just commonplace and is no different than putting new batteries in your remote. What makes it unique are your ideas.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Continuing Education Specialist at the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.


Trying to decide to attend a Coding & Cocktails program? ALL levels and abilities are welcome! Follow along with Shireen as she learns how coding ends up being important – no matter what your profession is.

I’ve been out of high school for nearly eight years now, and to this day one of my biggest regrets is not taking any coding classes as an elective. Most of the students who took computer classes when I was in high school were regarded as losers, and I was already struggling socially. Not only that, the classes were filled up almost entirely by boys, which can be intimidating for teenage girls dealing with confidence issues (I’m still struggling with this, and I’m in my late twenties…). Besides, I figured I didn’t need to learn coding because I was going to major in music performance and journalism in college.

ShireenOh, how wrong I was.

When I graduated from high school in May 2009, the United States was still in a recession and social media was in its infancy. I didn’t think much about the global changes at the time because I was too busy getting ready for my next recital or audition. I rarely used social media, so I didn’t notice the potential they would have in influencing the world. I didn’t get my first iPhone until 2012.

I quickly learned how much technology had changed over the last four years when I started graduate school for journalism. I had no idea I’d have to take courses on quantitative analysis and social media in journalism school, but I did, and they were some of the most difficult courses I had ever taken in my life. And I couldn’t deny the importance of learning technology for my career field – Data and information are constantly changing and growing. As the digital world become more complex, reporters are responsible for communicating these innovations with their audiences, a.k.a. the people who are being directly affected by these changes and may not even realize it. More investigative reporters are also now using coding skills to gather data for stories they’re working on.

I finally acknowledged a couple of years ago that I needed to learn coding to become a better journalist, but I opted not to take any coding courses in graduate school because 1) they’re expensive and 2) I didn’t want to potentially ruin my GPA if coding didn’t come easy for me. I decided to wait until after completing graduate school to look for coding classes.

Shortly after graduating from journalism school, I moved to Kansas City for a 6-12 month journalism internship. Once I got settled into my new living and work situation in January, I started looking for affordable evening and/or weekend coding classes in the area. One of the first options I found online was Kansas City Women in Technology’s Coding & Cocktails, an introductory coding program for women that meets once a month. During each four-hour session, women will learn new coding skills while enjoying dinner and unique cocktails. This looked like the perfect opportunity for me. I couldn’t get off the waitlists for the January and February sessions (HTML and CSS), but I was fortunately able to attend the Command Line session in March.

I’ll be honest, I had never heard of Command Line before until I signed up for the course on Eventbrite. I just wanted to learn any aspect of coding I could. It turns out Command Line is quite powerful. Developers use it to communicate with computers to quickly, efficiently and effectively accomplish tasks to the computers’ maximum potentials. It turns out I haven’t been getting full use of my $2,000+ MacBook Pro since I bought it three years ago! I initially felt overwhelmed with all the information I was receiving all at once, but the mentors at Coding & Cocktails were very patient and friendly with me. With their help, I was successfully able to complete the worksheet by the end of the night.

At last week’s Coding & Cocktails event, we learned the basics of version control and how it allows collaboration with other developers on projects. With version control systems, such as Git, software developers are able to simultaneously work on a project without having to share the same computer to monitor what each developer is working on. They are able to communicate with each other using version control repositories, such as GitHub or Atlassian’s Bitbucket. Developers can use the Command Line to work on their version control projects, so I was able to apply the skills I learned at Coding & Cocktails last month to complete my worksheet and homework on Git in class.

I’m thankful affordable and flexible coding opportunities like Coding & Cocktails exist for novices like me. Some courses cost thousands of dollars, but Coding & Cocktails only costs $25 per session and it includes food and drinks. I also appreciate that there are several mentors available to help, and they will stick with you until you understand the concept. And since software development is still a male-dominated field, women have the opportunity to learn how to code without feeling intimidated or awkward. Another great perk about Kansas City Women and Technology’s Coding & Cocktails is there are lots of great resources listed online for anyone who wants to practice their skills outside of class. I highly recommend taking advantage of what’s available for free or at low cost. I can’t wait to learn Front End Architecture at Coding & Cocktails next month.

Admittedly, I don’t currently have any way of using these skills I’ve learned over the past couple of months outside of Coding & Cocktails. However, I know I will have to use Git or some other version control system for a journalism-related project in the near future, whether that’s developing or updating my media outlet’s website, or gathering data for a story. Hopefully, my skills will be sufficient enough for my resume to stand out by the time that happens.



The month of April is National Volunteer Month – a few weeks when we can take time to reflect and praise those who offer up their time to contribute and make a difference. Kansas City Women in Technology is a non-profit community organization, which means that a very large portion of sharing our passion with Kansas City comes from its community and volunteers. We are very grateful to those who volunteer their talents and time to help further our mission to get more women involved in tech.

If you’re already a woman involved in tech, it’s very likely you’re in a small group of women, if not the only woman, at your company or events. Our goal is to bring local women in tech together to learn, encourage young girls and women to explore tech, and guide women to boldly pursue technology careers.

With the support and expertise of the countless amounts of volunteers, mentors, speakers, leaders and innovators, Kansas City Women in Technology can proudly host programs such as Coding & Cocktails, Coding & Cupcakes, TechTalks, CoderDojo, and more to provide outlets, resources and encouragement to women and young girls throughout the Kansas City area.

Here are just a few of the various moments and reasons we have to thank those who are involved and celebrate National Volunteer Month…

It [a code-based career] might be intimidating because A. people are older than you or B. they are mostly male. But people in this field are very cool and are very willing to meet new people. –Olivia Mark, Mentor

Get involved with Kansas City Women in Technology earlier. Find a mentor outside of work to help you learn. –Sara Heins & Ashley Sullins, Mentors

For those who are getting into coding, I would say that you should jump in, get involved, and meet people. There are so many resources out there; look for those resources. I feel like my whole life changed when I got involved with Coding & Cocktails. –Ashley Holbrook, Mentor

No matter how long it takes, the journey of self-discovery is worth it. You don’t know where the end is until you find it. –Tamara Copple, Co-Director of Coding & Cocktails

Start working on projects, and do as much as you can every day. –Gabi Dombrowski, Mentor

Being a programmer is not about knowing how to do everything but rather knowing enough to get started and then being able to speak the language and know basic tools so that you can google for the rest and ask intelligent questions. –Julie Heckman, Mentor

Just try stuff out. Start building stuff. There are a lot of resources out there on the Internet that are free and accessible. –Jessica Ralston, Mentor

I would definitely recommend getting involved and finding a community to be a part of. Getting involved with KCWiT has been so much fun and getting to know people who think the same way and in bouncing ideas off of them. –Sarah Duitsman, Mentor

It’s a life skill to be able to work with technology. By knowing more about STEM, you are a better user. You can recognize usage patterns more effectively. –Bill Ayakatubby, Program Director

I knew I wanted to give back, and I knew I couldn’t be the ONLY woman programmer in Kansas City, so I built Kansas City Women in Technology to help women in tech careers network with each other, and to create a way for other women to enter the industry. –Jennifer Wadella, President & Founder

If you’re looking to give back or want to get involved with Kansas City Women in Technology and any of its programs, join our team and help further our mission to improve diversity in technology.



Tamara CoppleTamara Copple’s pathway to her career today as a Business Analyst at New Directions Behavioral Health took many twists and turns along the way – but the foundation for her passion toward technology found its roots back in her undergraduate studies in interior design, when she truly wished she were studying architecture instead.

Copple began her freshman year of college in 1990, and residential architecture served as her true passion at the time. She aspired to study architecture, “but architecture was for boys,” she said. “Girls did interior design. I think I’m probably at the tail end of a generation that felt that way.”

Back then, Copple said, she lacked the self-confidence and the support “to be whatever she wanted to be.” Her interior design-focused studies were not her true passion and calling. “I kept trying to find that next challenge. I knew that I hadn’t hit my peak yet.”

By 2002, Copple was working as a junior business analyst, and later spent more than 10 years in client relations management before returning to a business analyst role in June 2016. Today, at New Directions Behavioral Health, Copple she works on the database side, and she designs software improvements to the database so that the processes to the end user move more smoothly.

She credits her attendance at an early Coding & Cocktails session in April 2015 as the push that really helped her seriously consider a career as a computer programmer. She now serves on the Kansas City Women in Technology Board of Directors, and she is co-director of Coding & Cocktails.

Copple’s top hobbies include Dungeons & Dragons and cross-stitch. She also is continuing her computer programming education through LaunchCode in Kansas City.

How did your interest in coding begin?
I started as a junior business analyst at DST in 2002, right after I got my master’s degree. I left the junior business analyst area so I could learn more about the company and its products. I did a lot of client relations work for a long time. After a while, I realized I wanted to get back into software development, and it was about the right change in my career. My husband is a software developer, and he always encouraged me to get back into it because he said I had the skills to do it. He was always supportive; it was Coding & Cocktails and the enthusiasm that was there that really pushed me. I was actually one of the very first participants in Coding & Cocktails back in 2015. It was enough to really get me hooked.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
When we first got married, my parents knew that my husband was the techie in the family, so they called him. When I got deeply involved in Coding & Cocktails, my parents then started calling me and Matthew was completely happy to turn over that role. Also, it helps me be taken seriously when I go someplace and I ask technical questions.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
The databases are composed of little bits of information, and altogether, you can tell a story with that information and you can tell whatever story needs to be told. I really enjoy letting the data telling its story. I also really enjoy the team that I am working with – they are really smart, and they are easy to get along with. It’s a joy getting to go to work and I look forward to it every day. 

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
I am not patient person, and I never have been. I think in concepts and big ideas and broad brush strokes. Learning to pay attention to the details is a real learned behavior for me. That phrase “attention to detail” made me want to cringe most of my life.

What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
No matter how long it takes, the journey of self-discovery is worth it. You don’t know where the end is until you find it. All they were, for me, were bumpers – they were guard rails to tell me what direction I should be going.

If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
The human brain can analyze a thousand variables and make a split-second decision about how to react, like when you are in a car accident or trying to catch something falling off of a table. The act of trying to do that same thing but teach a computer how to do is where the magic happens.

How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
Technology is already as much of a part of us as breathing. We cannot live without our computers, our phones, our electricity, our vaccines – can’t live without it. The real question is about how to use technology in the right way. I’m a big proponent of knowing when the technology should end and how to commit learning to memory. My ideal world is one in which we have balanced the technology, and it gives us a comfortable living, but we don’t forget about where we came from.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Continuing Education Specialist with the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.


In partnership with Women Techmakers, this month’s Tech Talk was held in celebration of International Women’s Day at SMG in the Crossroads. The panel of six speakers included entrepreneurs, community organizers, and teachers. While all women work in technology in different capacities, the topics of imposter syndrome, networking, and educating yourself were aspects that affected the growth in their careers.

Rachel Hack Merlo, current Community Impact Manager at Google Fiber, began with a career primarily in advertising. Merlo described the advancement of technology and how it affects business and organizations that are not purely technology fields.

According to Merlo, instead of dreading a change in result of technology, thinking of what situations will grow from the influence such as new skills and critical thinking can be a catalyst for driving companies, and mostly people, forward.

Ann Gaffigan is the Chief Technology Officer and partner at National Land Realty. Currently running her own freelance business, the establishment and growth of which is a signal of assertiveness for the self-described “rule follower”.

Ann escribes having a past of being a rule follower and committed computer science student and employee. However early in her career, Ann found herself at a crossroad when the opportunity to leave her full time job to work on a freelance basis. Thi gave her the chance to increase her responsibilities and impact on projects while also, inadvertently, taking the company’s biggest client with as her first solo project.

“Who knows the feeling of wondering…’What the heck am I doing?’ “ Jenny Tarwater, founder of Blueshift Innovation an agile coaching and training consultancy, describes this as the feeling of “imposter syndrome”. This experience can be common when learning a new skill or pursuing a new career. A combination of education and networking is a sustainable way to continue your path during the moments when you’re second-guessing yourself.

Inspiration and passion can serve as the primary catalyst to create a new career you may not have planned on.

Donna’s current company was founded as the solution to an everyday hassle: the process of scheduling multiple appointments. DailyReel is an “appointment hub” to streamline your appointment scheduling into one place. The goal was to have the functionality of booking several appointments without making multiple phone calls or using different apps. Thus Donna founded DailyReel.

Angie Klein is a teacher that splits her time between two local high schools teaching students computer science covering topics such as web programming, computer programming, machine networking. In addition, Angie sponsors technology-related extracurricular clubs and organizations.

Describing her career path in technology as a “curvy tree”, Angie began her career as one of a 18 new-hire cohort at Cerner Corporation. Since then, Angie has also worked for DST Systems, Kansas City Southern and Kansas City Power and Light. Citing her passion for technology and her students, Angie uses that passion as support to continue despite being the only teacher in such a specific technology field at her schools.

Follow Kansas City Women in Technology on Twitter to view more of the conversation.

Join us for our upcoming TechTalk Wednesday, April 19, at the Cerner Innovations Campus with professional speaker, Lauren Shieffer, for the a seminar on conflict resolution entitled “Before it Comes to Blows”. Learn more and register on Eventbrite.



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