For 2017, I won a diversity scholarship to attend React JS Conference! My wildest dreams had come true. However, I was also a bit nervous to attend because I did not want to find out that this community was less welcoming than I had hoped.
I have been to other tech-related conferences where people stopped talking to me after finding out that I didn’t go to MIT/Berkeley/Stanford/insert prestigious school name here or that I didn’t work for Google/Facebook/Apple/insert well-known tech company here. I have been to conferences where the CTO of a company hit on me when I tried to ask him about his work. I have also been to tech conferences where 90% of the first question people ask me is:
“Do you work with tech at all?”
Moments like this make me question why I’m in tech at all. I think the work I do is quite grand, but the community is just as important to career-happiness.
Once I touched down in Santa Clara, I saw on Slack that people were gathering in the hotel lobby to hack and generally hang out. I put on my skirt and mustered the courage to go downstairs and start up conversations with complete strangers. This was the first question most people asked me:
“What kind of projects are you using React?”
And for the entirety of the conference, I was not hit on.
Everyone assumed that I was in tech.
And everyone wanted to learn from me, regardless of the prestige of my undergraduate school or my current work place.
I ❤ the React community.
Troy spoke at the conference about diversifying the React community, and I felt like not only giving kudos to the current community at large, but also to expound on more advice on how to achieve that.
For me, I followed these guidelines to get myself talking to new people:
Attending the conference as an underrepresented minority is not enough to make a community diverse. In general, it is not diversity if underrepresented minorities are only seen. Stereotypes are broken when people get to know us as people; people who work on cool stuff and who are generally cool people. The onus is on both me and the community-at-large to interact with one another. As such, I made it my mission to talk to as many new people as possible, regardless of how uncomfortable I felt. As a result, I made so many new friends, s/o to Gant Laborde!
2. Don’t wait to attend a React conference to become involved in this community
React JS Conf 2017 Diversity Scholarship Winners (minus a few who missed the photo, which includes yours truly)
Thank you Paul O’Shannessy for organizing the React JS Conf scholarship! It was truly an amazing opportunity, and I hope to continue growing in the React community!