Back when I began my life in code, there was me, female, Latina, a tomboy with a love for solving puzzles, a love for racing bikes, a love for that adrenaline rush that comes from learning something new and beginning to master tiny bits at a time. And that time, back then, there was me, female, Latina in a room full of not women, and not allies, who coded. Yet, growing up as an only child gave me the resilience to simply go about most things on my own and to my own rhythm, in a room full of people, very few of whom, if any, were allies. I did not belong.
After a childhood where taunts came frequently, for not being feminine enough, for wanting to get dirty, for not playing by girl rules, I endured the teasing but I bounced back. Yeah, I was bruised, but definitely not defeated.
The experience just made me stronger.
The pattern of the single Latina female who coded in a room full of men who coded and could not be bothered, repeated itself a few times.
I never belonged.
I bounced back every time. Yeah, a bit bruised, but never defeated. Never once changing myself for anyone.
Then there was the time, back in 2018, when I started at my current job at a company called Stratis in Philadelphia. For starters, the founder and CEO is a woman.
During the first few weeks and months there, I noticed a pattern.
Hey, there was me, Cassi, I am Latina, female, still a tomboy, and I coded.
Oh, hey, and there at that blue desk sat Jordyn, she coded.
And there by the window upstairs sat Mia, and look, they looked like me, and they coded.
Oh and with a lap full of smart devices, there sat Sokrady, and she coded.
And sitting in a huddle leading a conversation, there sat Olivia and she coded.
And to her left, there sat Sandy testing some haptic responses on a mobile device, she coded too.
And sipping tea while hitting the keyboard, there sat Amy, she coded.
And upstairs, there at her standing desk, Lori, she coded.
And next to her, there sat Heather, she coded.
And over doing inclusions, there sat Liz, she coded.
And here I sit, for the very first time sitting in the company of kindred bodies and kindred souls.
It was the very first time that I was not a stranger in a strange land.
I was home.
And among those who sat nearby, there sat Shawn, a man, yes a man. Regardless, he was a steadfast ally, and he coded and helped those of us who asked, how to be better at coding. And there sat Kelly, and he had previously coded at places where company names start with a G, and he encouraged, shared and listened.
And there also sat Nima and Mike who coded, and Martin who coded and Other Martin who coded and Brian who coded and so many others
and then I belonged.
and now I DO belong, and here I sit and here I code.
That Equality In Tech is not a thing these days is a lie. Yes, it is very rare and precious. It is a thing where I currently work. It can happen, it can be done. But it is not achieved by accident. It is arrived at with sheer willpower by many, by sheer selflessness of many and just the raw humanity of one human connecting with another in an effort to help the other shine in their own special way.
Go out of your way to acknowledge the others around you who may appear quiet and introverted. Be sure to let them know you are there willing and ready to help or advise. Be open and honest. Above all, just be present and listen. And, always encourage, encourage, encourage!