Women in Tech: DEVELOP(her) Scholarship and Bootcamp Field Notes

DEVELOP(her) scholarship recipients

While there were dozens of men who invented, improved and created the first computers, women were an essential and fundamental part of the development of modern programming. Today women are a presence the tech industry sorely lacks and sorely needs.

Each of us is fighting a whirlwind of career and job challenges that are often hard to wrap our strengths around. Such challenges are particularly fundamental to the experiences of women in the workplace. Those challenges are further magnified by the minority gap in tech. The DEVELOP(her) scholarship is our way of being responsible stewards of the coding knowledge we have at Grand Circus. It’s a scholarship and bootcamp combo that are awarded to women who want to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors (Grace Hopper, anyone?).

The DEVELOP(her) recipients train in the coding skills necessary to launch careers in tech, and participate in the tech industry’s growth.

In celebration of women in tech, let’s take a look at the bootcamp field notes from last cohort’s DEVELOP(her) scholarship recipients. We’ll start with Lhea and Lydia, who completed the Java bootcamp.  

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Lhea Copeland, Java Student
Mid-semester Field Notes

DEVELOP(her) scholarship recipient

“Honey-child-let-me-tell-you, takingGrand Circus’ Java Bootcamp has been the best decision that I have ever made in my life.

The fact that it is the best decision of my life does not imply that it has been an easy experience. This life as a Black woman in tech has been, as Talib Kweli once said, a Beautiful Struggle.

During our first week of bootcamp, my classmates and I took a Soft Skills class on “The Impostor Syndrome”.  I realized immediately that I suffer from a severe case. The first week of bootcamp was intense because inside my head I wondered: what do my classmates think of Black folk? Do my classmates think I am as smart as them? Will anyone want to work with me? Does Grand Circus regret choosing me?

My fears, my imposter syndrome, were so strong that it sometimes distracted me from paying attention to my instructor.

And I realized, as a Black woman in tech, I will always be one of a very few Blacks. I will always be one of a very few women. This fear that I am not good enough, smart enough, skilled enoughor the fear that others will not SEE me as good enough, smart enough or skilled enoughis one that I must face. And I must face it soon.

Grand Circus has been a wonderful experience for me because I am learning more than just Java. I am learning how step outside of my comfort zone and present my code to an audience. I am learning how to assert myself in the presence of men, assert myself in the presence of whites. And, I am learning that I am not always right; my way is not always the best way. I am learning how to take feedback. I am learning how to take criticism.

Learning to be confident in myself and the code that I write has been the most challenging part of the bootcamp.

The most rewarding part has been getting over my “Imposter Syndrome”. Another woman who received a DEVELOP(her) scholarship told me that she loves my tweets and that she’s checked out my GitHub and she’s impressed with my code. That meant THE WORLD to me. My teachers told me that I have a good grasp of object oriented programming. That meant THE WORLD to me. During soft skills, I presented my elevator pitch to the entire cohort, all three bootcamps.

And they clapped. They were impressed.

After 4 weeks of bootcamp, I can finally say, I am smart enough. I am good enough. I deserve a seat at the table.

And I am so thankful to Grand Circus for giving me the opportunity to prove myself.

I am so thankful for how Grand Circus has changed my life.

8 bit book

Lydia Latocki, Java Student
Mid-bootcamp Field Notes

Midway mark: The bigger picture is not so fuzzy.
Midway through GC-Java Bootcamp and our secondary focus has been on gearing up for the job search and the interview process. I am seeing the bigger picture more clearly now in week five, which was not the case the second-week into this endeavor. During the earlier stages of bootcamp looking through job boards, my vision of career path and job placement were similar to walking into Namaste Flavours Indian Restaurant of Farmington during the lunch buffet, immediately taking in all the delicious aromas, previewing the buffet and not knowing what was inside any of the interesting colored dishes right in front of me. Where to start?? What if it is not as tasty as the one right next to it? Will it be too hot?? Not spicy enough?? Am I taking too long to decide while the restaurant fills with seasoned patronswill all the best goodies be gone before I take my portions?? What if I put too much on my plate??DEVELOP(her) scholarship recipient

Fortunately, I love Indian cuisine and am not afraid to try pleasing aromatic dishes no matter how crazy they look initially. With the help of Cody Grant, GC Engagement Manager, pointing to a great article covering the variety of roles, skills needed and titles, I began to understand various job postings and company profiles more clearly. Many titles in the article did not match what is happening in Detroit, but the roles and skills are similar. I could more clearly match all the variety of topics we are touching on in Java Bootcamp to the day-to-day description of positions on job boards. This began to clarify the tech industry workflow and where I may fit in as an Entry-Level Java Developer.

The next few weeks will likely be stressful for me as I try to gain facetime with employers and they review my github entry-level code. The dominant fear from classmates has been focused on taking a “white board tech text” during interviews, where candidates are asked to solve problems without the help of an IDE auto filling code solutions. From past experience, I recognize the importance of talking to what I know and not embellishing beyond what I have learned so far. It is reassuring to know that everyone in the Tech field is still learning, and that my other qualifications will show value to an employer right away, due to experience with many types of internal and external stakeholders. Now I see that all Tech professionals are sowing the spicy seeds of a challenging and evolving career – and replanting all the time.

Foremost, I plan to keep my eye on the prize: Entry-Level Java Development employment within a team of enlightened Technologists solving problems and making cool tools that improve tasks and possibly bring knowledge to users through simple functionality. That will be akin to a scoop of Anjeer Badam for the close of lunch – the amazing fig and roasted almond ice cream. Yumm. 

Want to learn more about these powerful ladies? Read our first blog in the DEVELOP(her) series: Meet the 2017 DEVELOP(her) Scholarship Recipients! And stay tuned as we continue to follow their journey in starting new career in tech.

If you’re a women in tech, and are looking for support you can check out some of our other blog posts. Or, keep an eye on our calendar for future events catered to women.