My journey to the Director of WWCode-SF

Written by Aditi Lonhari

The Bay Area, as we all know is a huge tech hub and has an immense talent pool in each of the companies — small or big — waiting to explore and expand their technical knowledge. This is something that is manifested in the tremendous amount of events and learning opportunities held here, in the Bay area. Women Who Code is one such non-profit organization which arranges events for women, to have community and support throughout their career journey. They do that through their local chapters spread all across the world. To run them, they rely on local women to step up as volunteers and leaders.

Me and my twin sister (who is also a director of sister-chapter WWCode-SV) moved to California together back in 2016, and it was a no-brainer for both of us to attend such events, not just to learn about the ever growing technology world around us, but also to know about the companies here, and the teams/cultures they have. These events held a special meaning for us. Since we both worked at different companies as our day jobs, this was our place and thing to do together as sisters. It was here we both felt the most alive and engrossed in the discussions happening around us. The more we attended these events, we loved every minute of being at such events and engaging in conversations with women of our age. To see what problems they went through and help them talk through them, or just being an ear to their stories. Gradually it turned into our passion and helped us develop our strength and super-power — networking.

As I progressed in my career, I realized that I had learned a lot about the do’s and dont’s in one’s career journey, either from my own mistakes or by listening to the experienced women that I heard when I attended these events. Most of these could be shared with next generation of women to help them steer their careers in right direction. I had seen how helpless it makes one feel (especially being a woman in tech) when you don’t have the right resources or guidance to help you make your career decisions. We both always had a strong urge to give back to society and help other women who are in the same boat as us, and that’s when we decided to step up and volunteer for Women Who Code. I had attended many events but never had an experience to know what goes on behind the scenes. To put up the whole event together. All I knew was I wanted to contribute using my knowledge and experience and I was ready to take on any challenges that would come my way.

Networking and being resourceful are two of my strengths that have always helped me along my journey. The major challenge in organizing any event is getting a host company that is willing to host you for an evening for the event. Next challenge is to coordinate among different people and make sure everyone comes to an agreement on a date and time, and a topic for the event. And finally promoting the event and making sure you have a good turn-out of members attending your event is the last bit to putting up a great event. As you can see, bringing together all these pieces requires quite a lot of time and efforts. WWCode volunteers do this on a daily/weekly basis in addition to their 9-to-5 jobs. So getting into volunteering is not a cake-walk.

Like I mentioned earlier, helping younger women is something I always yearned to do, and which is why, even though it is like a part-time job, it doesn’t feel like one. In fact, if you are passionate about something you do, you will never get bored or burdened by it.

My sister became Director for the Silicon Valley chapter last year (2018) and she hoped and envisioned the same for me. She knew I had what it took to become a good leader. Through her excellent leadership skills, she was able to guide me by setting great examples in every step of the way. She nudged me to start with volunteering for one of our tech tracks. Launched in April last year (2019), these are globally focused events, and everything is remote. I did not have to travel anywhere for this and all I had to do was take out few hours each week and help organize online webinars. I started doing that soon after their launch in our annual Connect conference. Jennifer — who is the lead for the FrontEnd tech track has been a great colleague to work with and an excellent leader. She has always encouraged me and other volunteers to continue doing the awesome work! In couple of months I decided to start something locally and get more involved in the local chapters.

Peninsula region, which is midway between our 2 different WWCode chapters in Bay Area — San Francisco and Silicon Valley, was a location which did not have many local events at that time. Members located here had to travel anywhere between 45minutes to 1 hour+ each way to attend events held at SF or SV locations. I wanted to create more opportunities and events in this region and help members have a fair chance to attend events organized by WWCode. Silicon Valley chapter often used to get interested peninsula hosts, but being far from their location, they used to get passed to the SF chapter. I decided to step up as Network Lead for the WWCode-SF chapter and to help organize some events with these new hosts. In a month’s time I had managed to talk to a couple of local companies and setup a few events in my network. My very first event was a career-fair which was held in collaboration with a local e-commerce company, and it attracted a whopping 500+ attendees. Me and my volunteers (who were also first timers at representing WWCode) managed to spread the word about the vision of WWCode by talking straight for 4 hours during the event. Most of the attendees were students, but there were also some potential hosts that were impressed by our mission and dedication to the cause. In the next few weeks, I lead a few more events as a technical instructor teaching React — a highly popular and in-demand frontend technologies. I was always open to helping out and volunteering for both SF & SV chapters whenever they needed me. While I was busy organizing all these events and focused on how to contribute my time and energy to something I was passionate about, Alina — who is my network director — saw my hard work and dedication towards WWCode, and decided to offer me a chance to step up and lead as a Director in our San Francisco chapter. I wouldn’t have asked for anything more and was ecstatic to see that my diligence was not only being recognized but also rewarded at the same time! I was humbled to accept this offer, and double downed on my commitment of giving back to the community.

Since then I have been getting involved with more hosts, preparing and organizing more events, at larger scale. For this year 2020, my goal is to encourage and bring in new leaders/volunteers to our local chapters, and also help them see their potential. I would encourage each and every one of you to come forward and offer to volunteer at any of our local events, in any capacity that you can. You are much more capable of helping out in any way than you think you can. Reach out to me at aditilonhari@womenwhocode.com if you wish to get involved, or follow us on our social channels to see the upcoming events.

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. https://www.womenwhocode.com/