It took a while but here it is. The recap of our ‘Coding Accessibility’-meetup at Incentro a few weeks ago! And lucky me, while I was finding the time to write a proper blogpost about one of the most inspiring Girl Codes ’til now, our speaker and host Elisabeth Boldewijn wrote one that absolutely captures the awesomeness of the whole night, so I won’t try to match it, but just share it here! But before I copy-paste below I would like to thank all of our speakers so much. The night was buzzing with passion, inspiration and last but not least courage of all our speakers to also talk about their own physical challenges in life. It emphasised how these ‘disabilities’ are not always visible and why as Eva Westerhoff eloquently put: “accessibility is for everyone” and if you don’t experience a disability now “at one point in life, all of us will experience ‘disability'”, like Dr. Cara Antoine told us during her talk. During the drinks after it turned out all of the attendees were very much inspired to do better on the accessibility front of coding and a few of them were already activists on the matter. It was so rewarding to organise this meetup and it’s inspiring outcome, partly because it was a topic high on my personal wish list since I’m battling a chronic illness myself which does causes the world to be less accessible to me on a daily basis. We are very proud we could shine a light on this topic from three different sides: Elisabeth about how coding can make a great career accessible while being chronically ill, Eva about why building accessibility or rather usability in your software and products is important to everyone and Dr. Cara Antoine accompanied by Lisanne Brons how software, in this case AI, can make the physical world more accessible to all! And now it’s finally time for Elisabeth’s recap of the night. Below her post you will find the pics and the slides!
– by Elisabeth Boldewijn
Wednesday evening I held my first meetup ever and about a quite intimate topic, accessibility. Not only did we learn more about accessibility within the services and products we use, but there were some personal stories shared which explained why some of us are so passionate about this topic and do our best to be heard and include those who are challenged in life.
After my friend & colleague Hajar Mokhtafa gave us a wonderful introduction about our company. It was my turn and I held my talk on how fibromyalgia changed my life and the challenges I faced at finding a job when you’re not only a starting junior developer, but not confident at all in your capabilities with a body you cannot trust.
I embarked on my journey to become a web developer after a heart surgery. As medication didn’t work for me, I opted for the surgery. It was supposed to make my life more manageable, but unfortunately it left me in a much worse state. (it had triggered my current condition, but only after 9 months would I find out what it was and get it confirmed by a doctor.)
As physical work was impossible for me to do even on heavy painkillers, I set my mind to really go for it and find a place to learn web development at a faster pace. I got lucky and got the opportunity to learn at the NYCDA and after finishing the course successfully I finally wound up at incentro (Rotterdam).
This to wasn’t without the help of GirlCode founder Ineke Scheffers. She reached out to one of my colleagues and within a few days I had found a place to work (prior to this it had taken me months). We were classmates at the nycda and after we got a bit personal in our introductions, she had taken me along to the GirlCode meetups. I was amazed at all the women I’d meet and their talks, so I kept going and I really felt and still feel like I am part of a great community. So after I felt I had enough courage to get on that stage I decided to host a GirlCode myself at incentro.
Our second speaker Eva Westerhoff (helps organisations improve their accessibility & is currently working at ING) made it very clear how much we actually fail, when we think something is ‘accessible’ when it’s made for the wrong target group. Everyone BUT the ‘disabled’ people it was meant for.
She also had a very solid point, saying
I don’t feel disabled, it’s the environment that makes it that way.
If you think about it, it makes compleet sense! Don’t we all feel much more at ease at a place where we know our way around, and managing everything ourselves without the help of others?
If we do a better job at making sure our products & services ARE accessible, then more people can feel that way. Don’t wait until it has become a ‘requirement’, try to always include accessibility within your designs. And if you want to do it the right way. Invite people who you think will benefit from this new feature, or design and ask THEM.
- Does this make your life easier?
- Would you use this product/service in it’s current state?
- How can I improve my product to meet your needs?
Aside of the fact that a LOT of people are missing out in using the services offered, you make then feel excluded. Perhaps they even think they’re not important enough, and that would be a shame.
Eva also shared some links with us, so please check them out!
- Tips for developers
- Different disabilities and what to do & not do
- Stories of multiply accessibility needs
Our third and last speakers were Dr. Cara Antoine & Lisanne Brons from Microsoft the Netherlands. They also had a personal story to share and told us how the Microsoft vision plays a role in accessibility.
At one point in life, all of us will experience ‘disability’
I found that such a powerful thing to hear, and fully agree! With that mindset you have a completely different view on the things you use, design, perhaps even on the world.
Cara also gave a very simple example when mentioning that a lot of disabilities are ‘invisible’. If those in the audience wearing glasses would take them off for the rest of the presentation. Those people would not see very well, but how many people are wearing contact lenses? You have no clue, but they also count as ‘disabled’.
So if you develop your products with future you in mind who may the same, or may be disabled in one way or another, you are thinking ahead and including those people.
Empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more
Lisanne told us how machine learning (a way of achieving AI) is not much different from how children learn. They pick up information eventually start speaking and when making mistakes we correct them. We also cheer them on when they get it right.
She also gave a demo of one of their apps SeeingAI. With this app you take a picture and it will verbally explain what is on the picture. It was very cool to see this, but what got me and a colleague even more excited was the app where you can become a buddy for someone who’s visually impaired (I forgot the name). If you cannot see something clearly, you can call someone, who will see what you’re seeing, and tell you what to pick or which way to go. I believe this app wasn’t available yet in The Netherlands, only in USA.
Other amazing app mentioned were:
microsoft translator, this can translate from one language to another. So if you’re speaking in Spanish, but I cannot understand it, it will translate to a language I do understand making it possible to communicate with far more people than before.
Stream, in this video platform it is possible to:
- Search for text or spoken words within videos
- Enhance accessibility for everyone with closed captioning
- See all speakers and jump ahead to where they appear in your video
- Play your video while viewing or searching its transcript
- Discover a variety of content without relying on metadata
As a developer who learn a lot through videos. I find myself often searching for something I’ve seen or heard in a video. If the stream features were used on youtube as well, my life would be so much easier!
Also a shout out to the catering for this evening. The food was deliciousss! Thank you very much!
This summary of the evening turned out to be quite a long post, but I really wanted to share how much I appreciated hosting this event, having such wonderful speakers and truly feeling blessed by those around me!
I hope to continue seeing more powerful women making a change in this world for the better. If ever you see a GirlCode meetup, don’t hesitate! They’re always a lot of fun, and you always leave with a bit more knowledge.
Thank you for reading.
Until next time
The next meetup is being organised as we speak! Keep an eye on our Meetup page to RSVP once it’s up!
Another awesome Girl Code meetup has taken place last Wednesday and this time we were welcomed at ING. A new company for us, but not a new hostess. We were lucky enough working with Victoria again. We’ve met her at Booking.com during our ‘The challenges of a (Girl) Coder’-meetup and now she’s kicking ass and empowering women at ING. So, when she called for another meetup at her new office and suggested a topic high on our wish list: we couldn’t possibly refuse. The topic in question was: Artificial Intelligence. Yeahhhh!
This technology will enhance us. So instead of artificial intelligence, I think we’ll augment our intelligence – Ginni Rometty
The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race – Stephen Hawking
AI, a term of which it’s true definition is still debated on, but most of us still have a hope, fear or opinion about. Some people can’t wait for what the future of it will bring, some just hope it won’t be as scary as they envision it to become. This night was all about lifting a corner of the veil covering it by our professional Girl Coders.
First up was Flavia with her key note titled: Demystifying AI – Robots are coming! During her talk she deconstructed the hype around AI and it’s differences with Machine Learning. It was a very interesting, inspiring and highly amusing talk of 40 minutes, so I will not be giving a summary of her whole talk. If you didn’t attend our meetup last Wednesday, you really should try to keep an eye on her and hear her talk some time about this and other topics yourself! Highly recommended! But one thing she really stressed to us is the importance of a good and complete dataset. ‘Cause your AI will be biased, and it’s predictions no good if the dataset is already biased. So a true challenge for us humans is: to keep making sure the data we feed it is the best and most complete it can be.
After a little breather it was time for Esther’s demo. Esther has been a member of Girl Code since the earliest days and is one of those inspirational people we really wanted on our stage some time. Wednesday was finally that time, ’cause our topic perfectly fits Esther, you know her being a Master of Science in it. During her short demo she showed us how we all, with a little time (like 40 minutes), can set up our first AI using TensorFlow. Check her slides to get on it!
We finished the talks with a panel discussion. Flavia and Esther were joined on stage by Janna (IT Chapter Lead) and Bidisha (IT Manager). They answered all the questions and ideas of our Girl Coders in the audience. And they did so with great passion! We closed the evening by getting to know each other and meeting up with what have become good friends while enjoying some truly delicious snacks and drinks provided by Victoria and her awesome team.
It was another AWESOME night! Thank you all for coming and making this another success as always. You ARE Girl Code :-)
If you want to join us next time, we already announced our next one at bloomon March 21st. RSVP’s will open up in January when we announce the whole program after a little holiday break. So keep an eye on meetup, to make sure you have a spot!
Happy holidays and see you next year!
Carla and I connected on LinkedIn after our mutual connection Xander tagged me in one of her posts. It was about AI and how it shapes our thinking power. Carla wondered about what will happen if 99% of it is developed only by men.
AI, the topic of our next meetup and a topic we thus have in common. So naturally, I invited Carla to our next meetup and as it turns out she became our 700th Girl Coder! Time to celebrate our community again with a blogpost, this time about: Carla!
Why, besides my invitation, did you want to join our group?
To talk to smart, talented young women who are navigating their career in an extremely male dominated world. How does this influence your behaviour? What do you do to develop your personal leadership? How do you stay true to your own values?
Do you code?
I did program Siebel (a CRM system) for about one week :-). But I had to admit that this wasn’t my talent. I want to support the women whose talent it is to code. In this era of digitalisation we need the voices, the views and the opinions of women coders more them ever! To make sure we won’t get stuck in an era of ‘digital patriarchy’.
From LinkedIn I know you’re a feminine leadership coach. Do tell more about what this entails!
I teach women business leaders how to develop and value their feminine side, so they become more balanced and powerful as leaders. Personal leadership is developed differently in women than it is in men. First of all because a woman’s and a man’s psyche operates differently. They have different inner forces driving their behaviour. In a patriarchal society and business culture it’s the male psyche that is dominant. Women need to learn about their own inner forces if they want to understand themselves and effectively use these forces. Secondly, as we’re all starting to see, the forces in our society act out differently on women than on men. A woman needs to become conscious about the external pressure that is put on her, so she can consciously make decisions. Thirdly, charisma is developed differently. Charisma is like an energy source that we carry with us in our bodies. It’s connected to our life-force. Developed through a grounded sense of self-love, self-esteem and finding joy and safety in one’s own body. Without a healthy, loving relationship with our bodies we experience difficulties connecting to our life-force, intuition and charisma.
Do you have any advice for our (professional and just starting out) Girl Coders in this male dominated field?
My advise to all women working in male dominated fields who want to have impact and shape tomorrows world is:
1. Stay connected to other women, for nourishment, laughter and learning.
2. Invest continuously in your personal development so you become the best version of yourself.
One last random thing you still want to share?
A universal wisdom is that you should treat others in the way that you would like to be treated yourself. Should you ever encounter a boss or a team that doesn’t treat you in this way, get out. There are enough great people out there who would love to work with a smart, talented, hardworking woman like yourself!