[Guest blog] Volunteering with Women Who Code - How to Build Friendships and Accelerate Your Career

Published Jul 08 2020 10:13 AM 2,268 Views
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This article was written by Developer Technologies MVP Rositsa Fakalieva in Bulgaria. She currently works as a Director of Software Engineering at Telerik .NET UI components and is also a Co-Director of Women Who Code Sofia. She shares about her experience volunteering with Women Who Code and hope that it will be useful for others looking to give back to the community as well. 

 

I have labeled myself as a woman in technology for more than 15 years now. However, beyond that, I am also a manager, a colleague and a friend of many other women working in this complex and challenging industry. That is why in this post, I want to focus on several things that are important for us women in tech to thrive in tech:

 

  • First, we need to develop more confidence. Speak up. Be bold and share your ideas. Too many times I have found myself struggling in situations where I do not feel that I know enough to say something, or worry that my idea is silly or not important enough to be shared. From my personal experience, this seems to happen to us women much more often than to men. Yet, why should we be afraid? We have earned the seat at the table, and have every right to contribute.  
  • Second, we need a little inspiration to stay longer in our field. We need more inspiring, strong women role models and examples of other women who managed to be successful in their roles. There's a well-known saying called, "You can't be what you can't see", and this holds true in a lot of cases. Role models can give us something to aspire to, and serve as encouragement that truly anything is possible if you set your mind to it. 
  • Also, often women have to make the difficult choice between continuing to grow professionally or to focus on family. Not everyone has the financial resources to hire nannies or private caretakers to help with childcare, or caring for elderly parents. Even though many modern societies strive for equality in the household, women are typically still expected to bear much of the burden. It is even more challenging for single parents who have to juggle everything all at once with little or no support. That is why having a friendly and safe community environment to share and get advice is so valuable.

 

Personally, I've found such a community during my time volunteering with the Women Who Code organization. Here's my story:

What is Women Who Code?

It is a global, nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire and help women in tech to grow in their career. There are regional chapters all over the world, from Europe, to the US to Australia. You can easily find a network that is close to you. I currently volunteer with the Sofia chapter in Bulgaria, which launched in September 2016 and has 766 members with over 91 events organized to date. 

How Women Who Code has helped me

I became part of this organization in 2018 when I met Rayna Stankova - the director of the Sofia chapter then who told me more about it. First I was skeptical about what exactly this organization does. But then as I talked with her more, I found out that what the organization does actually depends on us members - the women in tech! That inspired me to pause and critically evaluate what the most important and pressing thing that I personally found difficult was, and would like to make easier for other women in the industry. 

 

After some time, I figured it out. I wanted to create a way to help them to learn about important skills in tech (especially in .NET). Sometimes the new concepts would be coming so quickly due to new releases and developments that I just felt stressed and overwhelmed whenever I did not have enough time to read about everything or understand it. This impact is even worse if you have kids like me - you are already extremely busy at work, plus your native language is not English! 

 

I also feel more confident discussing such topics in informal way with colleagues and friends than with others that I do not know well enough. This helped me realize what I had to do. I began to organize small meet-ups to discuss what's new in the industry. This evolved into organizing friendly events focused on different topics. Some of them were on .NET while others were not - but all of them were fun, interesting and helpful for attendees.

 

Here are a few photos from these events (pre-COVID19 of course!):

 

IMG_20191021_112620.jpg78823176_525845678144135_6743605525285437440_o.jpg

IMG_20190625_194305.jpgIMG_20191204_184428.jpgPicture2.jpg

 

The best thing is that the company which I work for supported me and the organization, allotting budget for us to run these wonderful events. These not only helped build great memories and valuable new friendships, but my volunteering work in the community has also helped me to receive a Microsoft MVP award (so honored and thrilled about that!), a local prize in my country and more importantly, helped me gain a lot more confidence in tech.

 

Now let me tell you more how the Women Who Code organization can help YOU:

How Women Who Code can help you

  • If you need an open and welcoming community to connect with other women and share, ask for advice, learn something new or just have fun - visit our site or find an event near you.
  • If you want to practice your presentation skills in safe and friendly environment we will be happy to help you. Contact me if you are from Bulgaria, or find a local chapter near you.
  • If you want to develop your leadership skills - WWCode can help you to lead and organize a chapter in your local town. This is a great opportunity to practice your leadership, build organization skills and meet new people. Learn more here.
  • Browse our free coding resource basehttps://www.womenwhocode.com/resources

 

And lastly, I want to encourage other women to have fun at work or just block off 15 minutes a day to do something different than your regular tasks! I say this because I see that many women tend to be way more strict in their daily duties and often forget to take time for themselves. Having fun at work help you to be more creative, get to know people around you in deeper ways, and helps you to develop better technology. Try it out, you won't regret it!

 

#HumansofIT

#Volunteering

 

 

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