[Original post from Nov. 2, 2018 at Rupa’s Blog]
Finally, after almost ten years of being in the proverbial "shadows" while the press, media and industry raged about the "pipeline" problem and focused solely on recruiting/hiring and massive marketing campaigns geared towards such things, I am seeing glimmers of realization from the press and some industry stalwarts, that the "retention" issue might be a serious problem (56+% dropout rate?).
And that all the progress on the recruitment initiatives are going to be futile without a bigger and much more serious commitment to retention initiatives from the tech industry. It is much harder to move the retention needle than the recruitment needle.
So, two weeks ago, I tendered my resignation at my full time job, flew to speak at an open source conference in Scotland (opensourcesummit.eu) and returned to US soil earlier this week with serious jet lag.
Nov. 1 was my first day as full time staff at CodeChix as CEO & Founder.
No, I'm not getting paid anything. Yet. Bootstrapping it is - just like all good startups :).
Given that all sister non-profits in the "Diversity and Inclusion" space are doing rather splendidly as far as funding is concerned, I am confident I can get to a point in the next few months given our track record and reputation where we will have enough resources so I can get paid and build CodeChix to the next level as a global organization with serious impact to move the needle in the retention space for women engineers and technologists. And hire some wicked-good product managers and engineers to catapult us. And build a board to match our ambition and trajectory.
We are poised for growth, to challenge the status quo and to help the tech industry disrupt itself to become the leaders and role models with regard to retaining women engineers and technologists.
We need everyone's blessings and help with fundraising (DevPulseCon sponsorship, individual donations) in the next few months so we can achieve our goals.
If you are passionate about our cause, have the time and energy to dedicate to volunteering for us to move the needle on retention, please reach out to me (rupa at codechix dot org). We are seeking high-calibre individuals with a variety of backgrounds (Product Managers, Engineering Managers, Retired engineers, Finance, Legal, Marketing, PR etc.) in order to tackle the difficult problems in this space.
Stay tuned to codechix.org, @codechix and @devpulsecon on Twitter as we launch our campaigns. If you can donate and get matching funds through your company, please help us (codechix.org/donate). And please do share in your network - it is the only way we can grow our impact and make a difference.
And we are expecting DevPulseCon 2019 to be a landmark conference as we catapult ourselves to lead the retention space.
May the code be with you.
@akkakk & @rdachere
First fundraising for CodeChix at ShesGeeky 2014 by auctioning a couple of telescopes that Akkana had built. Raised $70 !!
Tearing myself away from my obligations on the east coast is not a fun thing to do, but I do it for significant events. CodeChix conferences are really good reasons for me to do so.
Like many women who have established themselves in tech for quite a while, I disrupt my schedule, and even travel great distances, to learn. I want learning experiences where, if I pay a bit to attend, I have the guarantee that the material will be highly technical, and that my personal information is not being monetized without my knowledge or consent. I very happily forego free events which feel like marketing ploys, don’t protect my privacy, or don’t offer highly technical content. I turn down invitations to such events on a regular basis.
Much like when I buy coffee, buying a ticket to a women’s tech event means I won’t feel good about it unless it is single-origin, locally grown, and supports the local community in grassroots ways. Large organizations raising millions to try and figure out how to monetize this model won’t get my money or attention. Volunteers obliviously doing the hard work while paid staff reap the benefits and plot parallel for-profit business ventures is not something you’ll ever see in CodeChix. It is a pure of heart, high-tech, low fluff, zero bullshit organization, whose sole mission is to provide mid to senior level female techs with solid learning content. This is rare, and very desperately needed in our tech communities.
Mid to senior level female geeks who do what they do for the sheer love of tech itself tend to be, well, “geeks” in the best sense of the term. They don’t like to waste time, they appreciate privacy, and they thrive on learning. Parties, drinks, happy hours, free intros with marketing material, and recruiting events just aren’t good lures for such people. Large organizations where “following the money” reveals something resembling an Amway pyramid scheme isn’t appealing at all for many highly skilled women in tech. They are usually well educated consumers, conscious of the source, and wanting to fully understand and feel good about the structure of what they support. Good wifi and collaborative high-level classes hosted by and in support of members of their community are the types of events which will draw such techhies.
The second of these impressive events hosted by CodeChix, called DevPulseCon, delivered once again. I flew to the west coast a second time since November, and attended this event with high expectations, all of which were met. The event was well organized, the volunteers were incredibly psyched about their material and tasks, and the material was very high tech, yet presented in a palatable form. All teachers and TAs were capable of answering advanced questions on the material in a down-to-earth, non high-brow manner, and were patient enough to properly pace themselves and present difficult topics in coherent ways.
The organizer, Rupa Dachere, is articulate, sharp, and well organized, not just scratching her own itch to learn at her advanced level, but doing so for an entire community of like-minded and similarly-skilled women. It’s a lot to pull off. Many women-centric tech organizations try to achieve this level of complexity and success. Rupa does this quite well, where most others fail. Of course it’s no surprise that she has a dedicated team of excellent volunteers. Like draws like. There’s no mystery or drama regarding where the money comes from and goes in this organization. Funds are raised for the event, the event is well executed with zero commercialism and fluff, and the community benefits. End of story. It’s quite easy to feel good about supporting this effort.
I look forward to CodeChix future events, and plan to disrupt my schedule to attend as many as possible.
At a CodeChix conference, I heard that women often sell ourselves short in the workplace. Someone in a keynote talked about how men always apply for jobs that are beyond their skill set and that they always negotiate for a better salary. The speaker advised us to start thinking differently about our skills and what we are capable of doing, and reminded us that we are worth more than we are offered. I took that advice to heart.
When I got laid off a couple of years ago, I looked for jobs that were a bit of stretch for me and applied for those. I was hired at Stanford doing a job that I am definitely qualified to do but that also required that I step out of my comfort zone and wing it occasionally when something required of me wasn't quite in my wheelhouse. I've learned a lot and have been very successful, becoming a critical part of the team.
As for salary, the initial salary offering was well below what I was expecting and what I had been making before. I negotiated a $20k increase in my starting salary. I wasn't eligible for a salary increase in my first year, so the first increase was to come at about the 18th month of my employment. The raise I was given was well below what I deserved, and even further below even a basic cost-of-living increase. I expressed my disappointment to my manager and reminded her that I hadn't received a raise last year because I was a new employee.
She acknowledged that she had forgotten that I hadn't received any salary increases for 18 months and she did some research and discovered that my salary was below the average for other people at Stanford doing similar work. She went to her management team and asked for a correction and I got a very generous salary increase.
It definitely pays to have confidence in yourself and your abilities and to remind others that those abilities are worth rewarding.