I think like a lot of people my age, the first time I ever did any sort of coding, unbeknownst to me, was through Neopets. Being able to play around on my Neopet shout out Strawberry_Ted Petpage with HTML and CSS was crazy to me. By changing background colours & fooling around with fonts, my mind was blown away from what I could do. However, I really had no idea what this magic was or that it was something I could even pursue as a career.
Taking into consideration that when I was playing Neopets, I was only 13 years old, but as I got older, and continued into high school, I would alter stock Tumblr themes just a little to suit my personality. No one ever said "Hey Kayley, you love computers and the internet - why don't you see if that's something you can pursue as a career?"
I ended up going to post-secondary for sports management with the hopes of becoming an agent. When that didn't go the way I envisioned, I landed in the world of retail. For 10 years I worked at various places, and they were all the same regardless of the industry and I was miserable throughout.
In 2014 I finally decided to pursue web development. I was excited, but it didn't occur to me that because I was a girl, I would have guys in my class constantly arguing with me anytime I gave a suggestion or solution. I also wasn't the only girl in my program, but I feel I was the most outspoken. I didn't care. I pushed myself to prove these guys wrong.
When I walked across the stage 3 years later, accepting my honours diploma, I knew I made the right decision. I knew that I was on the right path where I would finally be in a career that I could be happy. Despite setbacks and doubters, I knew that I would make it.
While I was in school in Barrie (for web development), I started to mentor at Girls Learning Code (now Canada Learning Code), an initiative that introduces young girls aged 9-12 to programming via HTML and CSS. As you can imagine this was extremely important to me. I wanted to be an advocate for those girls, because I didn't have one. I didn't want any of them to turn around at 28 and say "why didn't I go down that path". After various one-day programs, we had a week-long summer camp and that was the most impactful week of my career as a developer. Seeing these girls so passionate, watching the wheels turn and just having the opportunity to help facilitate a safe environment where they could grow, fail and learn, was everything. This was when I knew how important it was to be a female in the tech industry.
I want to be an advocate for female devs. I want to shout from the rooftops and make everyone know how amazing female developers are. I want to encourage my own hiring managers to ensure they're hiring women. Nevertheless, we have a long way to go. Female devs STILL get gross messages in their DMs, female devs will give an idea that's completely ignored only to have a male colleague give the same idea and be praised. On top of that, women of colour are not nearly getting close to the same opportunities as white women.
We need to work together to overcome this. We need to lift each other up and ensure that we are seen. Together, we can accomplish so much. We can make 2020 a year that we rise up and support each and everyone of us. Together.