First published on MSDN on Jan 24, 2018
A core element of the MVP Award Program is selflessly contributing to the communities around us, and supporting those within them to be the best version of themselves - professionally, and personally.
Networking within these communities is undoubtedly a powerful force. However, it's especially so for women, who are highly under-represented in technology related fields. And within the MVP community, we're fortunate to have female technical experts who work to make these networking events a reality.
Newly awarded Microsoft MVP and Women Who Code director Gen Ashley, for example, organized a Tech The Halls event at the end of December to celebrate the accomplishments of women in STEM, tech and business. MVP Chiayi Yen is the organizer of R-Ladies Taipei , a community that meets once a month to help women learn data science and statistical computing in R. There's also MVP Kathi Kellenberger, who is the co-leader of the PASS Women in Tech Virtual Group . And that's just to name a few.
In this, we've taken the chance to feature 6 female MVPs, and learn just how powerful networking with other women has been in their careers. Check it out!
I always highlight to members of the different groups I lead that networking is a very good way to find out about new opportunities for career growth or change.
Even if you are not looking to move now, it always helps to build a good network as each person you meet can contribute something positive to your growth, and in turn you can also contribute to other people's growth. It's always good to give back, too, whenever you can.
Build. Share. Grow . If you're like many women in IT, you frequently find yourself being the sole female in the department. Women often list feeling isolated as the reason they’re leaving tech. Building a network of strong women is vital to prolonging your career, and maybe saving your sanity. Sharing your experience with others and learning from them can be amazingly cathartic or empowering!
There are plenty of tech groups and meet-ups out there already; they’re bound to have a few women in attendance. Take advantage of that and pick a night to grab drinks. Make it a regular thing and encourage attendees to bring a colleague of their own. Talking to women who’ve been there is revitalizing. BEING that woman for someone else is rewarding.
I think in some cases we network very differently. Women are far more likely to build several different kinds of networks, whereas men are more likely to build a single strong professional network. I think women have it lucky in this regard, we're allowed & encouraged from a young age to bond, support & care. By the time we're working women, we've got that skill down pat! As a result, we probably have a network of like-minded Moms, a group of friends with a similar hobby and a professional network. We nurture all of these relationships the same way and each is stronger at different points in our life and career.
Only 1 in 4 tech workers are women, and there are many reasons for this statistic. One way that women can combat the headwinds is through mentoring, encouragement, exchanging ideas, and generally supporting each other. Women networking with women is the precursor to all of this. Typically, people who attend networking events are those that are investing in themselves and others. These are the people I want to meet as they are the ones that help us all grow and succeed. Many times, I have been able to pass on opportunities to these people, and on occasion I have been able to ask for help in overcoming an obstacle myself. Building your knowledge base by expanding your network is highly effective.
Tech events bring new perceptions for learning, not only from those who are delivering the session, but also from those who are attending the session. Networking with females from the same profession makes sharing and discussing related issues more comfortable. If you are able to meet experienced resources, then you can learn about new techniques for your tech problems. If you meet resources less experience than yourself, you can help them in resolving their issues, and learn about new problems which you may not have known already. Networking with women brings on the exchange of new ideas, which helps enhance your skills, and helps in bringing more personal growth and progression.
From Lone Tech Woman to Mentor. I have been the first woman consultant at four companies and the first female employee at two of those companies. There was a time that I thought I was special or extra cool because of that. Eventually, I learned that I’m not special at all. Women have been in computing for decades, and were among the pioneers who invented coding and are responsible for so much we use today. I also didn’t realize that women and girls were discouraged from tech careers beginning in the 80s and 90s as home computers became more prevalent and salaries were rising.
Because I want to make sure that no woman with the talent and interest is held back, I became involved with the PASS Women in Tech Virtual Group, becoming co-leader in 2015. I also teach and mentor through a wonderful program called CoderGirl which helps women transition into tech careers. It’s a place where they can feel comfortable learning new skills, networking, and helping each other. When I got started, there were a couple of people who believed in me, and this is a way that I can pay it forward.
These days, we still work in a gender-imbalanced environment. To make the situation better, I believe community events can help. When women code together, we learn technical and soft skills from each other. When women are leaders and stand out of the crowd, others feel inspired to rise to their level. When participating at these events, I always feel revived from learning new things, and connecting with the community. And as the time passes, I've realized I'm in a position to share my knowledge with others. Whether it be sharing knowledge or absorbing it, women have the power to create - and make some noise.
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