Discovering Your 2020 Vision

Local KC professionals filled the conference room at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City once again on Wednesday, January 15, for our annual TechTalk Kickoff event. We were excited to welcome new and returning attendees representing a variety of tech. professions from coding to business analysts to tech. recruiters to start off a whole new decade. Our panel of program directors explored their STEM and professional development programs to provide an in-depth look for those who are code curious to those looking to explore other roles in technology.

2019 Highlights

We were able to reach a range of ages, professions, and communities through our monthly and yearly weekend programing in 2019. Through CoderDojo KC, we completed a year of providing coding opportunities for students both in Missouri and Kansas via our partnership with the KC STEM Alliance on Troost Ave. and Connecting for Good on Santa Fe St. in Kansas City, Kansas. Focusing in on developing coding programs for young girls, our Coding & Cupcakes KC program included curriculum such as JewelBots in addition to web development to give participants the opportunity to experience programming in a fun, safe, and engaging environment with our mentors at VMLY&R.

For our adult programming, Coding & Cocktails KC program director Rachel Hagan explored Cocktails “the night life of KCWiT” in 2019. The majority of the Cocktails monthly sessions had scholarship participants present. Coding & Cocktails offers scholarships to encourage women to attend even when the 25 dollar fee seems too steep. Are you interested in learning to code in a low-stress environment? Connect with Coding & Cocktails KC on Facebook to learn more about how you can apply for scholarships to attend sessions for free.

Are You Looking To Go Beyond Coding?

Our TechTalk team is introducing a variety of new topics to our TechTalk monthly series coming up this years. In addition to our annual TechWalk fashion show, KCDC Diversity Celebration, and Holiday Party, we are including a fireside chat discussing the experiences of women in the workplace, Knowing Your Value, and Marketing for Tech Companies.

Ways to Get Involved

Incorporate networking and professional development opportunities into your year. Connect with us to learn more about mentoring or by joining our team by applying for our variety of open leadership positions. Are you a great marketing strategist? Or maybe you are wanting to work coordinating external partnerships? We offer a variety of ways for you to volunteer in our professional volunteer organization.

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Don’t miss out! Check out photos and “Like” us on Facebook to stay updated on events with your favorite programs.



Create Your Dream

That seems to be Ashley Erffmeyer’s mantra and also current Slack status. As KU Coding Boot Camp grad and software intern at C2FO, Ashley has created her dream of working in technology in Kansas City. Discover how Ashley got started in her coding career and why she’s now giving back as a KCWiT Mentor.

What is your current title?
Software Engineer Intern at C2FO

What piqued your interest in learning to code?
I started attending Coding & Cocktails in January 2018 as a way to learn a new technical skill that I didn’t know much about. I loved that I could learn new coding languages and use creativity to make a functioning website at these sessions. After meeting the Coding & Cocktail mentors and other attendees, I realized coding was a skill that was in very high demand here in Kansas City.

How did you get involved with KCWiT?
I always wanted to give back to the organization that showed me it was possible to become a coder. When I had a good grasp on the bootcamp basics, I looked for opportunities to volunteer at events like Coding & Cocktails and Django Girls.

What was your experience going through the bootcamp?
Going through coding bootcamp was both challenging and very rewarding! The six month bootcamp at KU Edwards was fast paced so if I didn’t completely understand a concept that was covered in class, I needed to do research on my own about the topic. The weekly homework assignments allowed me to create deployed web applications using multiple technologies. In addition, each of the three groups projects helped me understand concepts like agile development, minimum viable products (MVPs), and GitHub.

KU Boot Camp

While things moved quickly in class, we had support from staff members (including three Teaching Assistants) who are tech industry professionals here in KC. Between their encouragement and the encouragement of my fellow classmates, we successfully learned so much!

What was your goal in attending Django Girls KC this year?
I volunteered at Django Girls this year because I wanted to get other women excited about tech here in Kansas City. If they were looking to make a career out of tech, I wanted to let them know it was possible to do so.

What words of advice do you have for other women looking to pursue a path like this?
Attending a bootcamp is something you can definitely succeed at no matter what skill level you have! You don’t need to know everything or do each assignment perfectly. There are a lot of resources out there (Google!) to help you when you get stuck and the KCWiT network is here for you no matter what stage of learning you are in!

Do you listen to music when coding?
Yes – My favorite music to listen while coding is any kind of oldies!

Anything else you would like to share?
Thanks for the opportunity to share my coding journey! I definitely could not have been successful in my career change from mechanical engineer to coder without the help and support of Kansas City Women in Technology.

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We are so grateful for women like Ashley who give back as mentors. Are you a KC Women In Tech? Consider mentoring with us in 2020.



Anri Liy working at computer

CoderDojo KC Co-Director Reflects on Django Girls KC Experience

Django Girls Kansas City, a free programming workshop for women, is being held for the third year in a row this weekend at VMLY&R near downtown KC. As the local chapter of the larger Django Girls organization, this offers all women professionals the opportunity to grow their skills in a fun, mentor-led coding event. Anri Liy, CoderDojo KC Co-Director, attended the kick-off Django Girls KC weekend in 2016 and reflects on how Django Girls KC has impacted her career in tech.

What was your experience like at Django Girls?
I got to learn a new and popular language and I also got an opportunity to learn from the local engineers.

What were you wanting to achieve from attending Django Girls? Was the experience what you thought it would be?
I really wanted to finish the event curriculum. I actually achieved the goal that makes me happy and gave me confidence.

How did you start working in technology?
I started in Manual Quality Assurance as my first job. I’m still working as a QA but I’m writing test code every day and I am still learning everyday.

How are you involved with KCWiT? What is your favorite part of volunteering
I started mentoring at CoderDojo in September 2017 and I’m a co-director now. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mentor or attendee, I enjoy seeing everyone learn and learning from them.

What advice do you have for women who are interested in technology?
If you are studying and looking for a tech. job, I would like to say to you, never give up and keep studying. It took me seven months to get a tech job and achieving your dreams takes time. So don’t give up.

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Can’t make it to Django Girls KC this year? Check out everything that’s going on by following us on Facebook and Twitter.



How long do you let a campaign run before determining its success? Which platform is best for running targeted local ads? We discussed all this and more during our October TechTalk series What Is A Digital Strategist? At Fishtech, a cyber security center in south Kansas City. Joann, digital strategist at Deluxe, led the conversation having worked as a digital strategist for six years working with both national and local companies.

Joann discussed how working in digital marketing shouldn’t be a siloed experience, that both digital and traditional media can work together to share your company’s story. When planning your digital strategy, incorporating both into your budget is key for success to reach potential customers who may not be easy to target online.

Beyond analyzing data to create a knock-out digital strategy, digital strategist work collaboratively with many other members on staff to bring their campaigns to life.

We would like to thank everyone who came out to join us and to network during our monthly TechTalk. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more announcements regarding our final 2019 TechTalk, our annual fashion show.

Thank you again to our host, Fishtech, for providing such a wonderful events space and for our TechTalk.



This month’s TechTalk was a special networking event. KC Women in Tech hosted a celebration of all the women speaking at the Kansas City Developer Conference (KCDC) on July 17 at Kill Devil Club. We wanted to offer a venue for those tech-curious to ask speakers questions, meet other tech-curious women and folks in a fantastic spot in Power & Light.

The evening was spent mingling and drinking fantastic cocktails. Speakers shared their tips for being a developer and speaking at the conference.

Mary Grygleski, Speaker at #KCDC

We also met some women who had never attended a TechTalk before and who were new to the field, like Centriq training graduate Khalifah Graff who wants to speak at KCDC next year:

If you’re interested in meeting other women and folks in the tech industry, sign up to attend our next TechTalk all about freelancing. You’ll hear tips and tricks for getting a side hustle or a new career in freelance!



What does it take to work from home? We invited four women to discuss the struggles and successes of working remotely at our May TechTalk hosted by Sporting Kansas City on May 15. Our panelists ranged from lead developers to a graphic design entrepreneur and each of them had wisdom to share for others interested in remote work. Read below to get tips and tricks!

Panelists speak to a group of people who gathered for Kansas City Women in Technology’s May 2019 Tech Talk on remote work at Children’s Mercy Park. (Left to right: Malerie Pace, Hillary Watts, Cami Travis-Groves, Tiffany Bronson)

Panelists Hillary Watts and Malerie Pace manage teams of developers from home which led to learning curves and challenges. Tiffany Bronson works in customer operations at Optiv Security and she has a lot of tasks to juggle for her job such preparing quotes and working with vendors remotely. Cami Travis-Groves owns her own coaching business and spends a lot of time volunteering, sharing her experience of being a freelancer.

First, presentation director Subha kicked off the panel by asking our experts how they got started working from home. Cami realized it was the way she could be the most productive. She has many years of experience so she can complete her work very quickly. When she would start a traditional 40 hour a week position, she would complete her work in 10 hours and feel like she was sitting around. So she started her own business, working at her quick pace but now she was benefitting from that pace.

Panelist Malerie Pace is a lead software engineer who asked her bosses to work remotely less than a year ago and has been loving it so far. Attendees wanted help to have those conversations with leaders that Malerie had. How do you convince the higher-ups to let you work remotely?

People gather for Kansas City Women in Technology’s May 2019 Tech Talk on remote work at Children’s Mercy Park.

People gather for Kansas City Women in Technology’s May 2019 Tech Talk on remote work at Children’s Mercy Park.

Getting Started Working from Home

Malerie and some helpful attendees suggested having open conversations with your supervisor but come prepared with information. A two-year study from Stanford suggested that working from home can be more productive than working in an office. “If you can show to your boss that this is what they get when you work from home (a win!) and they still say no, they will have to realize they are saying no to a win,” Cami said. Malerie also suggested starting slow: ask for one day or instead of taking personal time for a house issue or an appointment, ask to work from home. And then be available during that day. Let them see that you are online and communicating. However, if your supervisors are still being resistant or they sound like they don’t trust you, maybe this isn’t a good fit for you.

If you want to find a new remote job, KCWiT membership director Tamara Copple suggested three websites for finding remote work (there is a subscription cost, but they are verified opportunities) remotive.io, virtualvocations.com and InHerSight.com. You can search for remote jobs on LinkedIn, by putting ‘Remote’ as the location search however there is a Remote, Oregon that will come up!

Leading a Team

Malerie and Hillary lead teams from home which leads to its own challenges and successes. They talked a lot about being present for their direct reports. Malerie relies on video chat particularly: seeing each other’s faces is really important. Hillary doesn’t use video chat (she doesn’t want to put on pants!), but agreed that regular and open communication on the phone or Slack is important for leadership.

Be Successful and Happy Working Remote

So you have gotten buy-in from your supervisor to work from home or you have been working from home for a while and want to maximize your productivity. How do you do it? Our panelists have a lot of tips.

  1. Prepare your brain for work by having a routine: getting coffee, putting on pants or shoes, and having a dedicated space for work
  2. Use tools such as Slack, Trello, To-Do list or planner/calendar to keep track of what you have to get done
  3. Take a break. Hillary likes to get moving throughout her day, even if it means just taking a walk outside.
  4. When you are working, be available. One attendee was struggling with moving up in her company because she isn’t ‘seen’ by her superiors as having leadership potential. So be heard: volunteer for questions or projects, be active in Slack or chat tools, speak up on conference calls.
  5. When work is over, work is over. Just because you have more flexible shifts doesn’t mean you have to be ‘on’ all the time. Shut the computer down, tell your coworkers or bosses that you stop checking emails at a set time.
  6. Make sure you have social time. Socialization is not built into your day when you work remote. Tiffany makes sure that in the evenings she has things planned such as meeting friends, volunteering, teaching salsa classes!
Panelists speak to those who attended Kansas City Women in Technology’s May 2019 Tech Talk on remote work at Children’s Mercy Park.

Panelists speak to those who attended Kansas City Women in Technology’s May 2019 Tech Talk on remote work at Children’s Mercy Park.

Recommendations

Cami mentioned a lot of resources for those who work remotely or want to work remotely but still be leaders in their roles. She mentioned two books, 100x Leadership and When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, for training your brain to work at its peak times. Events director Allison suggested a blog post from our founder Jennifer Wadella: There Are No Snow Days When You Work Remote and this guide to remote work.

Our TechTalks are the perfect place to learn topics around tech. Our June TechTalk is all about Internet Safety for Kids. How do we protect them while still encouraging them to learn this amazing tool and resource? RSVP now to our free event.



What is product management? What do product managers actually do? KCWiT hosted its April TechTalk ‘What is a PM?’ last Wednesday at InTouch Solutions in Overland Park, where we invited five panelists currently working in product management and project management to share their experiences. They shared the joys and frustrations and shared tips for those who want to get into the field!

The panelists first shared how they got into product/project management and it turns out they had very different backgrounds! Andrea from Cerner and Tucker from Crema both graduated college with communication degrees. Andrea actually started at Red Nova Labs as a content writer. Then she realized she wanted to develop her technical knowledge, and eventually moved into product management.

Red Nova Labs’ Lillian worked in SEO before moving into product management at Red Nova Labs’ self-storage division called StorEDGE. Erin graduated with a biology degree and was pre-med before realizing the competitive atmosphere did not suit her. In fact, Erin said she really resisted joining the tech industry because she feared it would be a similar atmosphere to what she experienced in the sciences. However, now she absolutely loves her job as an IT Project Manager. Because of all of these diverse stories, Events Director and moderator Alison told he audience that you can always start your career in the tech adjacent fields, even if you only have experience in another field.

As product managers and project managers, our panelists have to manage deadlines, lead a team, and ensure the product is launched successfully. All of our panelists spoke of Agile, the software development methodology that has now become popular among all kinds of project management. It involves communication between stakeholders, removing roadblocks to progress, and planning out work in stages or “sprints” and “stories.”

While the panelists encouraged attendees to be familiar with Agile, they didn’t want attendees to get hung-up on becoming Scrum masters or seeking Agile certifications. Our panelists find joy in so much of what they do – from launching huge products to finding solutions and value for their clients. They enjoy getting into the weeds and collaborating with their teams to solve problems. Alison asked the panelists what skills people interested in project management should brush up on and the panelists suggested these skills:

  • Brush up on their technical knowledge
  • Be curious – ask questions and seek to understand different points of view
  • Communication skills
  • Team-building skills.
  • Problem solving skills: being able to find solutions and think on your feet is invaluable in product management

Their typical days are far from typical: much like our previous panel discussion with Business Analysts, our PMs are the bridge between the developers and the clients. Listen below to Erin discuss a “typical” day at her job:

Panelist Kelly has to manage projects remotely, with her team being located in different states and even different time zones. If you’re interested in hearing tips about working remotely, RSVP to our May TechTalk Discovers: Remote Work on May 15. Tickets are available here!



Friday March 8 KCWiT decided to do something a little special for International Women’s Day. We got together with KC’s Women Techmakers and featured three inspiring women working in the tech industry. KCWiT’s Diversity and Inclusion Director Rhia Dixon, designer Pamela Porto, and developer Krista LaFentres shared their stories of getting into the industry and encouraged audience members to reach for their dreams. Follow our panelists’ tips below and you’ll be well on your way to working in technology!

audience at techtalk event at VeriShip

Our panelists kicked off the event by describing their background and what they have learned over their careers in tech. Pamela said the biggest challenge was becoming a mother and finding her work-life balance. However, having good mentors and being able to work from home were instrumental to her success. And you can find that perfect balance too! Rhia encouraged participants to not let self-doubt keep you from applying for the jobs you want:

“The worst someone will do is say no. Then why wouldn’t you just go for it? Our hiring manager said they don’t get a lot of resumes from women. It seems at times women feel like they have to be perfect before they even try to do something. Usually not the case with men. Just think of what the man version of yourself would do, and do that,” – Rhia Dixon

Panelists then took audience questions and shared their specific tips for thriving at work. Attendees who asked questions received a fancy notebook from KC Women Techmakers!

Helpful Tips for Working in Tech

  • Speak up! Don’t be known as the Yes-Woman because that’s how projects fail
  • Find your community (hinthint join KC Women in Tech!)
  • Don’t be intimidated if tech people use acronyms or buzzwords you don’t understand, just ask the person or Google the word
  • Self-care is important: you cannot pour from an empty cup
  • If you have trouble bouncing back from rejection, just think back to where you were when you started. You’ve probably improved your skills!
  • If you are having trouble with a task, try to figure it out yourself first and then ask for help

The panelists have had some challenges  working in a field where men and even other women can be discouraging. One attendee asked specifically what to do if you are discouraged by women at work. Check out the video below to hear their answer.

 If you’re interested in learning more about the tech industry in Kansas City, sign up for our April TechTalk: What is a PM? Our panelists will discuss what they do, what the difference is between project management and product management, and more. This will also be a great networking opportunity so you can make connections and find your community, just like our panelists encouraged!



On a brisk February evening, KCWiT hosted our second TechTalk of the year at Cerner Innovations campus. Four recruiters from the KC-area shared what they look for in candidates, how YOU can optimize your LinkedIn profile, get the experience you need to land your dream job, and what to do if you are changing careers. If you are looking for your next opportunity, you will find fantastic tips below.


How Do You Stand Out on LinkedIn?

Events Director Alison Renfro kicked off the TechTalk by asking the panelists what they look for in LinkedIn profiles. FYI, recruiters use LinkedIn almost exclusively to find candidates.

Kendra O’Sullivan from Kforce said you must be approachable. “If you want to be found by someone, you should be on LinkedIn. Because that’s where we are at. And it’s not just third-party recruiters, it’s HR departments, it’s friends’ referrals. That’s going to be your best platform. So, we really encourage you to get on LinkedIn and say that you’re open to new opportunities.

 

“I always look for the people who want to be approached. If you have no profile picture, if you’re very vague; if you say, ‘software programmer please leave me alone,’ I’ll leave you alone. So, I definitely recommend that if you check that box that says ‘Open to New Opportunities’ or the box that says ‘Most Likely to Respond.” And just in case you are concerned, your current employer cannot see that you have checked those boxes. The recruiters had several easy ways for you to improve your LinkedIn profile:

  • Professional photograph
  • Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile information match
  • Add a summary to the top of your LinkedIn profile and say explicitly you are looking for opportunities
  • List online courses or certifications on your profile
  • Be active on LinkedIn: posting and commenting can get you noticed


Recruiter and KCWiT Membership Director Crystal Coates said candidates should try to show off their personality in their LinkedIn profile because recruiters want to find a good fit!

Also, Emma Conner from TEKsystems told the audience to list LinkedIn Learning or other online courses on their profile. Whether you list them in the Skills section or Certifications section, LinkedIn treats those titles as keywords and your profile will pop up when recruiters search for those keywords.

Get Experience

What do you do if you are just out of school, changing careers, or searching for your first job?

Crystal has been working with KCWiT members on this exact issue and her first piece of advice is find a way to get noticed. Tap into your networks, mentor or volunteer. “If you were a LaunchCode graduate and you did a fellowship, don’t just say ‘I taught LaunchCode people’, what did you teach them? Fill in the blanks for us. If you went to UMKC or KU Bootcamp, what did you do? What did you learn? If there are any final projects you did, give us that stuff. If you have a Github, make sure it’s on your profile, make sure it’s on your resume.”

Sometimes it takes a third person to point those things out to you. Crystal encouraged attendees to contact her and the other panelists because they want to help. Even if you are seeking an entry level position, in a few years you may be the developer that everybody in town wants to hire! So don’t be afraid to reach out to recruiters.

 

Crystal encouraged those in the beginning phase of their career to find a non-profit (like KCWiT for instance) and offer your services or a product. Provide something for them and you can put it on your portfolio.

Recruiter Lacey Cherry agreed with this tactic of listing volunteer and side-projects on your resume, even if it isn’t full time work. If you are changing careers, do not be afraid to list those previous experiences on your profile and resume. Long work history matters, even if it’s not in the same field.

The Lowdown on Resume Length and Content

The experience level will determine how long your resume should be. Kendra says that an entry-level position can have a one-page resume. But if you’re applying for a marketing director role, one-page will not get you in the door. Crystal agreed and added that if you do a lot of project work, your projects will probably fill up more than one or two pages, and that’s great!

Lacey said an important strategy is that you put the recognizable buzzwords for your industry in your resume. Usually your resume goes to HR and they don’t know the technical jargon. But they will scan for buzzwords and your resume will go to the Skip pile if it doesn’t have them. Emma works in creative and digital and she says the candidates’ resumes can be shorter because they are supplemented by portfolios. Maggie Gotez from Apex Systems said it’s unlikely for candidates in IT contract work to have a short resume, but at least try to be concise!

However, it is critical that you are ready to talk about whatever you list on you resume because recruiters and hiring managers will ask about it. “You better be ready to talk to it,” Crystal added.

Do you list your GPA on your resume?

It depends, the panelists said. Emma said experience matters more than GPA, but if you do not have a lot of experience and your GPA is good, it probably wouldn’t hurt! If you have several years’ experience, it’s unnecessary to list your GPA, unless, Lacey said, your degree is from a prestigious university.

In the tech field, many new developers do not even have a four-year degree. Crystal encouraged attendees to place any relevant bootcamps or courses on their resume and Kendra shared her advice on how to approach those kinds of courses:

“I think the most attractive thing anyone can do at the entry level is talk about the fundamentals. What do you understand? People put Excel on a resume… Do you understand Pivot Tables? If you do understand Pivot Tables, tell me how you use them. Tell me what you were splicing, what was the data?  Walk through everything that you’ve done and show off how you know and understand the fundamentals. And how you learned it.

“Because you guys are doing great projects, whether it’s volunteer or mentoring, you can explain it and show the fundamentals. Because you’re talking to an HR person who doesn’t know anything, and you’re talking to a hiring manager who has to decide if they want to take a chance on you. Prove that you’re worth that chance.”

The TechTalk audience Q&A wrapped up and the recruiters were immediately approached by attendees looking for further information. Crystal said later she had set up multiple meetings with attendees to discuss careers and resumes.

If you are interested in a future #TechTalk…

For our March event we are teaming up with Women Tech Makers for an International Women’s Day event. We’ve invited three women to share their stories of working in tech and inspire you to go after your dreams. RSVP for your tickets or sign up for our email updates to keep up to date with future TechTalks!



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