Berlin Buzzwords Success Stories is our brand new blog series where we ask people in the bbuzz network to share their own story.
Part of ensuring a wide range of opinions and ideas can be shared at Berlin Buzzwords is ensuring that people from underrepresented groups within the Berlin Buzzwords community can attend and engage with the discussions.
Historically Berlin Buzzwords, like the tech scene at large has been a pretty white and male dominated space.One way we want to change this is to highlight some of the voices of people in our network from underrepresented groups. We want to share their stories and learn what drove them in their careers.
Today, we hear from Lauren Schaefer who is sharing her story on what got her into programming in the first place. She first shared her story here on the MongoDB developer forum. Welcome, Lauren!
My family got the internet when I was in middle school, and I was fascinated. I remember creating a personal webpage using a basic GUI tool and thinking how fun it was. At some point, I got interested in the code behind the webpages. I went to a bookstore (yes, a real bookstore!) and picked up HTML for Dummies. I read the whole thing and had fun building out my own personal website.
When I was trying to figure out what service project to do for my Girl Scout Gold Award (equivalent to an Eagle Scout), I knew I wanted to do something with the web. My troop leader said she knew a local nonprofit that needed a website. I decided to teach myself to use Dreamweaver and Flash (Flash was super hot tech back then) to build the website for them. I had a lot of fun creating the site and then training a staff member how to update the site, so it could continue on after I left for college.
When I needed to pick a college major, I really didn’t know what to pick. Math had always been my favorite subject in school, but I didn’t know what a professional mathematician really did. I had always liked computers, so I decided to roll with that. Computer Science would be my major.
No one told me that Computer Science was “for guys.” I truly had no idea. My parents had no idea.
I also had no idea that many of my classmates would already have programming experience. They had taken programming courses in high school (my high school didn’t offer any), or they had taught themselves to program. I remember in my first programming course the instructor asked us how many of us had programming experience. I raised my hand. A classmate asked me what I had programmed. I told him I had built websites using HTML. He informed that wasn’t real programming.
When I took my second-level programming course, I discovered that programming was a male-dominated field. I was the only woman in my class. And I was shocked. Why had no one told me?
I knew so little in comparison to many of my classmates, and I was constantly aware of the fact that I was the only female student.
I considered switching majors many times. But I honestly couldn’t think of another major I would enjoy doing. Programming was a struggle for me initially (I remember being very confused at variable assignment – why were we saying two things were equal when they clearly were not?). I spent a LOT of time in office hours and a LOT of time with my classmates who helped me understand the material.
I remember when the instructor in my second-level programming course passed out our graded exams, my classmates were shocked that I got an A. I had to work so hard in those programming courses as I felt like I was catching up with my classmates.
Anyway, I never did find a major that sounded more interesting than Computer Science, so I graduated with a BS in Computer Science. I decided to stick around and get a MS in Computer Science. And then I was hired as a software engineer.
Well, that was probably more info than you were looking for, but there it is. Let me know if you have any other questions.
If you want to learn more about Lauren, you can meet her on twitter, where she also shared her story on how she became a good speaker at conferences like ours. You can read it here.
What about you? Do you want to share your story here too? Feel inspired by the stories you read? Don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org