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.



It’s been almost 7 years now that the title on my business card says “Software Developer” and yet I’m still learning new things every day. 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 Coding & CocktailsI’m slowing stepping my toes into the community after being submerged in pregnancy and the first year of motherhood fog for the last two years. And I find that every time I attend a KC Women in Technology event, I come away feeling energized, refreshed, and excited. I recently had the opportunity to be a mentor at a Coding & Cocktails class and I can’t wait to return.

As a mentor, I quickly realized that I don’t have to have all of the answers immediately. Most of the time, the most valuable part was walking the student through my thinking process of how I go about debugging and figuring out how to solve the problem. My job isn’t just to get them to the right answer or get their computer to work right; I want them to feel that same rush of adrenaline from executing commands correctly and making the computer do what they asked.

The March session explored Command Line Basics which can seem a little abstract compared to HTML and CSS but being able to navigate through the command line is really helpful and will come in very handy as your programming skills increase. Typing in commands not only allows you to take control of your computer in a way that clicking with a mouse doesn’t but it also opens the door to finding patterns to your work that could eventually benefit from scripting.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely frustrating at first. But the more you use it, the more comfortable it will become. Force yourself to just use the command line instead of icons or drag and drop and clicking tools.

Could you do an online tutorial from the comfort of your own home on your couch and in your pajamas? Of course you could. But you’d be missing the best part of Coding & Cocktails which is the community and fellowship of working with other women from all backgrounds and skill levels (and the cocktails which are AMAZING!). I loved engaging with other mentors and students and finding out about their backgrounds and why they were participating. The best part is that we all have one thing in common – we want to help each other learn more!

– Julie



Jessica Ralston describes her academic and career interests as having come full circle: While she began her undergraduate studies in architecture at Kansas State University in the mid-1990s, she would ultimately graduate with a Bachelor of Arts from the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications at K-State.

Jessica Ralston Coding & Cupcakes MentorFollowing a three-year career in public relations, Ralston worked as a Senior Web Technician and User Experience Designer at the American Academy of Family Physicians before working at Intouch Solutions, where today she is Associate Director, Development.

A mentor for Coding & Cupcakes, Ralston also served as a Django Girls mentor in summer 2016 and is a past Tech sHeroes mentor. She also enjoys serving as a Girl Scouts Brownie leader for her daughter, as well as maintaining the website for the PTA and PTA Foundation for her daughter’s school.

How did your interest in coding begin?
In college, I had one assignment to make a web page. At my first job, in the Shawnee Mission School District communications office, I was supposed to update phone numbers and addresses as they changed jobs. It was so disorganized that I convinced my boss to let me redesign it. I made the second version of the Shawnee Mission School District website, and as I was working on it, I guess I enjoyed it more than other aspects of my job. I really liked the creative and technical aspects of building the website. My next job was at UMKC in the School of Education, Continuing Education department. I was the marketing coordinator. At that time, UMKC had one person in charge of the website. If each department wanted a web presence, they had to do it on their own. So, I did it, and word got around. I took a couple of computer science classes at UMKC. I got my job at American Academy of Family Physicians, and I got my job as a web technician. I was there for 11 years. It wasn’t like there were classes at the time to learn front end development. Everyone I know my age basically taught themselves the material.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
I was really good at math in school, and I when I started college, I started as an architecture major. I feel like I’ve really come full circle, because architecture is technical and creative in the way that front-end development is. When I was in college, I had a couple of jobs where I basically taught myself a lot of things, through several different jobs.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
My job now is really making sure that my team knows what they need to be doing, has the support they need to get their jobs done. I feel like now, the most rewarding thing about my job is when the people on my team are successful. And, we build some pretty cool stuff, too.

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
Things are always changing – new clients, new projects, new technologies to learn how to use. But, that’s also what makes it interesting.

What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
Just try stuff out. Start building stuff. There are a lot of resources out there on the Internet that are free and accessible. It doesn’t have to be for a client. You can make something to just show that you know the technology.

If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
People don’t always realize how creative it is. It’s all about problem-solving.
How do you envision STEM continuing to evolve into our daily lives?
Of course, some people think that everything is going to become automated. With people my daughter’s age, they’ve grown up with the Internet. It’s just going to become ubiquitous, and I feel like all kids should know how to code just a little bit. It’s not magic; it’s something you can do.

-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.


Trying to decide to attend a Coding & Cocktails program? ALL levels and abilities are welcome. Join Patrina as she starts to tackle CSS. 

Something I heard during this month’s session that resonated with me: “I know enough CSS to get by”.

Patrina CSS EventThis statement made me wonder exactly how much CSS (e.g. Cascading Style Sheets I now know)  is enough to get by. As I sat there listening waiting for more of a specific answer, I realized I would never get one. I received several different descriptions of font styles, colors, sizes, shapes, effects as well as explanations on how to manipulate them. If you are that girl (like myself) with a thousand different ideas and lack the tools to create them, learning CSS could be for you. If learning HTML (last month) is like being given an empty toolbox, then CSS is like receiving the tools. The more you use CSS the easier it becomes to locate exactly which tool to use to get your point across, solve problems in a more efficient or even beautiful way, and to understand technology as a concept that is literally limitless.

It has been eight hours (two sessions), and I am still not a tech expert. I still make plenty of mistakes. I ask questions and there are all these awesome women there to help me find a way to the right answers. I still haven’t learned how to make a website on my own, but I am learning. I am specifically getting by. with “A little help from my friends” _Lennon/McCartney.

See you at the next Coding and Cocktails in March. – Patrina



Ashley Holbrook described her first experience with Coding & Cocktails with great enthusiasm and passion.

Ashley Holbrook Coding & Cocktails Mentor“I love it. I got addicted to it the first time I went,” Holbrook said of her first Kansas City Women in Technology session that she attended in June 2016. “I was like, ‘I’m never leaving!’”

Her dedication grew so much that as of January, Holbrook is now a mentor with Coding & Cocktails. By day, she is a PrePress Coordinator at Tabco Inc. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Arts Technology Management at the University of Central Missouri, where Holbrook said she asked her instructors to create a special class for her that would allow her to combine her graphic design- and website creation-related passions simultaneously.

Holbrook also has a side business, creating websites and doing design work. She originally started with Coding & Cocktails to help strengthen her already-existing HTML knowledge base, but it has since turned into something larger for her long-term career goals.

Outside of Coding & Cocktails, Holbrook’s personal hobbies include knitting and yoga. She also is currently continuing her coding-related education through LaunchCode.

How did your interest in coding begin?

A long time ago – I grew up on computers. My dad was really adamant about having computers. I used to boot up DOS and play Doom, back in the day. I was fascinated by the computer, and I always wanted to be on the computer. I used to take the wallpapers from Windows, and recreate them in Paint, pixel by pixel. The coding interest started, then, with MySpace. I figured out HTML, and I had a totally decked out MySpace page. It was just sort of always in my mind, and I didn’t really pick it up again until college.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
The problem-solving, definitely. When you are coding and creating things, you run into so many problems. Having that grit to keep going has transferred over into the everyday part of my life. It’s transferred at work, too – I run a digital press, and that thing has so many issues. I used to get so frustrated, and now I think more about how I can figure it out. That logical part has really stayed with me.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
When you work on something and you keep getting errors, and then it works, it’s such an instant gratification. I’m learning Python through LaunchCode, and that’s been a lot of fun.

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
I think for me, I’m a really visual learner. Writing code is just looking at words. It’s then a matter of looking at how the words work together, and sometimes, that’s difficult for me to see. That’s been really challenging. I’ve printed out the code and have drawn diagrams with it and lines of how they relate to one another, and that has really helped me.

What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
To my younger self, when I made them make a class for me in college to make a website, when you feel passionate about something, just go with it. It can be scary, but eventually, when you get older, you are going to go back to that passion and what drives you. I’d just say, “Follow your passion, Little Ashley. You will get there anyway.” 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.

If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
Computers can be pretty dumb. As a human, you really have to think about the program that you write. Computers just take the program that you wrote and make it work really fast. That was a big lightbulb moment for me.

How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
Technology is becoming more and more prevalent in every aspect of our lives. I think that it does make our lives easier, for sure; I only just see that getting more and more. From what I see right now, there are a lot of tech-focused jobs right now, and there is going to be such a huge demand for all of this. Education is extremely important for that. I think all of the programs, such as Coding & Cupcakes, are perfect for that.

-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.


Trying to decide if you should attend a Coding & Cocktails event? We think you should; but for a more unbiased opinion, we offer an attendee’s experience to sweeten the pot. Thank you Patrina for your candor!

My first experience with Coding and Cocktails was nothing like I expected.

Instead of a group of female tech experts, I encountered a diverse group of females sharing curiosity and enthusiasm about tech. Of course, some were more seasoned than others but I could not tell you who was an expert and who was not.

The thing is, coding is a skill that allows you to investigate. You can try HTML/CSS, Java, Python whatever. It can be a hobby or a new source of income. If you find yourself happy and comfortable with a certain program or programming language, then that can be your niche. If you run into problems (YES, you certainly will!), someone there has encountered the same problem, or is happy to lead you in the right direction.

What I liked best is the overall sense of camaraderie and commitment to sharing information and ideas. Did I learn how to create a website in four hours with minimal coding experience? Nope, I learned how to identify and solve a problem using different solutions to get a similar result, and I loved it. You can’t call me insane, (“insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results_ Rita Mae Brown) I just enjoy learning anything new, and stepping out of my comfort zone to do it.

For anyone who is curious about coding, and some amazing cocktails come to the next session in February. You can bring a laptop or borrow one it’s no problem, but please leave your expectations behind.



Gabi Dombrowski moved from Florida to Kansas City specifically to work for Cerner Corporation. After completing a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology at the University of Central Florida, Dombrowski worked at Cerner as a systems engineer. She recently transitioned the focus of her career, and she now works as a Python developer for Alt Legal.

gabi dombrowskiDombrowski has mentored with Coding & Cocktails for about one year, as she originally joined KCWiT to further her development-based skills. She said she enjoys the growth of her problem-solving skills and the constant learning that comes in working in a computer science and engineering-based profession. Outside of software engineering, Dombrowski’s hobbies include practicing Ashtanga Yoga.

How did your interest in coding begin?
For me, my dad always worked in IT, so we always had computers available. He was pretty encouraging of letting me play with and tinker with stuff.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
It’s helped my problem-solving skills a lot. One of the most impressive things is that when you get a group of female engineers together, things just happen. Someone will ask, “How are we going to do this?” and five other ladies will chime in with how we are going to do things. It’s super collaborative, and things just get done.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I would have to say the constant learning. There’s always a new challenge, and it’s always different. You get the satisfaction of solving a problem creatively. When I started trying to develop my dev skills, it almost felt like going back to school because I was constantly learning

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
I’d almost say it’s kind of the same thing. Sometimes, it’s really tempting to just give up, and sometimes, you just have to walk away for a bit. You know it’s going to be there when you come back. It’s difficult sometimes to have the stamina to stick with and solve a problem.

What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
I’d say start learning today. Start working on projects, and do as much as you can every day. Eventually, you’ll come up with something good, and you’ll get a project out there. You’ll be surprised with how much you learn. I think it’s important, too, to keep track of your progress, because it is really incremental.

If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
I think the creative part of it doesn’t really get emphasized enough. I think people sometimes think you’re just sitting in a corner, playing with numbers, but it requires a great deal of creativity and problem solving.

How do you envision STEM continuing to evolve in our daily lives?
Specifically, I think it’s going to become a much more diverse field and become more accessible to a wider range of people. It’s important because you are getting a multitude of people to contribute to the development of technology. That’s going to give us the ability to solve problems that we haven’t looked at solving before.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Media Analyst-Account Coordinator for Synoptos Inc. 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.


Sarah DuitsmanSarah Duitsman’s initial interest in computers began at an early age. Her mother was an art teacher with a computer in classroom, and her family always had a computer at home, as well. Duitsman and her sister utilized the computer mostly for playing games, but Duitsman also took an early interest in how computers worked. Growing up in Ames, Iowa, Duitsman also attended conferences at Iowa State University for women in science and engineering known as Taking the Road Less Traveled. “Looking back, I think that probably had a good influence on the direction that I took,” she said.

In her initial studies at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, Duitsman took an Introduction to Programming course that only further solidified her serious interest in computers. She transferred to the University of Iowa, where she graduated with a degree in Management Information Systems. Duitsman is a software architect at Cerner, where she has worked for the last nine-and-a-half years.

In mid-2015, Duitsman was seeking something to help her further her career, adding, “I was feeling a little bit lost in my career. I kind of felt like I didn’t know how to find the right resources to improve my skills.” Jordan Svancara presented her talk “The Next Generation of Software Engineers” at Cerner’s DevCon that year, and Duitsman visited with her afterward to learn more about the need for mentors within Tech sHeroes. After Duitsman attended TechTalks, as well, the progression into Program Director for Coding & Cocktails seemed like a natural fit.

“I just love that we have so much fun introducing people to a new skill. It’s such a fun environment, but we are still able to talk about the technical topics,” Duitsman said. “The women are always so excited, and everyone is so friendly, too. We have such a great group of mentors, and it’s been really fun building the program.”

How did your interest in coding begin?
I took another couple of classes, and I really enjoyed some of the database concepts that I was introduced to. I just really dove into the additional classes that I could take to learn about it. The database side of things was really in my wheelhouse, and I was excited about the kinds of things that you could do with data. I just really enjoyed the problem solving and trying to figure out the most efficient way of doing something.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
Knowing that I can do something and persevering when I get to a sticking point or something I am struggling with, that I can work past it, whether it’s home improvement or other things.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy that there is always variety. There is always something different to solve or create a solution for. There is always a new technology to learn and new skills to pick up. It’s just so limitless.

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
Not always having the right answer right away. Technology is always changing, and there is not always just a single way of getting to your end goal — though some ways may be better than others. As time has gone by, I’ve learned that is OK to not always be perfect right out of the gate, as it opens up learning opportunities. I think the most important thing I’ve learned as my career has grown is that even if I don’t have the right answer right away, I do have the capability to figure it out and knowing that has become so much more important to me than always being able to be right all the time.

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 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. They are so supportive and helpful, and it’s been a lot more fun. Teaching the skills for others has helped solidify the skills in my mind for me, too. I wasn’t really expecting that, but it’s been a pretty cool discovery.

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 lot of fun. It’s exciting when you work through those problems and get something that you were stuck on. There are so many different people that are involved in it. That’s another benefit of KCWiT: You get to see other women and their outside interests. People have a diverse range of interests within the community, as well.

How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
It is engrained in everything. So many people are working with technology in their jobs; even non-developers have to work on their jobs with their computers. It’s kind of all around us, and I don’t think it’s going to change any time in the future. People are always thinking of creative ways to solve life problems through technology, whether that’s through an app or a device that is connected to technology.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Media Analyst-Account Coordinator for Synoptos Inc. 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.


Bill Ayakatubby has been with CoderDojo KC from the beginning, first as a volunteer and now as its program director. Diversity, especially among technology-focused careers, is important to Ayakatubby as a gay man, he said. “I feel really strongly about promoting diversity in all ways,” said Ayakatubby, a senior software engineer at The Nerdery.

billayakatubby_coderdojokc_programdirectorAyakatubby, who studied at DeVry University from 1999 to 2002, said he remembers the day that he realized he wanted to work with computers for a career. He told his mother, who was then homeschooling him, and she said it was okay. Ayakatubby researched formalized schooling, and by age 16, he was already in college.

His involvement with CoderDojoKC began in October 2013, as Ayakatubby wanted to get involved with Kansas City Women in Technology without feeling like he was intruding too much as a male engineer. As CoderDojoKC program director, Ayakatubby said the aim continues in reaching out to more diverse populations, including low-income families and communities of color. With about 65 children attending each session, Ayakatubby said the program reached a high point this summer with a record of 91 children in one session. “It was really energizing, and all of the kids really pitched in to help each other, which was perfect,” he said. “We really want them to learn by teaching.”

How did your interest in coding begin?
I can remember coming home from school one day, and my parents had purchased a computer. They didn’t tell me that they were going to purchase it; it was a complete surprise and shock. I remember playing around with it and finding out shortcuts immediately. I was playing around with the batch script, and I started teaching myself batch scripting. I was probably only 11 or 12, if I had to put an age on it. In the meantime, I took the computers merit badge course in Boy Scouts, and you had to write a program in BASIC. I did that, and then I went home to try to find the BASIC compiler, and I didn’t have one, so I went to a friend’s computer. Then, we got the Internet, in ‘97, and the whole world opened up for me. I started to make really simple websites, and that started my web development interest.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
It has transferred in analytical thinking – I’m a role player, so when I met my husband, he got me into Dungeons & Dragons. I was able to quickly analyze the role that I was in. At the same time, I have found that a lot of my hobbies have transferred into technology. Role-playing is all about being creative; software engineering is a science as much as an art. Soft skills are so important in software engineering, too.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I am always learning something. There is always something new to learn in any aspect of tech, whether it is software engineering, project management, or business analysis. There is always something new to learn.

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
There is always something more to learn! You are never caught up. It can feel like you are behind. You kind of have to learn to be comfortable with that. It’s kind of scary and intimidating. I took a detour from web development for a while, and when I returned, there was a whole set of new tools that I had to learn. I relied on my peers and popular blogs and people in the industry to figure that out. I am really happy that I did.

What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
Learn the basics first. When I learned the foundation of C network, it taught me to be a conscientious developer and considerate of the PC resources. It gave me a little bit of insight into how not to be wasteful or so inefficient with your programming. Having that foundational knowledge with C programming was probably the best thing that I could have ever gotten out of my academic career.

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 easier than it looks. I think it’s true. Programs look complicated because they look really polished, and they do really cool things, but each of those things is just a function and a composite of other really cool things. When you start to think about the problems analytically, it’s just a bunch of little problems to solve. Once you’ve solved them, you’ve written your software.

How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
Computers aren’t going away at all, so everybody has to have a basic knowledge of how computers, smartphones, and technology in general operate. Kids are using computers every day in school now; parents are putting iPads in front of their babies now. 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.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Media Analyst-Account Coordinator for Synoptos Inc. 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.


Kate Nielsen’s academic and professional background is varied: She majored in women’s studies and international relations at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and she worked in social work for nearly a decade before she transitioned into a web development-focused career.

Kate Nielsen

Those exact varied interests, Nielsen said, are what make her excited about Kansas City Women in Technology and the range of skillsets that women bring to the profession. “I think it’s great that so many women are putting themselves in that arena,” said Nielsen, who has served as a Coding & Cocktails mentor for about two years, alongside owning On Tap LLC, a web development company.

In addition to mentoring for Kansas City Women in Technology’s Coding & Cocktails, Nielsen serves as a board member for the Waldo Area Business association, and she also is active in Athena League and as an ambassador for the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

1. How did your interest in coding begin?

 

I was in social work. I was an organic farmer. Really, I got burned out in social work and I joined a marketing company. I knew nothing about marketing, but I learned, and I started to build websites in a WYSIWYG Web Builder. I got frustrated with my lack of control, so I taught myself to code so I could have more control over the website. Then, I went and did the Johnson County Community College Web Design tract, to get some official training.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?

 

>Working with a bunch of software engineers and developers in general really pushes you to be an independent problem solver. I’ve used that to apply to growing my business. I feel like it’s made me a better business person. When you are stuck in a technical problem, you cannot throw your hands up and quit. I apply that to my business all the time, as well.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?

 

Right now, I enjoy building my team and trying to fit everybody’s strengths together. Since I have been a developer, I’m fairly good at managing developers because I know the issues that they face. I think that makes us a stronger, more cohesive team.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?

 

Honestly, it’s a good and a bad thing, but I don’t code very much anymore. I do business development. I manage our projects and allocate our clients. I miss coding. It’s sort of like riding a bike: If you stop doing it, you can quickly forget. I actually miss that part, and I miss that creativity. I love mentoring because I obviously think more women should be in the field. Since I have worked in all-male software environments, it can be intimidating for women, at times. I think it’s good for women to have those safe spaces and talk about things – it’s really important to me.

5. What advice would you offer your younger self-today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?

 

Tap into your deepest level of confidence and self-assurance. Know that you have the ability to do it. It’s all about persistence and confidence; that’s all it’s about. Don’t afraid or think that you don’t have the skillset. I always thought that I wasn’t a math person, but I forced myself to learn how to code because I wanted to change what was on the webpage.

6. If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?

 

Don’t be intimidated by anyone who is in the field and who has the title of “software engineer.” They box it in with IT and the smart people that they don’t want to bother. They are just like everybody else, and don’t be intimidated by anyone who has that label. Remember that you are just as smart and as important as they are.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?

 

>I think it will become more integrated into everybody’s lives. When I worked at a software firm, our receptionist was assigned to help us with a project – she was in college, and she had taken HTML classes in high school. I think that’s more of the norm these days.

Adrianne DeWeese


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