Earlier, in February, I participated in the DataTjej Conference held in Gothenburg. “DataTjej” roughly translates to “ComputerGirl” and DataTjej is a non profit organization aiming to increase women’s interest in computer science and IT, disregarding age or experience. Their long term goal is to increase the number of women in computer science and software development. Each year peaks in a conference held at different universities in Sweden. As of this year it was held at Chalmers University of Technology in cooperation with Gothenburg University here in Gothenburg. The conference aims to enhance the student-business relationship within computer science, IT and information systems. You can find out more about the organization and the conference here.
I have attended the conference several times as a student, but this was the first time representing my company. The very first time I came in contact with DataTjej was during my first year at Chalmers University of Technology. Some of my seniors organized the conference in Gothenburg 2009 and they encouraged me to go.
This year my co-worker, Marcus Lönnberg, and I attended the conference in order to promote SpeedLedger as an awesome employer and to recruit more women to SpeedLedger’s engineering department. We took part in three different activities during the conference; a presentation, a dinner and a fair.
So I had a few ideas when I put together the presentation. I knew we were going to have a booth at the fair, so I didn’t feel the need to promote SpeedLedger during the presentation, instead I wanted to give the audience something useful. Something code related. I also remembered my first time at DataTjej. We had just finished the second course in object oriented programming, which basically was Java with Swing. I hate Swing. During this period my mind was set on surviving the programming courses and then graduate to work with development processes and not touch code for the rest of my life.
But over time though, I came to realize that there are a different types of programming. Just because you don’t like one specific type, doesn’t necessarily mean that you dislike programming. You need to find the type of programming you like. As I see it, it’s always easier to learn something that you like and feel joy doing. For me it was datastructures and algorithms that changed everything.
So I let my presentation revolve around algorithms and how it awoke my interest for programming. Algorithms can be used to solve everyday problems and I gave the audience a demonstration of how two algorithms find the fastest path between two points, plus the theory behind it. To do this I hacked together a small program showing how the algorithm thinks in every step of the problem solving process.
A* solving a maze
I really wanted the presentation to have a technical aspect, rather than the typical business-connecting-with-students type. I hope the audience appreciated the technical connection and if anyone of them felt insecure I hope they were given a motivation to why coding can be fun. They have already chosen to study computer science, now we need to convince them to stay and enjoy the ride.
Back at the office I got the question: Why is this so important and why do we need girls in our teams?
This is a very relevant question. We actually don’t need women in our programming teams because they are just that, women that is. We need women in our team to create a heterogeneous group. Just as we need male nurses. There are numerous studies showing that a heterogeneous group is more efficient and drives each other forward at a much higher pace than a homogeneous group.
DataTjej’s most important task is to create an environment free from prejudice and to be a place where women, who otherwise might feel alone in a classroom full of dudes, can meet and share experiences.
So, to summarize: More diversity in software development! That is what we need to be stronger, better and faster as a team!