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2021 Recap

I have this thing where I balance the logical part of me with the creative part of me. I’m never a better creative writer than when I’m at a tech conference. Because I dive so, so deep into the technical. It’s pervasive. It’s me. And then I’m back in my room and I take a deep breath, and I can’t do it in that space. I have to make up for it. And then I write. I wrote almost an entire memoir during the first JS Conf Hawaii, bc I was new and alone and full of things to say. I need the balance. I love the pieces. I love and crave code and the mathematical concepts I’m beginning to revisit with my exploration of TensorFlow.js. I dive deep, I dive tangentially, I create hypothesis that I can explore. And then I write. Because I need both. And that’s essentially been my cycle over the last year. I can’t say that I’ve perfected it, but I’ve definitely learned a lot. And these are some of the biggest things I've learned over the last year.

Communication is Key

It doesn’t matter if you’re a developer or a writer or something else. Being able to communicate with others, to explain your needs, to share when you’ve taken on too much, to take a step back from some opportunities that you can’t fulfill anymore, to stand up for people on your team who haven’t been treated with respect and dignity, that’s what’s important. To let your team know when you’re struggling, to share your big dreams, to embrace the dreams of others, to know that the voices that matter extend beyond your vision. Honesty can be tough, but it's a key tenet of a good communicator. It takes practice, and you won't get right every time, but it is always worth working on.

When Times Are Tough, Lean on the Good Times

The last year has been tough. Maybe even tougher than 2020, because this year we had hope. And suddenly it feels like hope was taken from us. I am proud, so proud of the things I’ve accomplished as part of the Virtual Coffee community this year. I’ll have a whole post on this, but we’ve done a year of our podcast, I’ve met so many amazing people, I’ve learned so much about what it means to be a human and a developer. And there are simple moments. Moments where I realized why my code was broken, moments where I shared my very raw feelings with members, moments where my team supported me when I didn’t know if I could keep going.

One of my greatest memories, and simultaneously my saddest, was when my grandfather passed away. And I was lucky enough to have Dan as my teammate. There was work that needed to be done; there were Virtual Coffee things that needed to be handled and I wasn’t worried, because I had his support. When Lightning Talks came around and I hit a rough patch, I knew that success was a team effort. I had Dan to lean on, and a team that had worked really hard to make everything happen.

Documentation is the Gift that Keeps Giving

I went to bootcamp, and I didn’t exactly understand the necessity of documentation until Virtual Coffee and meeting Kirk, who has taught me so much about empathy and friendships and–you guessed it–documentation. His deliberate thought and understanding of the gamut of audiences is the best I’ve ever seen. In general, I’m not a hugger, but when I finally get to meet Kirk IRL, he’s getting a big hug because not only has he become my best friend, but he’s taught me how to slow down, how to think deliberately, thoroughly, and how to support future Bekah through my documentation. And if I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that not nearly enough projects devote time to documentation or support their communities through documentation. I even gave a lightning talk called Documentation >= Code, which you can find here at about the 11 minute mark. Good documentation makes things accessible for your audience, community, or whoever else is reading it. In my opinion, it should be at the forefront of projects and be considered a living document that gets updated and revised.

Learning New Things is Amazing

In the last quarter of this year I started working in web3, learning TensorFlow.js, and started livestreaming. Idk if this was the best idea, but it stretched me and I grew a lot. I learned the basics all over again, but in different parts of tech. I transferred the skills I learned in teaching in the classroom to livestreaming. I fought OBS. I think I won, but the jury is still out. I was exhausted, but excited. Diving into new and hard things is easy to give up on, but keep pushing. I have big dreams, and I know what I’ve learned with these topics will contribute to them.

I am in love with open source

I have an open source postpartum wellness app that I’ve worked on the last two years as part of Hacktoberfest. I’m not a React Native expert, but I have a personal connection to this project, and I’ve dug deep in research to find ways to early predict postpartum mood disorders. I’ve discovered early data science trials that breakthrough what we offer to mothers right now. I don’t know if I’ve ever been satisfied with maternal care, and I can see a revolutionary future where we care about moms. I’m not willing to give up on it. I’ve heard the stories from contributors. And I can’t handle the depth of pain they’ve had to experience because no one cared.

I have a separate blog devoted to my own trauma, but my life in tech has always been driven by the desire to solve problems with personal communication; finding a way to incorporate open source will be a huge part of this. Thank you to all the amazing groups who are creating welcoming open source spaces in tech.

I’m not everyone’s cup of coffee

To be rejected is an intense experience of existential crisis. Who am I? What am I here for? Why am I here? Why don’t you like me? Why am I not good enough? You might not be a good fit for that team, but it’s not the end even when it feels like it. There are other teams out there who will appreciate your approach. Be patient. Celebrate your initial acceptance of other communities because you have the power to shape them.

Like I tell my kids, you don't have to be best friends with everyone, but you do have to treat everyone with kindness. It's ok that some people don't want to be my friend or my teammate. It's okay not to be chosen for the job. It's okay to keep being me, because authenticity is what matters to me.

Find Your Support System

In addition to the people I've mentioned, I'm am so incredibly thankful for the amazing Nicky Taylor who has supported me, listened to my concerns, shared advice and experience, and never once made me feel silly. He, along with the others mentioned in this post, made it easier for me to push past Bekah-imposed and industry-imposed boundaries, and I know that I never get here without him.

I’ve spent a lot of my time rejecting community positions because I want to be a developer. But the truth is, I can be both. I’m good at community. I’m constantly working at being a better developer. And maybe one of these days I’ll figure out how to do both. But for now, I’m super thankful for the challenges I’ve faced this year, the painful growth, and the support I’ve received. And I am nothing but excited for the new year.

Top comments (5)

codergirl1991 profile image
Jessica Wilkins

I think you are both a rockstar developer and community leader. And I am happy to have joined virtual coffee this year :)

bekahhw profile image

Thanks so much Jessica. I am super excited that you joined VC. You've made such an impact on our community.

nickytonline profile image
Nick Taylor

Thanks for the kind words Bekah! ♥️ Love all this. I feel big things for 2022!

Jack Nicholson nodding yes

bekahhw profile image

Thanks, Nick. Me too <3

brunowinck profile image
Bruno Winck

"I’m not everyone’s cup of coffee" :) made me smile