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November 25, 2015

Betamore Gives: 6 Questions with Brigitte Warner

Meet Brigitte Warner. Brigitte is a developer at Allouvue, Betamore Academy Alum, and a member of Girl Develop It Baltimore. We sat down with Brigitte and asked her six questions about her experience as a woman in tech and why she supports our #GivingTuesday mission.

What are some hurdles that women in technology face?

Connecting with the right people. It’s incredibly important to be proactive about seeking out mentorship and researching and reaching out to the people that are doing what you want to do. Mike Subelsky was hugely influential in this way; he connected me to the wonderful team of people I work with at Allovue. Jess Gartner and Ted O’Meara, my CEO and CTO respectively, value women’s careers equally and explicitly seek out candidates that will treat their coworkers as peers, regardless of gender.

We can certainly break down a lot of barriers to entry for women by intentionally pursuing different communication styles, channels, and perspectives through our hiring practices. I’d like to be a part of a network of conscientious men and women to which I could send any female developer and know that she would find help. That means both taking the time to mentor new developers and networking on their behalf. In the same way that I was steered toward a company in which I would achieve success, I’d like to do the same for others.

Why is it important for women to have easier access to web development education?

Easier access to web development education means two things. First (and a given), it allows us to grow the pool of developer talent in Baltimore City. Second, it allows women with a skill set suited to development the spring board they need to reach for those development jobs. The success of building my first web app at a Rails Girls NYC workshop certainly knocked down a mental hurdle for me and became the first of many steps to becoming a full-time developer.

Our community has a great approach to providing a variety of educational opportunities for women. An example of this is when over twenty members of B’more on Rails, including Tasha Jones, Jonathan Julian, Paris Pittman, and Ed Schmalzle, organized this year’s Rail’s Workshop in which we reached close to a hundred women. I was one of six women coaching for the event, including Alana Frome, Beverly Guillermo, and Vaidehi Joshi. Men such as Nick Evans, Ali Ibrahim, Gary Moore, and David Raynes were coaching for a second year in a row. When the entire community invests in education, it has the side effect of also preparing those who participate to better onboard and advocate for these developers at their companies.

Key to these community-driven workshops are the sponsors and volunteered time that remove the cost barrier. Betamore offering two, full scholarships to Girl Develop It (GDI) members means that aspiring developers who couldn’t have otherwise shouldered the cost of the long-form course now have an incredible opportunity to launch their careers.

What made you interested in coding?

As a student at Johns Hopkins, I met Joan Freedman, who has been the director of the Digital Media Lab for about 15 years. I was searching for a way to combine my interests in engineering, writing, and design. She encouraged me to reach out to an alum named Patti Chan who had taught herself to code and went on to found a tech company. I took my first web development class with Patti through the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Interactive Media Department.

How did your Girl Develop It + Betamore experiences complement one another?

Paul Barry, who taught my Back-end Web Development course at Betamore and Angelique Weger, the lead for the Baltimore Chapter of GDI, have similarly positive attitudes, are incredibly hard-working, and have an envious depth of knowledge in their domains. The classrooms they created were instrumental in making me feel challenged and successful. Explicitly telling your students that you want them there and then following that up with positive affirmation and confidence in their abilities trumps any lesson plan.

How did your Betamore education contribute to your current position?

Building a functioning Ruby on Rails application is a crucial part of the course, but the skills I gained from working on a team with my classmates were just as important for preparing me for the realities of development work. Winning a prize with Chris Guzman at Bitcamp was a huge achievement and helped us know our own potential for creating something useful and functional under a deadline. You need to be effective at communicating and using collaborative tools such as git just as much as you need to hone your technical skills. At the end of my course at Betamore, I was awarded a three-month software development fellowship at a Betamore Works Partner, Fractured Atlas, where I continued to work on a team with Shawn Anderson, Tracy Huynh, Mehan Jayasuriya, and Dan Porter. My entire year of work and growth in Baltimore came full circle in February of 2015, when Chris and I designed and taught a course that introduced students to git and the basics of web development, Foundations of CSS + Intro to Javascript at Betamore.

What advice would you give to a woman looking to break into web development?

Find and surround yourself with a community of people who will build you up.


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