Carol Hansen, Mapbox
Tell us your story.
I first got involved in the digital space while interning at an International Labor Rights non-profit, with no intentions of doing anything digital. I was hired to research and write, but ended up also tinkering on the organization’s website and picking the site developer’s brain whenever I got the chance. This was around the same time Google Maps came out with the Beta version of bicycle directions. As a bike commuter, I was pumped to use the service, but was also inspired to learn how it worked. My digital journey and curiosity grew from there, and eventually decided to go for a second Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.
While obtaining my CS degree, I plugged into a network of inspiring women in tech via a listserv called TechLadyMafia (TLM). I lurked on email threads and gulped up advice as I struggled to find direction and venture into my career as an engineer. TLM is also how I landed my first full-time engineer position (thank you, Macy!). In addition to virtual communities, a few coworkers throughout my career have also helped me and pushed me to be better. For example, one amazing woman in particular said to me in the middle of a team meeting, “Say it with confidence!”. I’ve been fortunate to work alongside strong, kind, and supportive people (men and women) who have believed in me in the moments I’ve doubted myself.
What do you most want other women and young girls to know about being a woman in our digital culture?
“Be gentle with yourself.” It’s not specifically related to digital culture or being a woman, but the digital world is vast. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by the information, tools and communities at my fingertips. The vastness makes it too easy to beat myself up for not keeping up with the latest libraries or frameworks, for not attending 20 meetups each week, for not jumping on a chance to collaborate on a new open source project.Take the time you need for yourself. And wherever you are in your digital journey, you’re exactly where you should be.
This vastness also makes it hard to choose a direction. One thing that has helped me steer where I exert energy is to think of tech as just a tool to apply to stuff I’m interested in. Not learning tech for tech’s sake, but learning tech to apply to things I care about.
Pass it on!
I’m inspired by women in tech who are open and honest about the tough stuff, like imposter-syndrome, self-care, and acknowledging privilege. The tech world can sometimes feel disjointed from reality, and it’s important to acknowledge the human side of working in tech. I’m not there yet, but I strive to be just as open and honest. I hope to inspire others to speak about their own experiences, to not feel like they’re the only ones feeling confused/pissed off/worried/left out/lost/frustrated, and to grow from those conversations.
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