Women in Tech: Kaylyn Gibilterra from Women Who Code DC

The Washington D.C. Metro Area is full of dozens of organizations dedicated to lowering the barrier for women and minorities in tech. DCFemTech, a collective of DC & Metro area women and minority focused organizations is launching a series of interviews with women in tech leaders to highlight their group’s mission, culture and events. The goal is to help women and minorities navigate the local tech scene to find a group that best fits their needs.

This week, we interviewed Kaylyn Gibilterra, Founder of Women Who Code’s DC Chapter.

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Women Who Code (WWC) is a global non-profit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers.
We provide an avenue into tech, empower women with skills needed for professional advancement, and provide environments where networking and mentorship are valued. The entire organization has hosted over 1200 free events around the world with over 20,000 members in 48 chapters spanning 15 countries.

Bringing women together of all ages, backgrounds and career interests in technology.
The common thread among our members is that everyone has a real passion for learning about technology. We have women that are 18 or 68, women that are CEOs of their own company, currently software engineers, interested in changing careers, or simply here to learn a little about technology. For more casual learners, generally our panels or talks like “The Language of Languages” are the most popular. Women interested in building new applications and learning to code outside of the weekly meetups will get the most out of our study groups. Mentoring, brunches (personal favorite!), and professional development events tends to attract more experienced developers in our group.

A chapter born out of a need for practical development skills and a safe community to learn and ask questions.
After graduating college, I still felt like I had so much to learn. A Computer Science degree gives you a lot of theoretical knowledge, but they often leave the “practical skills” for your own time. When I started my first full time job after college, I was not comfortable asking questions. I could never figure out what I was expected to already know, and I didn’t want to give a bad impression. That led me to explore meetups in DC. There were plenty of great ones, but none quite matched what I wanted to learn. At one of my first Meetups, out of 28 people, I was the only woman and was asked who I was dating when I first arrived. Eventually I started exploring what Meetup groups existed [in other cities] that had not found their way to DC and found Women Who Code. Since we started in April, WWC events improved my confidence when asking questions at work. We now have over 1,000 members and a leadership team of 8 absolutely amazing women (huge shout out to our network Directors, Nupur and Ria), and I can’t wait to see what is in store for 2015.

Offering weekly study group events for learn Front End Development, Java, Ruby on Rails & more!
All of our study groups have beginner projects to help new coders get started. Later, they can jump into larger, more collaborative projects with the other experienced developers. These study groups are casual opportunities to learn with others, much like if you had a study group with friends in college. In our Rails study group, new members will start by building a Pinterest-like site and then move on to sites for themselves or others. In Java, beginners might make a Twitter application that determines a user’s most commonly tweeted word before diving into Android apps. In fact, Justin Bieber’s most common word is “me.” Online videos, books, or classes help attendees learn the concepts, but the projects and group setting help encourage goals and progress towards tangible skills. In 2015 we are going to expand to have a few more weekly study groups. Keep an eye out for python and mobile classes!

A group that shares coding comics and programming resources together.
Outside of the meetups, we use Slack to keep in touch as we work on our various projects, share coding comics (like the one below), and pass along programming resources that people find, especially when there are discounts or freebies – my list of tech books to read in 2015 is getting impressively large!

Keep an eye out for future events on mentoring programs and professional development opportunities.
In this upcoming year we are also building up programs for mentoring (both within the Women Who Code DC Network and with younger audiences), professional development events, and more opportunities to meet influential tech leaders. With women leaving the tech industry at over double the rate of men, the leadership team in DC is also focused on what helps women stay in the industry. So we’ll see more events that help members not only learn new technology skills – but stick with them as they start and maintain their tech careers!

The best resource for finding Women Who Code DC events is the Meetup page. Follow them on Twitter @WomenWhoCodeDC and reach out to Kaylyn with any questions at kaylyn@womenwhocode.com. WWC will be at the Digital Resolutions event with a lot of DCFemTech organizations on January 10th, so that will be a great opportunity to meet fellow women in tech and learn more!

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Written by:
Stephanie is Lead Designer and co-founder of Landmark, a navigation app for walking directions based on photos of buildings and landmarks. Stephanie was a guest at Y Combinator’s prestigious Female Founders Conference and was profiled in The Washington Post. Actively involved in the DC community, she is a co-producer of the DC Tech Meetup and is actively involved in encouraging technology education and mentorship for women. Follow her on Twitter @nguyenist.
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