In part two of our Women in Tech series, we speak to the Daphne Choong behind Women Who Code, an organisation and community that strives to help and inspire women to excel in the tech industries.
How did Women Who Code KL come to be?
Women Who Code (WWCode) is a global non-profit organisation that started in San Francisco. The Kuala Lumpur chapter was founded in 2014 by Chee Yim Goh and Jecelyn Yeen. They decided to start the KL chapter after they realised people could not find good quality tech sharing meetup groups in KL. Now WWCode KL aims to inspire and support women to excel in technology careers by holding regular events such as Python Coding Series and special events to promote occasions such as the International Women’s Day celebrations.
How did you get involved with Women Who Code?
The first time I learnt about WWCode KL was during the first event in 2014. It was a Beginners’ Meetup for coding in Python and HTML held at the MyTeksi (now Grab) office. I attended several other WWCode KL events and volunteered as one of the mentors in 2016 in their Fugee School initiative. That was when Chee Yim invited me and another mentor, Lydia to join their organising committee. Today we also have Wendy and Jenna on board the committee.
Have you always been interested in coding? Where did that spark came from?
I took up Computer Science for my university degree after deciding that I would like a dynamic career upon graduation, where what I do will always be fresh and challenging. It took me quite a few years to be good at coding though. But once I got the knack of it, it turned out to be fun and now I just want to code for the love of it. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able solve a problem through coding.
What do you do at Women Who Code?
The organising committee meet up at least once or twice a year to plan for activities that we wish to commit to. We then chat regularly online to organise the events, find technology companies to sponsor the venue, look for speakers and mentors and during the event day, I’ll turn up to help.
How do you think it helps to transform society?
I think our events give women an opportunity to get to know other women who are passionate in technology. Whether they are new to coding or have been in the industry for a while. It is encouraging and comforting to know there are others like you who may have been through similar challenges that you may be facing and who can give you advice when you are stuck.
What can a someone expect after signing up with WWCode?
To be on the organising committee of WWCode, you are expected to commit a certain amount of your time weekly to the WWCode cause. In return, you will be rewarded by new skills that you will acquire when you help organise events and be part of an engaging network of both men and women in tech.
Personally, what has been your experience as a woman in the tech field?
Personally, my journey as a woman in the tech field can sometimes feel lonely when I find myself as the only female in my team or turning up at a tech conference or hackathons full of men who seem totally at home. However, my male colleagues have always been supportive and I’ve learnt a lot from them. I have also found women mentors who have helped me along the way, and that inspires me to give back to the community.
How do you think we can change the mindset or stereotype that women are not well suited to work in tech?
By encouraging more women in tech to turn up at our WWCode KL networking events, where we have other women members who are doing just as well as men in their jobs and sharing their experiences, we will be able to assure everyone that gender does not dictate whether you are suited to work in tech or not.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced being in a woman in the tech field and how did you overcome them?
Sometimes I feel that my colleagues or peers doubt that I have the knowledge or expertise in my field. To overcome it, I spend a lot of effort getting better at what I do by acquiring deep knowledge in the areas where I have interest in. In addition, when I share my knowledge either by mentoring others or giving a presentation, I find that I learn better and it helps to build my confidence when I discuss these topics with my colleagues and peers.
What are some of the benefits of joining WWCode?
We get support from other women in the industry, a lot of opportunities to learn and improve both our soft and technical skills. We can also tap into the large WWCode network and get exposed to new job opportunities, tech conference details, scholarships, as well as travel and conference grants.
Can men join in too?
We hold many events where men are welcomed to join, especially when they support our cause to encourage women in their tech careers.
What are some of the services/ facilities WWCode offer?
We hold regular tech events and classes like Problem Solving with Python, Agile Discussions, Data Mining with R Workshop and Blockchain in 200 Lines of Code. In the past, we also held study groups and volunteered to teach refugee students how to code.
What’s next for WWCode? What do you hope to see for the future of women in tech?
We would like to encourage more women to be inspired by our cause, and in turn, be empowered to spread the joy and teach others how to code as well. I hope in the future, women can pursue a career in tech, be presented with opportunities that are equal to men’s and be supported by their friends and family to do so because they enjoy and are good at what they do.