Tell us your story.
In high school I did newspaper layout for years, which for some reason made me think I was interested in journalism. After starting an undergrad degree in journalism, I finally realized my interests swung toward graphic design instead. I took on a graphic design minor– most classes being print-based. It wasn’t until I took my first web design/development class junior year that I realized that was a true interest. That was also the first time I felt the pang of intimidation about the industry. By that time, momentum had swung me toward a first job in branding + marketing. But after a few years and a lot of personal projects, I made the switch to working in web production.
The empowering capacity of technology is incredibly important to me, personally. I have a sibling with a developmental disability, who is almost fully nonverbal. She’s exceptional at making her opinion known, regardless, especially through modified sign with our family. But when we were younger, for her to communicate with others we had to make little laminated “topic” boards, with velcro squares. If, say, we were going out to an Italian restaurant, you needed to grab the right “words” she might need, and take them along in a little baggie with her board. What is possible has changed so drastically very quickly. She’s better with an iPad than I am, and uses Proloquo2Go, a communication app, to communicate verbally. It’s all there in the app, no velcro squares. That’s the type of empowerment that technology can provide that I hold dear.
I had an incredible mentor, who would tirelessly encourage me to break things, not be scared, and get out there. (A process that took a really long time). Now, being immersed in Social Driver for just over a few months, for the first time I’ve achieved the realization that by putting in the work and asking the right questions, someday I can be just as knowledgable as the people I look up to. Don’t be so afraid of failure that you self-sabotage, and kill your progress before you really see what you’re capable of. (A lesson I still have to remind myself of every single day).
What do you most want other women and young girls to know about being a woman in our digital culture?
Embrace the advice to “break stuff”. I’m still a little too hesitant every day, and the “This is scary and looks impossible” feeling still overwhelms. Just realize it’s there, and then go figure out how to do it anyway.
There will be dudes who make you feel like you’re not welcome. Smile and walk away. But there will be dudes who are so excited that you’re interested and you’re trying, and want to help you. Get to know them, work on projects with them.
Find other women who are knowledgable, and other women who are learning. DC has a thriving meetup scene for that, that I myself am still working on getting more involved with.
Pass it on! Who has inspired you, and who do you hope to inspire?
Dave Kennedy (davidakennedy.com) has absolutely been my mentor in this space (and is a wonderful friend). He’s an accessibility badass who just recently got his dream job with Automattic.
I want to inspire anyone else who’s ever been interested in and fascinated by this space, who has been paralyzed with this particular brand of anxiety and intimidation.