Mentor Profile: Kelsey Leftwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Adrianne DeWeese

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


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