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A Testimony of a Woman in Tech: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Stumble Into Your Tribe

woman_burying_her_head_in_her_hands-130061-editedI want to tell you about an evening I had recently… an evening that I almost missed out on.

As women, it's easy for us to make excuses to not take a leap. Whether it's a job opportunity you think you aren't ready for, a new program you want to implement for your company, or running that first mile when you've never considered yourself a runner. But, 9 times out of 10, those leaps can lead to something new, challenging, and, even if it doesn't work out the way you want, a lesson worth learning.

In a recent article in Forbes Magazine, bestselling author Maggie Warrell nailed it on the head:

"The more people who know who you are and what you want, the more people who can help you get there. Seize every opportunity you can get to connect with people outside your current social and professional circle who have influence, insight and networks that you don't.  Never underestimate the impact of your relationships to open doors, expand your thinking and fuel your courage to lean in and "take a leap" when it matters most. So don't be shy, get out there and get connected!"


Excuses, Excuses

I had already come up with multiple excuses to skip the networking event that I had previously signed up to attend. The main reason being, I was tired. It had been a crazy couple of weeks. I am also new(er) (a little over 2 months) to my position and getting acclimated to a new job can be overwhelming for anyone! Let alone the Kansas City Developers Conference (sponsored by Yoh) which had taken place the previous week and had included insanely long (but worth it!) days.

I’ve been in recruiting for over 10 years, but the business development side is a whole new ballgame. Did I also mention I’ve also been out of the tech industry for 1.5 years? So, long days, new job, and hustling to build that sales pipeline, oh, and I’m a mom to 2 teenagers that have been known to run me ragged on occasion. Point made, right? I was ready to skip the event and go home and do nothing. Oh, how my Netflix and my couch were calling...but, instead of doing nothing I decided to go.  Once I arrived it didn't take me long to remember why I go to these after-hours networking events.


Finding My Tribe

It wasn’t until I came back into tech that I started flipping through Twitter and looking for ways to network in my new business development role. I can’t remember the tweet exactly but it had the hashtag #KCWiT on the end and I was thinking, "What the heck is that about?" I did some research and discovered it was the Kansas City Women in Technology (i.e. KCWiT). I quickly learned KCWiT is a grassroots organization helping to grow the number of women in technology careers in Kansas City. I was intrigued and I found myself quickly registering for their next event.

Even after all the excuses I made up not to go, I put my game face on that night and suddenly found myself in a room with a 12-year-old who has been coding since age 8, a person that (after being out of the workforce for nearly 5 years) was starting a new career path taking them completely out of their comfort zone, a Data Scientist, a Web Developer, an International Speaker, as well as many more. They were a number of different age brackets, races, ethnicities, etc. In fact, if any one off the street had walked into this room not knowing what the event was for, they may have been a little confused.  What on earth could all of these people of such diverse backgrounds possibly have in common? I’ll tell you… they are all WOMEN. Strong, inspirational, empowered, AMAZING WOMEN.

When I first started in the technical recruiting field I had no idea these groups even existed. I worked for a company dominated by men (only 20% of tech jobs are held by women!), so of course I didn’t know about KCWiT, because they weren’t talking about it.

Networking for women is so important. According to Forbes, our tendency to be more easily drawn to people who are similar to us, combined with male-dominated senior ranks, organizations and industries, means women often have to work harder to build relationships with decision makers and influential stakeholders. Joining groups like these not only connect and inspire us, but also give us better opportunities to advance our career.

KCWiT is a great group and after my first event, I'm hooked. I am going to attend my first Coding & Cocktails event next month…super freaked out, by the way, but I’m all in.  The personal journeys and stories shared were similar to my experiences working in a male-dominated industry. The presentations that were given last week were energizing. This was the inspiration I needed for me to realize… I found my tribe.



About the Author: Crystal Coates is a Business Development Manager at Yoh and a current student at Park University working on her degree in Human Resources. In her spare time you will find Crystal spending quality time with her two children, Evan and Hailey, traveling, and enjoying all things Kansas City.


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