My name is Mary â€˜Lychee' Lai, and I'm a recent tech convert. Healthcare was my background, and now it's become one of my goals to help reshape health literacy and empower individuals with the leverage of technology.
Originally, I was studying holistic nutrition and herbal medicine in Brisbane, but I put that on pause and moved to San Francisco for a 24-week Web Development Immersive Program located at the San Francisco Galvanize
campus. I wanted to learn programming here, but more so I wanted to understand some of the mindsets, attitudes, and networks behind creating high-tech startups.
When my friend, Indi from Codebots, offered to sponsor me to attend Women Who Code's
CONNECT 2017, I jumped onboard. Women Who Code is an international not-for-profit and CONNECT 2017
is it's premier technical event, bringing together distinguished speakers from innovative companies. Wisdom was shared, as well as technical skills - from AI to automation, to diversity and culture. We could listen to some heart-to-heart advice or pull out our computer to write code in several workshops.
Having scoped out a few other Developer Conferences and covered events for Women in Tech's SnapChat Channel, I'm all about meeting and bringing more of my ladies on board to check outreach. This one, being targeting specifically for women, was extra fun. Apart from having t-shirt sizes that actually fit women ðŸ˜‰, there were 3D printed violins, chicken and waffles (weird), great company booths, and great people.
I made a friend who works in the secret lab at Amazon, chatted to Alaina Percival, the Women Who Code CEO, and checked in with our Aussie-roots at the Atlassian booth.
The Amazon secret lab friend was incredibly friendly though couldn't say much about what she was working on, Alaina shared the beginnings of Women Who Code and where she got her blue cape and dress from (the maternity section - awesome), and it turns out that I Jarvis from the SnapChat booth was good friends with my current housemate! What a small world.
Between all the mingling and 3D printed violins, I sharpened my practical skills in React. There was a total of ten workshops which ranged from half an hour to two hours. I chose a workshop run by Sarrah Vesselov, UI/UX Design & Development at Nitro Solutions. I tweeted crazily about her slides - as I loved them. She even recognized me afterward saying, "hey your face is familiarâ€¦ were you the one tweeting all on my wall?" Yup.
The sweetest and most savoury moment of the day ended up being breakfast when I shared an "American-delicacy" with new friends, the salty but sweet sensation--chicken and waffles. (Complete with lashings of maple syrup to power us through the full-day program).
Of the talks, one of my favorites was "You Rise to Leadership," and much of it has stayed with me. Words of wisdom included, "Always have that attitude of why not, instead of, why me?" And, "as a foundation - have one hour, or two if you are lucky, to yourself. Have that hour to build that foundation for yourself - whether it's prayer, meditation or exercise." In a world of haste and hustle - this is gold.
The leaders also spoke about a concept of â€˜pulling up.' That if you ever experience or see injustice or sexism, you pull. If you feel the glass ceiling, you pull up. You pull women up into the industry. They gave a strong sense that it's up to us collectively as men and women to act and be sponsors, mentors, and allies. #WeRise
It's incredible that even while in San Francisco, I felt connected and supported by my Brisbane family, and I want to thank Codebots for sponsoring me to attend CONNECT 2017. Although it is still a very tight-knit community, Brisbane's startup community has grown in the last few years. It's amazing to be part of it as it is an incredibly welcoming community. For those with digital ideas, I say go for it.
I'd like to end with an appeal to all the women who code or want to code: it's up to you to stand up for yourself, but you don't have to stand alone.