Jennifer Van

@jenniferradel

I ❤ React JS Community

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.

  1. Talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to

For me, I followed these guidelines to get myself talking to new people:

  • Don’t talk to my coworkers (I see them 363 days of the year, I will talk to them when I get back from this conference)
  • Don’t talk to people from my company (Same reasoning as above)
  • Don’t talk to only people who look/sound like me (Reasoning below)

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

  • Join Reactiflux, over 20,000 React.js/React native developers speaking daily about developments in React and ready to help with any questions you might have
  • Join Twitter and follow some React/Redux/CSS household names like: Dan Abramov, Leland Richardson, Max Stoiber, Lin Clark, acemarke
  • Join Medium and follow the same people & more! :)
  • Join React meet-ups in your area. If there are none, create one!

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!

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