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!



KCWiT hosted our first event of 2019 at Federal Reserve Kansas City on Wednesday January 16. Over 70 people attended to hear our program directors and leadership recap 2018 and share their plans for the upcoming year. It was a great chance for people who hadn’t been to one of our events before to see what we’re all about. Read below to see what we have planned in 2019!

First, Operations Director Ventura Rangel reviewed KCWiT’s successes in 2018. Last year, over 4,500 people registered to our 75 events. We celebrated our 5th birthday and welcomed 34 new leaders! Now we are setting our sights on even further success in 2019. Ventura shared that we have several positions open at KCWiT.

Our new Diversity & Inclusion Director Rhia Dixon shared her goals for reaching out to and inviting more communities, including partnering with area schools and increasing the number of our volunteers.

Next, founder and CEO Jennifer Wadella shared the successes of CoderDojo, our local partnership with the national CoderDojo program. CoderDojo had an average of 80 kids in attendance and we expanded the number of sessions to two per month. CoderDojo also started a Junior Mentor program in which advanced students take a leadership role in helping the other ninjas with their projects. This coming year, CoderDojo partnered with KC STEM Alliance offering will expand its Junior Mentor program and update its curriculum. Keep up to date with CoderDojo sessions on Facebook.

Coding & Cupcakes also grew in 2018! This program is for guardians and their kiddos to learn to code with… cupcakes! We had an average of 60 attendees and 12 female mentors in 2018 and we integrated JewelBots curriculum into our sessions. Attendees programmed their own JewelBot bracelets! In 2019 we’ll continue our JewelBots curriculum for half the year and the other half on web development. If you and your daughter, niece, granddaughter etc. are interested in Coding & Cupcakes, keep up to date on Facebook and Twitter.

Coding & Cocktails Co-Director Rachel Hagan told the audience about the program next. Coding & Cocktails are introductory coding sessions are for women 21+. Rachel reported 479 students total attended the 11 sessions! In 2019, Coding & Cocktails expanded to a larger space so we are able to host even more attendees per session. 2019 sessions will have multiple sessions on JavaScript and sessions on CSS and Command Line and Version Control. If you are ready to start your journey in code, sign up for updates here!

Then Ventura returned to the stage to discuss our TechTalk events. TechTalks introduce a general audience to topics regarding tech and working in tech. Last year, we hosted panel discussions with people who work in Search Engine Optimization, invited Business Analysts and Data Scientists to talk about their careers. This year, TechTalks will host new info sessions including February’s LinkedIn/Resume help panel with local recruiters and deep-dives into Freelancing and Working Remotely. Keep up to date on TechTalk events by following us on Eventbrite!

The last presentation of the night was our Fundraising Director Katie Roby. She shared KCWiT’s ambitious plans for growth including growing our programs, hiring staff (KCWiT is volunteer supported) and establishing a brick and mortar location for our programs. To make these goals a reality, we’ll need more corporate partnerships and support from our members! KCWiT is going to launch our stratified memberships, from the individual level to our Cultivator level.

Our Membership levels for KCWiT, announced at our Kick-Off Event

If you’re fired up like we are, get involved! KC Women in Technology needs volunteers in each of our programs and in our leadership team. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates. Our next event is February 20th at Cerner Innovations Campus. RSVP on Eventbrite!



On Friday, December 14, KCWiT celebrated the holidays at The Chesterfield in the Power & Light district! It was a jubilant evening filled with crafted cocktails and fun games. As each attendee walked in the door, they received five raffle tickets for a large pool of prizes including Nelson-Atkins memberships, giftcards to area establishments, and concert tickets.

Photos by Tiffany Buckley

The party was a great chance for meeting friends and making new business contacts.

It was also a good place for some friendly competition.

Attendees could win double the amount of raffle tickets by facing off against another attendee in a race to unwrap a gift containing five more tickets — but they had to wear oven mitts. Whoever opened their box first got to keep both sets of the raffle tickets.

The holiday party also featured a free photo booth with a shimmering gold background and plenty of props.

For the KCWiT Leadership team, the holiday party was the perfect time to catch up with volunteers and staff. We celebrated the successes of the year and talked about our plans for 2019.

Operations Director Ventura (right) and Diversity & Inclusion Director Rhia (left)

If you missed the holiday party and want to learn more about the different events KCWiT offers, join us for our 2019 Kick-Off TechTalk on January 16. RSVP here and join us to learn more about what KCWiT does, who our leadership is, and network with other tech-enthusiasts.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from everybody at Kansas City Women in Technology and thank you for your support!



The KCWiT TechWalk was first inspired by the viral hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnEngineerLooksLike. Founder Jennifer Wadella and the KCWiT team decided they should show Kansas City what women working in tech looked like. So we invited a diverse crowd of women to walk the catwalk. The TechWalk didn’t focus on fashion, but simply putting ‘faces’ to the roles we hear about.

This year, eighteen women from high school age to retirement age came to PlexPod Crossroads to show a crowd what they do! Jordin Silver from 96.5 The Buzz was our MC and there were smiles on every participant and attendee.

Krystal Cunningham, engineer by day and yogi by night

MC Jordin kept the mood upbeat and fun, adding improvisations to our participants’ biographies. 


Krystal Cunningham is an Engineering Manager at Cerner. Her advice is “First, DO NOT be afraid to be your UNIQUE self! Second, your thoughts, ideas, and opinions MATTER and often help lead to solving the most difficult problems innovatively.” She adds “Start Now! Find problems that you care about saving and use technology to do so!

Jordin Silver

A couple of our participants were as young as 16. Hannah helps part time as a junior mentor at our program CoderDojo!

Hannah


Hopefully [attendees saw] a familiar face, or someone they can relate to or hearing about a career path that looks exciting. We are giving them the tools that they need and encouraging them to step in and start exploring those opportunities for themselves

Ventura Rangel in Startland News

See more photos from the event at our Facebook page and RSVP to our next event – our 2nd Annual Hour of Code! This event is for guardians and kids 18 and under. See more details on our Eventbrite.

Kansas City Women in Technology is asking for help this year for #GivingTuesday and asking you to GiveUs5! Donate $5, pledge 5 volunteer hours or attend 5 events in 2019 so we can keep providing events like the TechWalk and Hour of Code.



What does it mean to work in data science today? Over 50 people came together at C2FO’s new location to hear our panelists at our October TechTalk ‘What is Data Science?’ Our panelists discussed what it was like to work in the field, how they started their careers, and they gave advice for others looking to break in. Data science was named the top job of 2016 by GlassDoor and Rutgers projected that the data science field will grow faster than any other job in the next 6 years. Our panelists encouraged attendees to learn more about the field and gave insightful wisdom and resources.

October TechTalk: What is Data Science?

What Do Data Scientists Actually Do?

Data scientists may have a variety of roles in their positions. Panelist Earlyn Reinhardt, data scientist at SelectQuote, does a mix of modeling, coding and working with the business users to make sure her models work. Sometimes she develops the product that her users need. Meanwhile, Janae Nicholson at H&R Block in downtown Kansas City works with financial information, cleaning data and making sure her analyses are very exact for the accountants she works with. One example she gave was creating a model that predicted the likelihood of customers returning to the business. She then had to test it and prove to her users that it works.

“I’ve learned that every day starts with a new question,” panelist and lead data architect at ATI Nursing Education Sweta Sinha said. “That [question] needs to be answered not only by the data science team but also among the business users. So we always have some question that comes up ‘Can we do that?’ ‘Can we use that data piece as part of our analysis?”

Adrienne Anderson from Cerner said she spends most of her day at the computer, but another part of her day is talking with other teams, discussing their processes and learning more about how they will use the products she develops. The other panelists nodded and echoed this part of the job.

How the Panelists Got into the Field

Our panelists had diverse backgrounds and most did not start their careers in data science. Adrienne studied physics at first and was a physics teacher, but wanted to learn new skills. She started a degree in electrical engineering but then switched to studying machine learning. One early project she worked on was at iVerify, studying image data that is used to verify identity. Earlyn previously worked in e-commerce and kept wanting to use data in her business. She completed a data science bootcamp in Austin “and never looked back.” 

“If you are willing to work hard, you’re going to do great,” Earlyn said. “PhDs and statisticians don’t know everything and you don’t know everything, so you can all learn together. Don’t worry about your background, we can help you. The data science community is great and we’ll help you.”

How People Can Get Started in the Field

Our panelists encouraged attendees who are interested in the field to get started now. If you wanted to learn data science or keep up with new changes to the field, panelists recommended several resources to learn data analysis and coding

  • Courses in data at Coursera.org or other MOOCs
  • YouTube tutorials
  • White papers from notable data scientists
  • SQL, Python, or R tutorials or courses
  • The machine learning subreddit
  • Data science boot camps or programs
  • Getting your hands dirty by digging in to past data competitions at Kaggle.com
  • Meet-ups with other data scientists!

If you liked learning about data science, maybe you’ll be interested in…

Our data scientist panelists emphasized that their work was on the more technical side, and there is a whole entire world on the business side. In case you missed it, September’s TechTalk ‘What is a BA?’ was all about working as a business analyst. 

Join us at our next TechTalk, our second annual TechWalk fashion show on Wednesday November 14, 6PM. Tickets available here.



“Who here is currently working as a business analyst?” The panel asked the audience.

A handful of about 100 attendees raised their hand during our September TechTalk, What is a BA? at the Helzberg Auditorium at the Kansas City Public Library-Central branch.

“See, those of you with your hand raised, look around. This is a great opportunity to connect with others in your field and those who want to learn more, be sure to network with them after the talk.”

According to PayScale.com, those in the role of business analysts have been mostly male, with 41 percent of the workforce being female. Exploring this unique role, four local Kansas City professionals, Tamara Copple, Lee Zuvanich, Joanna Shindler, and Cecelia Walsh, spanned the spectrum of companies and backgrounds and discussed their experience working as a business analyst and the road that led them there.

What Is A BA? It’s the Person Your Dev. Team Needs


Tamara Copple, a business analyst with Lockton Affinity, discussed the specific day-to-day working in the role. With 15 years of experience, Tamara and the rest of the panelists explored how working as a business analyst included “wearing different hats” as the product owner and being the point person on the business side of the project.
This can be reflected in the QA or quality assurance process.
“We were getting to launch an eCommerce site,” Tamara said. “We got to the dropdown menu where you put in your credit card number and on the backend of it it read ‘what is your expiration date?’ and we had 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,12,12. Somebody said, ‘What happened to November?’ The developer looks us straight in the eye and he said, ‘We don’t need November anyway’.”
Discussing the role of a business analyst, the panel commented on how it is about adding value to the company and determining how you add that value.
“My favorite, favorite thing as a BA is to sit down with business owners and share what I think they need to help scale their business,” said Lee Zuvanich, a freelance business analyst for multiple local Kansas City business. “That can turn into a marketing effort or monetary strategizing. I love asking business owners ‘what resonates with you?’.

They Connect with Clients


“We are all working hard to accomplish the same goal and to come together to celebrate those goals is what I love most,” said Cecelia Walsh, a senior business analyst with 13 years working in the financial software development industry.

How to Become a BA

“If you’re the type of person who wants to know things just because you want to know, you can be trained in the skills you need for your industry,” said Joanna Shindler, a business analyst working in the web, data, publishing, and content management fields. “If you have that intellectual curiosity, the technical skills can be learned.”
Not having a tech. background isn’t a stopping point for those interesting in working as a business analyst. According to the panel, most of their backgrounds started in a variety of fields including journalism and design. The road to becoming a business analyst just started with the particular skills of working with people to handle the client side and the curiosity skills to work with the development side of the business and then connecting the two.


Join Us Next Month!
Interested in learning more about the various roles in the technology industry? Join us for our October session coming up this month where we will be hosting another panel discussion exploring What is Data Science on Wednesday, October 17 at C2FO in Leawood.



As a LaunchCode graduate, Gloria Higley completed an apprenticeship at VML and then accepted a full-time web developer role at Burns & McDonnell. She recently shared her interviewing insights and gave her top three tips for technical interviewing. Check them out below!

1. Be genuine about where you are in your journey and passionate about where you want to be.

When I was interviewing for my first technical role I got really wrapped up in the fact that I didn’t have more side projects or had yet to contribute to any open source projects. Instead of being hard on myself about what I hadn’t done, I chose to focus on all the things I had. I focused on how hard I had worked to learn to code. First with Coding & Cocktails, then DjangoGirlsKC, then with the LaunchCode LC101 course. I chose to focus on the projects I’d completed as a part of LaunchCode. I chose to focus on going back to Coding & Cocktails to mentor because I felt that was the right thing to do after all of the support they’d provided for me. I chose to focus on how my background in project management paired with technical skills could help others bring their big ideas to life. I chose to focus on all I’d done while raising a family and working a full-time job.

Being genuine about where I was in my journey helped differentiate me as a candidate by showing how intentional and engaged I am in being a lifelong learner. It also helped me see what types of companies were a good fit for me.

Interviewing is definitely a two-way street. It’s important to find a company who values you for where you are and your future potential.

2. Be prepared for both behavioral interview questions and technical ones.

Study common white-boarding questions if you think that will be a part of your interviewing process. Hackerrank.com is a great resource for prepping for technical interviewing. Also, and arguably more important, make sure you can explain how well you can work on a team and accomplish results. Technical skills are vital to landing a job, being able to work well with others is vital to building a career.

3. Research the company you’re interviewing with before the interview.

Learn about the clients they serve, their competition, their financials, and their goals. Then clearly articulate how you could contribute to their success. Interviewers want to know that you’ve done your research and are interested in being a part of the team.

The Coding & Cocktails curriculum was a catalyst for me gaining the confidence I needed to learn to code. Being provided a safe place to learn, ask questions, and network are the reasons I’ve been able to successfully navigate my career change to technology.

Similarly, I’ve grown a lot professionally by returning to KCWiT to mentor. Talking about how code works and helping other women learn has made me better at my job and increased my confidence.

I can’t thank KCWiT enough for their dedication to growing the number of women in technology careers in Kansas City.

You can connect with Gloria at https://www.linkedin.com/in/gloriahigley/



Anri Liy’s internship as a quality assurance tester at realquantum turned into a full-time Quality Analyst role this summer. We sat down to find out what that was like.

KCWiT: Tell us about realquantum. What is the company all about?
Anri: realquantum is a web app for commercial real estate appraisers that is easy to learn and use. We also have a new iOS app for appraisers to use when they inspect properties that make their job easier.

KCWiT: Anri, what does a typical day look like for you? What does a quality analyst do?
Anri: I am responsible for testing our web and mobile applications manually and ensure they are ready for production. In addition, I’m learning about automated testing and starting to implement test scripts. Our developers are very good, but I still manage to find things to fix!

KCWiT: What would you like to tell our members about interviewing for your first technical role?
Anri: First it’s very important to network and to be an active member of the community because I don’t think I would have gotten a chance to interview otherwise. I interviewed twice before I got hired by my current company. My First interview was with CEO Mark Davis. We talked about some general topics, my past experience, and education. We didn’t discuss technical topics in any detail.

The second interview was with the CEO and CTO, Dan Wieschhaus. To prepare I reviewed what I had learned, then decided what I would like to show them. The day of the interview they asked me about technical topics and past projects. For example, they asked me to describe a gem file, which rails version I have used, which databases I have used, etc. The interviewers told me I could say if I didn’t know something. That made me very comfortable and that I could simply describe my skills.

I brought my laptop, prepared my GitHub and web URL so I could show them my projects and code. This preparation helped me show them my skills and I wasn’t fumbling around in the interview.

KCWiT: You mentioned that getting involved in the community was important to helping you get an interview. Can you tell us more about that?
Anri: I started my online programming school one year ago. At that time, I had just moved to the U.S. from Japan, so I didn’t have anybody to ask for advice. I really wanted to join a good community so I Googled “Kansas City programmer women” and found KCWiT and Coding & Cocktails. I started Coding & Cocktails in April 2017. I remember my first session like it was yesterday.

After I finished my online boot camp, I started job hunting. I didn’t know how to do this in the U.S. so I asked many Coding and Cocktails mentors what to do. I thought my questions were childish, but all the mentors were super kind to me. I also received help editing my resume from three or four mentors. They gave me professional advice for my resume like adding a Github URL, my project URL and how to document my skills and education.

Also, they recommended I attend CoderDojoKC as a mentor because I didn’t have any volunteer experience. At first, I didn’t know what I could do, but the senior mentors were very kind and the girl I taught, made a presentation that made me really proud of her. The event was wonderful, so I still attend regularly. KCWiT has made my life so much better.
Thank you KCWiT members for all of your help and for being my friends!!

You can connect with Anri at https://www.linkedin.com/in/anriliy, or you can often find her mentoring at CoderDojoKC or hanging out at Coding & Cocktails!



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