I’m Stephanie, and I was invit­ed by p5.js and Lauren to come and speak. I’m just going to talk a lit­tle bit about my per­son­al expe­ri­ence, because I am a woman of col­or in tech.

Image of a large family seated on a couch, young Stephanie near front. Captioned "I'm Stephanie, Atypical Developer"

This is me real­ly young. This is my fam­i­ly. I’m what peo­ple would con­sid­er an atyp­i­cal devel­op­er. I didn’t have a CS degree. I actu­al­ly only start­ed devel­op­ing eight months ago. I’m a Latina, so that means that I am one in 3% of devel­op­ers that are out there work­ing in the field, and I’m the first col­lege grad in my fam­i­ly, and I failed 10th-grade math, so I didn’t have any of the things that peo­ple need to become devel­op­ers. But things hap­pened, and I will tell you about these things now, and I did become one.

Image of a large family seated on a couch, young Stephanie near front. Text at left lists various positions she has held.

This is sort of a rough sketch of who I am in some sort of pro­fes­sion­al capac­i­ty and who I have been. I’ve been a lot of things, includ­ing a deliv­ery dri­ver, a library clerk, and then most recent­ly I was a teacher, a cur­ricu­lum devel­op­er, and now a soft­ware devel­op­ment engi­neer intern. In 2011, I got my Masters in Linguistics, and that was a real­ly excit­ing time, except that when you have a Masters in lin­guis­tics it’s real­ly hard to find a job, so after that I became an adjunct, because that’s what you do. I real­ly loved it, I had awe­some stu­dents. One of my stu­dents actu­al­ly crowd­fund­ed my way here to Pittsburgh, so that was awe­some. I guess I did a good job.

Then after that, I became a cur­ricu­lum devel­op­er, because I did have stu­dent loans and things to take care of. This job was inside of the tech space, but not in a tech capac­i­ty. I worked hand in hand with devel­op­ers, and I start­ed to see what these peo­ple were doing, and I thought that seemed kind of cool, but I failed 10th-grade math, so I could nev­er be a devel­op­er. Of course this was at a start­up, so there was that tech cul­ture that is endem­ic to star­tups, the bro­gram­mer cul­ture. So that wasn’t super cool, but I was still like, I wish that I had been born a boy so ghat I could be a devel­op­er” and that I didn’t fail 10th-grade math, and all of these things.

So last Fall, in a twist of fate, I became a stu­dent again. I was accept­ed into an all-womens’s tech school called Ada Developers Academy. It’s based out of Seattle, it’s tuition-free, and its goal is to diver­si­fy tech, at least through gen­der. I got accept­ed, which was crazy. That was a stroke of luck, and today I’m a devel­op­er in train­ing at Amazon, so I intern with them, and I’ll be grad­u­at­ing that pro­gram in August. I will be the first Latina to grad­u­ate that pro­gram.

So how did this hap­pen? I vis­it­ed ITP in 2013. Completely ran­dom, I was vis­it­ing New York, and I got to see peo­ple who were cod­ing who did not look like the peo­ple at my start­up. Who did not act like the peo­ple at my start­up. It was a very dif­fer­ent pro­gram, obvi­ous­ly a lot of artists. That was real­ly inter­est­ing to me, and I was like, Oh. These are atyp­i­cal devel­op­ers. Maybe I could be an atyp­i­cal devel­op­er.” So I applied to this pro­gram, got accept­ed, which was a crazy stroke of luck again.

Image of a large family seated on a couch, young Stephanie near front. At left is a heading

This is what I con­sid­er my suc­cess pyra­mid for how it hap­pened, and how it end­ed up hap­pen­ing for a lot of oth­er women of col­or who have been to sim­i­lar pro­grams that I have. It’s that we had men­tor­ships, so we had peo­ple that we looked up to that were in the field that could help us, and we had a lot of luck, which is an unfor­tu­nate thing to have to need to become a devel­op­er. It’s not like when you go to Carnegie Mellon’s web page to apply for a CS degree, it doesn’t say you need luck. But for some peo­ple that’s actu­al­ly what it takes.

And then hard work. Hard work should be the same for every­one, it shouldn’t dif­fer based on race, based on gen­der. So I’m here at p5.js because I want a suc­cess pyra­mid to look more like this:

Image of a large family seated on a couch, young Stephanie near front. At left is a heading "How it should happen" and an illustration of a triangle divided into three sections labeled "access" at the base, "mentorship" above, and "hard work" at its point.

I want access to be the first thing that is real­ly required, and I want access to be avail­able to every­one, includ­ing peo­ple like snarky seven-year-old Stephanie. Mentorship should still be impor­tant, and men­tor­ship should come from peo­ple that look like snarky seven-year-old Stephanie. It should [come] from peo­ple who look like me, or peo­ple that are mar­gin­al­ized, so that you feel like, I don’t need to be [a] start­up bro­gram­mer to make it. I can look like some­thing else.” And hard work in impor­tant, and it should be the same for every­one.

So this is the sto­ry of how things hap­pened, and I’m real­ly glad that I had all those oth­er expe­ri­ences, because I still am a lot of the things that I was before. I’m still an activist, I’m still a teacher, I still do cur­ricu­lum design, but now in the capac­i­ty of tech. So I feel like I’m able to reach a lot more peo­ple.

That’s my sto­ry. Thank you.

Further Reference

Overview page at the Studio for Creative Inquiry's web site.


Help Support Open Transcripts

If you found this useful or interesting, please consider supporting the project monthly at Patreon or once via Square Cash, or even just sharing the link. Thanks.