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


tatianaalexenkoTatiana Alexenko did not have a computer for some time as a child, and her first computer was actually a hand-me-down. But, as her interest in the machine grew and evolved from gaming to Photoshop, her seriousness toward computer science also took shape.

Alexenko graduated with a bachelor of science in Information Technology and Computer Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia, also with a minor in business and German. She also completed her master’s coursework at Mizzou, studying computer science and IT with special emphasis areas in artificial intelligence and robotics. Alexenko is currently completing her thesis on Natural Language Processing for elder care robotics.

Since early 2015, Alexenko has worked as a software engineer at Cerner on the Registration and Eligibility Services team, which is part of Revenue Cycle. She started her mentoring with Coding & Cocktails in early 2016.

1. How did your interest in coding begin?
Growing up, I didn’t have a computer for the longest time. I think the first computer I got was at 14 or 15. I think it was hand-me-down that had a lot of games on it, including Master of Orion. It’s a strategy game, and games were a thing that I was really into. I started playing around with Photoshop on it, too.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
More recently, after I started getting into computer science in college, I started learning about how computer optimization works applying to real life. It can be applied to managing relationships with people and how you manage your time.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I spend at least half of my time coding. I spend at least half of my time writing new code. It’s good experience getting to work on that large of a big code base. I like that Cerner is a big company. I like having a gym on site and the campus, as well.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
It’s challenging sometimes debating things with people. Guys can get away with being more passionate during a debate than women. When you are passionate about something, it can be easy to get carried away.

5. 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, I would say to research more. I was interested in playing games, but do more research on creating things rather than using existing things. I wish had known about the other applications of computer science, such as artificial intelligence. I wish I also had taken math classes more seriously back then, too. With artificial intelligence, you have to really know how the formulas work. For other people, it really depends on what they are trying to do. If they are trying to do data science, they should have a solid background in math and statistics. If you are trying to be a web developer, you have to want to continue to learn and put in the extra hours throughout the rest of your life. It has to be your passion; if it isn’t your passion, you aren’t going to be good at it.

6. If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
When you are rational, and you try to talk to people about world events and politics, you can be perceived as cynical and cold.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
It’s already in our lives. Your behavior is constantly being tracked and analyzed by machines whenever you use the Internet, which is all the time. There is technology that is going to improve the lives of people who cannot take care of themselves, such as the elderly population. We have a growing elderly population but a shortage of health care professionals. In the next 20 years, we are going to start to see AI assistance that will help people not to feel like they are not alone. Self-driving cars also are going to start taking off sooner. It involves city planning and health care planning. Basically, it’s just improving processing of all kinds – it’s already being done all around you; there’s just going to be more and more of it.

-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.


OliviaMark

At 17, Olivia Mark is seriously dedicated to what she wants out of her life. Her Google calendar neatly organizes her priorities as a senior at Shawnee Mission South High School: She is enrolled in three AP classes. She nannies for two different families. She runs her own year-old web development business, via oliviamark.com. She is on the drumline in Marching Band.

And then, there are the specific prospects of what Olivia will study next year as an incoming freshman in college. She knows she wants to major in computer science, but her secondary major or minor is still up for grabs: She either wants to study data science with an emphasis on urbanization on marsupials in Oceania or computer forensics. Despite a full schedule, Olivia has remained committed to Kansas City Women in Technology since her freshman year of high school, mentoring with Coding & Cupcakes.

No matter what path Olivia will take in continuing her computer science-related studies, one aspect is clear: She is just getting started, and she shows zero signs of slowing down. She perhaps says it best on her website: “The code is just the beginning.”

1.How did your interest in coding begin?
We have this super old Dell in my basement, and I remember messing around on it. Neither of my parents were really like, “You should learn programming.” It was something that I took on my own. I took my first formal programming class my sophomore year of high school, and I really got into it. For most of my formal programming education, I have mostly been the only girl.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
It’s definitely made me a lot more persistent on things. I remember beforehand, I would be like, “If this doesn’t work, I’m going to skip it.” I think now, I have become a lot more patient and have worked to debug a problem. I’m also a lot more technical with my things: If I need to do something, I want to do something right.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
On July 15, 2015, I started my own company called Olivia Mark Web Development. I have branched out to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles. I create websites for small businesses, and I really enjoy it. I was 13 when I created my first website. Part of it is meaning new people – each website is for completely different people. You get to meet all of these connections that will serve you in the future, which is awesome.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
Being taking seriously. A., I’m a female. B., I’m 17. I feel like taking being seriously is hard. Some of the companies come to me; I go to a lot of them. I reach out to small businesses and ask if they would like their websites revamped, and since I am a student, my rates are substantially lower. It’s about being taking seriously or finding clients that are willing to hire someone who doesn’t have a college degree.

5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
To not be afraid – to just go for it. It 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.

6. 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 so much more than diverse than people think it is. People come from all walks of life, all over the world, cultures, gender identities – everything. Everyone comes together with the common goal of expanding knowledge and building new things. I don’t think a lot of careers can say the same thing.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
If not already, it’s already in every aspect. You can’t go about your daily life without running into some sort of technology, whether you are conscious of it or not. Some would say it’s a good thing; some would say it’s a bad thing; I don’t really know because we’re not there yet. With my math classes, I have seen more integration with programming, as well.

-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.


Sara Heins and Ashley Sullins studied different academic majors as undergraduates at separate Missouri universities, but it was their respective positions at Red Nova Labs in Kansas City, Kan., that brought them together in their journey toward coding-based careers. Now, they find themselves sitting just feet apart at a different company as they work toward a goal that both admit wasn’t really on the radar even five years ago. The two women helped lead Kansas City Women in Technology’s first ever DjangoGirls workshop in June, which introduced ~75 women to web development. Sara & Ashley will cover front-end architecture in their Coding & Cocktails program in September.

Sara Heins

SaraHeins_AshleySullins_2 (1)
Sara Heins earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2012. After working as a content writer at Red Nova Labs for a year, she transitioned into a web developer role after seeing what her co-workers on the development and engineering side of the business were creating. She continued her education through several classes at Johnson County Community College; online resources like Codecademy; and reading the Head First book series published by O’Reilly Media. Heins has worked as a front-end developer at Big 6 Media since September 2015, and her KCWiT mentoring role began in January. Her outside interests include running and serving as an occasional foster parent for cats and dogs through KC Pet Project.

1. How did your interest in coding begin?
I had no previous interest in anything to do with IT or tech. Any time there was something to troubleshoot on the computer, I didn’t want to deal with it. It wasn’t really until I was working in the industry that I saw that it was really more about problem solving and not always just about technology.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
I can troubleshoot things with more confidence now; like, “Why isn’t the sound working on my TV correctly?” It seems so trivial, but now I’m like, “Okay let’s go figure it out.” Even in taking my dog to the vet, I now make a list of information, because I think in that way now of how to solve problems, so that the vet doesn’t have to run a bunch of expensive tests.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I like creating something from the ground up. You start with this mock-up of a website, and then you create this really cool-looking page. I’ve never been an artistic person, but someone is able to give me a mock-up of something, and I can then create it. I am able to be creative without necessarily being artistic.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
Sometimes, I am given a project, and I have no idea where to start. In those situations, I now know that I can figure almost anything out. Sometimes, that’s stressful, but it usually works out in the end.

5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one that is more coding-based?
Get involved with Kansas City Women in Technology earlier. Find a mentor outside of work to help you learn. A lot of this stuff is really hard to do on your own.

6. 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 more about finding new ways to learn and solve problems than being that stereotype of a 40-year-old virgin sitting in his parents’ basement. If someone had told me five years ago that I would be doing this, I would have said, “Why? This doesn’t sound like fun.” It really is more than just about technology. It’s about finding new ways to solve problems.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
I’m just hoping that we will encourage younger women and girls to learn more about computers and software engineering. If we can get them to learn about it when they are younger, they can study it in college. It was such a good fit, and I feel like I should have been studying it in college, but nobody ever said to me, “Hey, you should do this.”

Ashley Sullins

SaraHeins_AshleySullins_1
Ashley Sullins received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Park University in 2010. Upon graduation, she was unsure of the exact career path she wanted to take. Because of her intern experience with a company that marketed for doctors’ offices, she then worked for a related startup company in the operations division, where she worked alongside developers, sparking an old-new interest. “In middle school, I had made smaller websites, but I had never met developers in person, and I didn’t know it was an actual career track,” Sullins said. Last year, she completed the five-month developer boot camp Epicodus in Portland, Oregon, after she had previously worked at Red Nova Labs in quality assurance and project management. Sullins began working as a front-end developer for Big 6 Media in January 2016, and one month later, she joined Kansas City Women in Technology as a mentor for Coding & Cocktails. She also enjoys circuit training-related workouts and participating in charity-based 5Ks and 10Ks.

1. How did your interest in coding begin?
From a young age, my peers were all involved in sports, but I was bad at sports. When I was making websites, I wanted to win awards. So, when I made fan sites for a book series, it felt like I had won something and accomplished something.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
I know that my technical knowledge has made me more persistent. For example, my mom had a computer problem with her Windows operating system. I haven’t used Windows in years, but because of my day job, I was able to debug the issues and find out what was going on. Also, it’s about persistence: You have to keep going and find out solutions. Sometimes, like when I was younger, I would give up before trying all of the different options.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I think I enjoy the independence of my work. When I was a project manager, I had to tell other people what to do for me. Now, I am able to pursue action items as I want, and I have more control over my day-to-day life.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
I think one of the more challenging aspects is pressure. If a client finds an issue, it has to be found and resolved immediately. As a green developer, I am still finding out my skills, so sometimes, it can be a little stressful since I don’t have the experience of a senior developer. It can be fun, too, because it does help me grow as a person.

5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one that is more coding-based?
I enjoy development now because of the experience I had throughout my career and the non-technical positions I had. I recommend starting out in a non-technical based track like QA or project management and seeing if you enjoy it first. Ask questions of different developers in the field. Give yourself time to figure things out, and don’t get overwhelmed. It’s okay to feel like you don’t know what’s going on.

6. 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 biggest thing for me, when I was in a non-technical role, I thought I wasn’t smart enough or that I wasn’t math-minded enough. The biggest thing is needing patience and being able to problem solve and see how things are connected. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
When you’re in high school or middle school, and you have to take French or Spanish for a semester, I feel like computer science should be one of those classes that you should have to take to see if you have any interest in it. With girls, they especially don’t always have the opportunity to get that initial exposure. It sounds like it is already happening in some schools, so I am hoping that in the future, computer science won’t be a certain subsector; it will be another language like English that we can use as a communication tool.

-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.


Shérry_Delich

Shérry Delich has been a thinker and a tinker her entire life. Her love for computers began with a general appreciation for engineering from an early age. Upon earning a bachelor of science in Electrical Engineering and Physics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2003, Delich worked as a software developer at a variety of companies across the metropolitan region before joining VinSolutions two years ago.

In addition to mentoring for two years with CoderDojo, Delich is active as a volunteer with Girl Scouts, as her two older daughters are both Girl Scouts. She provides support for troops in the Northland area with cookie sales, day camp staff, and recruiting efforts.

1. How did your interest in coding begin?
It’s not just computers; it’s engineering in general. I came from a family of six kids, and I hung out with my older brother, who is seven years older. He loved working on small-gas engines and anything mechanical in nature. I kind of picked that up from him. I enjoy manufacturing things out of different things. I am really big into robotics; physics is what my actual major was in. There’s always been a solution to manufacturer what I need.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
I see the overlap mostly when I volunteer for organizations that have no technology. With Girl Scouts, everything was a paper form – online- forming something takes me 20 seconds. You’ll see these different organizations that are stuck in the Stone Age, and I really do enjoy helping them out. It’s about baby steps and not overwhelming them, though. That’s just the way I teach my kids, too, with logical thinking. Instead of them saying, “I can’t do this” or “I can’t open this,” I ask them, “How do you think we should open this?” I do that a lot with my Girl Scouts, too.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I’d have to say the flexibility. I have a lot of flexibility when it comes to my architecture. We have a set of architects that pretty much give us lead developers free reign. I get the opportunity to introduce different technologies that I want.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
It’s not so much now, but early on in my career, it was immediate distrust. Two people would get hired on at the same time, with the same background, and I felt like I had to reprove myself. I’m very forthcoming with my age now. I feel like I have to go in there >now and say, “I am 37 years old.” I felt I was doing well to not be noticed, and that has changed dramatically for me now.

5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one that is more coding-based?
Really looking at yourself and decide why you are trying to do this. I find that a lot of younger women that I talk to these days are looking for a better income. This is not the way to do it. You have to have a true love for it. I love the fact that I can spend all day to find a problem, but a lot of people rip their hair out over it.

6. If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
One, 90 percent of the stereotypes you hear about us being fueled off of Mountain Dew and beef jerky and Twizzlers is not true. We are not all the same. I find that to be one of the more frustrating things. And, it’s not just women: I’ve worked with men who also have found it to be the same.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
The STEM question is huge, especially with my kids: There is a huge push for STEM in schools, and there is a huge push for STEM in Girl Scouts. It’s one of the things that gets the recruiters going. The only thing I can really stress to people is that if your child does not want to do it, don’t cram it down their neck. We still need the artists and painters of the world; not everyone is going to be an engineer. You can’t force a kid into it, or they are going to learn to hate it.

-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. 


Sometimes the most intimidating part of learning something new is taking that first step. After that, it just takes effort. Coding & Cocktails co-director Tamara Copple talks about one of the questions we hear often from our participants. 

Tamara“Tamara, how do you do it?” a Coding & Cocktails attendee asked me, frustrated at her own efforts to make discernible progress. She knows my story: how I heard about Kansas City Women in Technology while listening to public radio station KCUR on the way to work. How my developer husband told me I was “definitely” programmer material and should network with them. How I showed up to the very first Coding & Cocktails session as a participant, fell in love with KCWiT and within three sessions found that I was suddenly the program’s co-director, when I still couldn’t script my way out of a paper bag. She knows the spiel I give every time I present at Coding & Cocktails: “Nobody becomes a programmer by spending 3 hours a night, one night a month, while drinking. Nobody.”

Coding & Cocktails is about overcoming your inhibitions and self-doubt and trying something radically different. Despite the name, drinking alcohol is not required, but if a custom cocktail helps relax you enough to give it a try, we’re your show. If you discover programming is not your thing, that’s okay. Enjoy the drinks, enjoy the camaraderie, and pat yourself on the back for at least giving it a try. You’ve already done more than most.

On the other hand, if you discover you enjoy yourself at Coding & Cocktails and want to learn more, great! However, as with weight loss, yoga or going back to school, anything worth doing takes effort and practice, and eventually you must fully commit to the path to achieve the goal. Here are three things I have learned on my own journey.

First, know thyself. Know in your heart of hearts why you want to pursue programming. It takes a certain kind of thinker – not a mathematician, but a person who can think logically in steps and see patterns. One who enjoys building, and creating. One who really digs problem solving. Thanks to the plethora of free coding classes available online, just about anyone can learn the fundamentals but it takes a problem solver to get to the next level. I think in pictures and concepts, so algorithmic thinking is a learned behavior for me, but I persist because I like problem solving, and programming challenges me mentally in a way I enjoy.

Second, be accountable to yourself. As the program co-director, I have deliverables. I have a presentation to script in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. When I present a topic, I need to know what I’m talking about. When my partner Sarah asked, “Do you think you could push the presentation to the website this month?” I figured it out even though I had never touched the website code before. Trial by fire may not be necessary but you must carve out the time for learning and more importantly, practicing. If it takes the pressure of a deadline, so be it, you can always set one for yourself!

Finally, build your network. Be seen, be heard, and be active. Meetup has a nearly inexhaustible list of technical user groups. KCWiT specializes in connecting women who “want to be” with those who “are.” Talk to other women programmers, and make friends. We even have a Slack chat group for that very purpose. Letting people get to know you and your commitment makes them more willing to help you along your journey, and eventually even help you network into that life-changing job.

At Coding & Cocktails we provide a feminine, low-stress, non-judgmental environment for self-discovery. What happens next is up to you.



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