Women in Tech: Jackie Kazil from PyLadies DC

December 30, 2014

10:00 am

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 Jackie Kazil, Co-organizer of PyLadies DC.

Group photo at PyLadies Hack and Coffee Event

Group photo at PyLadies Hack and Coffee Event

PyLadies: A friendly support network for women and a bridge to the larger Python world.
PyLadies DC is the local chapter of Pyladies, which is an international mentorship group with a focus on helping more women become active participants and leaders in the Python open-source community. I believe the last count for PyLadies was 45 locations worldwide. Our mission is to promote, educate, and advance a diverse Python community through outreach, education, conferences, events, and social gatherings.

They host a variety of events from small sessions to 50-person workshops to Google Hangouts.
Sometimes they are an hour; sometimes they are a couple of days. Sometimes we meet online, because we realize getting a physical place can be difficult for some folks. We are always trying new ways of engagement. My co-organizer, Katie Cunningham, recently has been leading a series of classes through Google on-air and it seems to have received a good response. We are currently planning to continue and expand the series. I am in the process of organizing a group project so folks can learn about the full process of pulling together a site and they can have something in their portfolio to point to.

Co-founder Katie Cunningham leading a flask class at MLK Library.

They focus on providing a safe place to ask questions and learn from other women.
When I was learning, I had a mentor, and it is really really helpful. There is great value in a safe place to ask questions and an environment that encourages it. It makes me happy to offer that space for other women. If someone falls into the wrong environment when starting out, they might be turned off with continuing on.

The typical PyLadies DC member is human, female, and comes from all types of backgrounds:
Most professional programmers program on Macs or Linux, but often a third to half the women joining us have Windows for their personal or work machines. We are supportive of all platforms. Anyone with an interest in Python is encouraged to participate! I started my career as a photo-journalist. It was during this time that I started learning how to program through multi-media story telling in Flash, HTML, and CSS. I learned more about programming by teaching myself about databases in grad-school. Most everything I know was self-taught or seeking out the resource, conference, or class to fill the hole that I was looking to fill. Now, in my day-job, I am an Innovational Specialist working in a start-up like technology group in government.

Co-Organizers who love Python and know the value of hosting events at different times and locations:
I saw how much fun PyLadies LA was having. So, I decided to spin up PyLadies DC. I know when you are the only organizer in a group it can be draining and not fun. So, I reached out to Katie Cunningham, an active woman in the local and national Python community, and asked if she wanted to organize. Unknowingly, it turned out to be a great relationship. Since she lives in Virginia, I have learned how to balance meetup locations better in the DC metro area. We aim for the center of city, unless we are hosting a neighborhood help session. Since she has kids, and I do not, I have also been more conscious about considerations for families while schedule events.

A call for Python Meetup hosts, instructors, and volunteers!
Right now the local chapter is at the mercy of the leaders’ schedules. We are always looking for help. The other thing we ask for are tax deductible donations directly to The Python Software Foundation for the PyLadies fund or Donate to the PyLadies auction. This fund is used for meetup fees, scholarships, and other expenses for all PyLadies organizations. If you are donating a larger amount, please pay by check or contact me for other methods of payment. This is to make sure that a large amount isn’t lost to processing fees.

For more information check out the PyLadies DC Meetup Page, visit the PyLadies general website, follow @PyLadiesDC and reach out and say hello to [email protected]!

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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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