Programmers are typically looked upon by society as a strange sub-species of human. One that will lock themselves away in a dark room to endlessly stare into a computer screen while manically hammering zeroes and ones into the keyboard.
The stereotypical programmer is extremely anti-social.
The anti-social programmer who is committed to creating software that allows you to keep in close contact with your family and friends. The anti-social programmer who lays in bed at night worrying about how many clicks you have to make in order to manage your accounts. The anti-social programmer who shares code with other developers so that those developers don't have to experience the same pain they did.
The anti-social programmer doesn't actually exist.
Take a peek into New Zealand's web development community and you will find a bunch of extremely passionate and talented individuals committed to enriching the lives of others. We share code, tutorials, ideas and opinions with each other in order to take our field forward.
Conferences such as Web Developers Conference New Zealand (WDCNZ) are an extremely important focal point for the web development community. A place for like-minded individuals to get together in a crazy melting pot of learning, innovation and inspiration. By hearing both local and international web developers speak on topics they are deeply passionate about, not only can web developers learn something new, they can also be inspired.
Invariably the true value of conferences can be found outside the sessions – in the hallways, at the after parties. Developers meet new people, share new ideas and refine old ones. They find sources of help and support and, possibly for the first time, feel like they are part of a community.
Being part of a development community has never been easier, thanks to the internet. Twitter, StackOverflow and Github are just three examples of websites where not only the web development community, but many other technical communities form. Getting involved has never been easier or more important than it is today. Communicating with like-minded people from around the globe not only helps us hone our craft together, it allows us to work on becoming more accepting of other perspectives. Being inclusive, accepting and welcoming of diversity is not something we can afford to forget.
Being a lady programmer, 'community' is a word that means a great deal to me. I'm not afraid to spill the beans in front of you all; I really need the support and sense of belonging provided by the web development community.
Technical ladies are few and far in between. So few and far that it's not unusual to have no women on a development team. When there is one, she generally sticks out like a sore thumb and is occasionally reminded that she just doesn't belong. It's times like these that being involved in the community can really help. It's easier to ignore the less than encouraging one or two, in favor of a group that offers support and camaraderie.
Open and inclusive communities don’t happen overnight. As with any community dynamic, becoming insular can be a risk. The more insular, the less new ideas will flow in to the group. Perspectives are lost, along with the ability to get better together, when a group becomes closed and intolerant of new ideas.
WDCNZ has made a point of inviting women from around the globe to speak. Out of 14 speakers, five of those are women. Five. This is more like it! And they are giving an inexperienced lady speaker (myself) an opportunity to speak. What a great message to send to New Zealand's web development community. We all have things of value to say and we all deserve to be heard.
The web development community is busting the anti-social programmer myth. We are a group of people with a great sense of social responsibility, building software which enhances the lives of others. Being better together is not something you can achieve in a small closed group, and our community knows it. Bill and Ted were on the money when they said, "be excellent to each other," and that's just what our community will continue to do.
Amy Palamountain is a Wellington-based developer for GreenButton. She's part of the lineup of speakers at this year’s WDCNZ: Tech Talks for Web Devs on July 25. For details and tickets visit the WDCNZ website.