June 4, 2015Culture · Hacking · Women in Tech · Academics

Meet the wogrammers — women in engineering

Erin Green

Erin Summers and Zainab Ghadiyali were sure there was a better way.

The two software engineers were en route to grab an afternoon snack after a particularly long meeting when they got to discussing how they thought typical media coverage of women engineers was one-sided. Ghadiyali explained the problem in a Medium post:

"As software engineers, we get asked a lot about what it’s like to be a woman in tech. Are there any horror stories? Have we experienced sexism in school or at work?

"We would much rather be asked about our technical accomplishments and the technology we’ve built."

Summers says they thought they could do better.

"I was talking to Zainab about this, and we were totally on the same page about the vision," Summers says. "We wanted to showcase women engineers — from the woman who is new and learning, to the CEO — to show you can learn anywhere in the world and at any age."

Ilona Bodnar was in high school when she was featured on wogrammer. She taught herself to code through Codecademy, got an internship at Pixar, and will be starting at USC in the fall. Bodnar's wogrammer post has made her an instant role model, and it also helped her make some fast friends. She's been approached not only by those welcoming her to USC, but also by people wanting to know more about interning at Pixar. Young girls ask her technical questions whenever they have the chance to connect.
Ilona Bodnar was in high school when she was featured on wogrammer. She taught herself to code through Codecademy, got an internship at Pixar, and will be starting at USC in the fall. Bodnar's wogrammer post has made her an instant role model, and it also helped her make some fast friends. She's been approached not only by those welcoming her to USC, but also by people wanting to know more about interning at Pixar. Young girls ask her technical questions whenever they have the chance to connect.
Leah Mcgowen-Hare, a technical trainer at Salesforce, says the response to her wogrammer feature has been overwhelming. 'I received so many emails stating how their daughters are so inspired to see someone that looks like them in this field ... very humbling.' Mcgowen-Hare says she even received a request from the organizer of Hour of Code in Suriname asking for help with their coding efforts. She says, 'You often forget how powerful it be in just sharing your story and how that can inspire others. Wogrammer is a testament to it.'
Leah Mcgowen-Hare, a technical trainer at Salesforce, says the response to her wogrammer feature has been overwhelming. 'I received so many emails stating how their daughters are so inspired to see someone that looks like them in this field ... very humbling.' Mcgowen-Hare says she even received a request from the organizer of Hour of Code in Suriname asking for help with their coding efforts. She says, 'You often forget how powerful it be in just sharing your story and how that can inspire others. Wogrammer is a testament to it.'
Kendell Byrd taught herself how to code and landed internships at Jawbone and JPMorgan. She's pursuing her C.S. degree at Swarthmore College. After being featured on wogrammer, she was asked to speak at Urban Prep Academies to teach students how to get started with coding. After a 'fantastic' experience, Byrd says, she sees more mentoring in her future.
Kendell Byrd taught herself how to code and landed internships at Jawbone and JPMorgan. She's pursuing her C.S. degree at Swarthmore College. After being featured on wogrammer, she was asked to speak at Urban Prep Academies to teach students how to get started with coding. After a 'fantastic' experience, Byrd says, she sees more mentoring in her future.
Linda He is a C.S. student at Cal. She recently learned how to build apps for iOS. She says the advice she gave in her wogrammer feature brought her closer to her friends. She says, 'My friends contacted me independently about the article. I think it really spread a positive message. [One person] publicly called it out on a chat with my other East Coast friends about how 'inspirational' what I said was.'
Linda He is a C.S. student at Cal. She recently learned how to build apps for iOS. She says the advice she gave in her wogrammer feature brought her closer to her friends. She says, 'My friends contacted me independently about the article. I think it really spread a positive message. [One person] publicly called it out on a chat with my other East Coast friends about how 'inspirational' what I said was.'
Denae Ford is a C.S. Ph.D. candidate at N.C. State University. Her first paper, 'Exploring the Frustration of Software Developers,' was accepted to CHASE 2015 at ICSE 2015 Florence. Ford's advice for wogrammers is to increase your network. 'Find someone who is where you want to be, pick their brain, and find out what it takes to get there.' She says of her wogrammer feature, 'Some of the messages I've received have been so amazing and made me feel like I made a difference somehow.'
Denae Ford is a C.S. Ph.D. candidate at N.C. State University. Her first paper, 'Exploring the Frustration of Software Developers,' was accepted to CHASE 2015 at ICSE 2015 Florence. Ford's advice for wogrammers is to increase your network. 'Find someone who is where you want to be, pick their brain, and find out what it takes to get there.' She says of her wogrammer feature, 'Some of the messages I've received have been so amazing and made me feel like I made a difference somehow.'
Erin Summers and Zainab Ghadiyali started wogrammer to break stereotypes about women engineers.
Erin Summers and Zainab Ghadiyali started wogrammer to break stereotypes about women engineers.

In fact, the very first wogrammer they featured hadn't yet graduated from high school. Says Summers, "I was a mentor for Girls Who Code ... and I decided to interview my mentee, Morgan Lewis. At the beginning of the summer, she said computer programs looked like someone 'threw a keyboard at the wall to get those words and patterns.' In just two weeks, Morgan built a mobile app AutoText for location tracking and notification sending."

With that profile, wogrammer was born. In about a year, Summers and Ghadiyali have featured 46 women programmers from all over the tech industry. Posts focus on the women's engineering accomplishments, how coding became part of their lives, what they are most proud of building, how they've overcome challenges, and advice they have for others who want to learn.

The best part about the project, they say, is the response. Being featured has a ripple effect. Each woman is asked to become involved in a number of projects, which inspires others to get into coding. Summers and Ghadiyali refer to this effect as "secondary connections."

Above, meet five of the women who've held wogrammer's spotlight and the women who started the program. Then stop by their wogrammer page to get inspired by dozens more who are "breaking stereotypes one story at a time."

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