Profile: Shannon Turner, full-stack developer and founder of Hear Me Code

Coding myths and how finding communities like Hear Me Code helps you learn best

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
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Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Shannon Turner, full-stack developer and founder of Hear Me Code.

Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Women in Tech — The Survey

We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!

Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce Shannon Turner, full-stack developer and founder of Hear Me Code.

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Shannon Turner, full-stack developer and founder of Hear Me Code

Shannon Turner is a full-stack developer in Washington DC and has founded Hear Me Code, offering free, beginner-friendly coding classes for over 3000 women in DC. She sees tech as a tool for creating change to build the kind of world she wants to live in.

To find out more about Shannon’s projects, check out her website

What got you interested in technology?

My grandma loved to play video games and when I was little I would watch her play and draw pictures of the game on paper. I’d show them to her and ask, wouldn’t it be cool if this were part of the game? And she told me if I wanted to make games, I’d have to get really good at computers to make it happen.

I took a programming class in high school and really enjoyed it but in college, I had a political awakening. I wanted to make a difference in the world, and as much as I enjoyed coding, I didn’t see a way to use that skill toward anything practical that could help make the world a better place.

So I changed my major to political science and didn’t code for a long time. With each passing year, I thought I would never get back into coding, that this industry moves too quickly, that it was too late for me and I’m so happy to have been wrong.

I started teaching myself to code after not having done any programming in six years — it was very difficult and it didn’t come to me as easily as it did before, but I had a goal, a project in mind that kept me focused.

Hear Me Code

When I was first trying to get into tech, I’d go to tech events and be one of the only women in the room and it was really frustrating. I felt outnumbered, nobody took me seriously, and was always talked down to. I got sick of that and questions like “oh are you here with your boyfriend” and I thought, you know, I’m self-taught, why don’t I start my own group where we can all learn and grow together?

So I started Hear Me Code with four women around my kitchen table and four years later we’re 3000 strong. I think making the classes free was critical to that because I wanted it to be as available as possible to folks — to lower all the barriers I could.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Starting Hear Me Code has been the most impactful thing I’ve ever done with my career. 3000 women have had an introduction to coding. Over 100 have become teachers and teaching assistants. Dozens have credited Hear Me Code with giving them the skills and experience that they needed to land a better-paying job in the tech field.  Several women have organized their own groups. Many women taught for the first time at Hear Me Code.

Knowing that I’ve made a difference in these women’s lives is so rewarding, and keeps me motivated to push through the long hours and difficult work.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

I think the biggest problems are sexism and racism. And we have the data to show that women and people of color are underrepresented at every level in major companies.

Companies like to talk about how there isn’t a pipeline of talent, and that’s the problem, but I think they like that explanation because it absolves them of responsibility.  Then they say, we’re going to fix the pipeline problem by investing in groups aimed at young girls, but that kicks the problem down the road for another 18 years and to me, that’s unacceptable. I don’t think we need to wait that long. We can solve it now.

And let me just say I love that there are groups like Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code.  They’re so necessary, and I’ve seen the impact.  But they’re not the only solution. They’re only part. How are we supporting women who are currently in the industry but are leaving, dropping out, because it’s so toxic?

Obstacles

Women have to work twice as hard and receive half the credit if they get any credit at all for their accomplishments. Traits that are seen as assets for men are liabilities for women. We’re in a double bind. We’re not taken seriously, we’re consistently underestimated, and we’re never given the benefit of the doubt.

Myths

  1. A common myth is that you have to have started coding at a really young age or that you have to be really smart at math, but that’s just not true.
  2. There’s also a myth that coding is a solitary activity, but it’s so rare to work alone. And you’ll learn best if you can find your community — find people who will support you as you learn, and don’t forget to pay it forward!

 

Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:

Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is an online editor for JAXenter.com. Before working at S&S Media she studied International Communication Management at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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