Lindsay Siovaila, a computer coder, has been working as a mentor through Girl Develop It, a group that helps new programmers and coders learn technique and find contacts in the tech industry, Thursday, August 24, 2017.
First in a series on women who have leadership roles in the field of technology
UX design. Web design. UI design. Front-end development.
Those were four of the topics Kristen Pairitz was most interested in when transitioning from a finance and management position into the tech industry.
Luckily, Lindsay Siovaila, co-founder of Girl Develop It, was there to help.
In 2015, the two women sat down in a coffee shop where Siovaila broke down the differences between the different disciplines and advised Pairitz on what the next steps were.
“When I first met with Lindsay,” Pairitz said, “I was new in the field and wasn’t sure what I was looking for. … It was kind of scary because it was so new and different. The environment was a huge change for me, so going to GDI events and meeting Lindsay helped immerse me in the transition.”
Now, Pairitz is working as a web content analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense in Indianapolis, where she uses her new skills in web design and front-end development. All with the help of Siovaila.
The tech industry can be a tough field to break into, especially for women, and especially for women who don’t already know how to code. Siovaila co-founded the Indianapolis chapter of Girl Develop It for this very reason.
Girl Develop It, a nonprofit organization, gives women the opportunity to learn how to code in a welcoming environment. Siovaila and Virginie Adams, the other co-founder, put together monthly coding courses, hackathons and networking events for women who are already in the tech industry and women who want to become part of the industry.
Siovaila’s work in the chapter and community has led her to receive TechPoint’s Rising Star Award at the 2017 Mira Awards.
Siovaila’s interest in coding began through a related skill: graphic design.
It all started when Siovaila wanted to customize her Myspace profile. She would take the coding template and “hack” it — changing the colors through CSS and adding embellishments with HTML.
This led to a degree in Graphic Design Technology from Purdue University, then to a marketing job creating graphics for events.
Siovaila realized she could do so much more if she knew how to properly code.
She started off doing side projects and freelancing, even if she didn’t necessarily know all the steps to coding the website her client wanted. But she had help — from the internet.
“The nice thing about the internet is that there are so many tutorials out there,” she said.
“It was reasonable for me to say that I can design this, but some of the complex stuff was a bit too much for me, but it was enough that I could take a tutorial online or ask a friend for help,” she said. “It was a lot of finding my comfort zone and getting enough to challenge me to get me along the path of where she wanted to go.”
Although Siovaila was mostly self-taught, she has taught other women at the Indianapolis chapter of Girl Develop It.
“It may seem to be a terrifying thing, diving into development, especially if you’ve never done it before, but you don’t do it all at once. Gradually teach yourself and learn things,” she said. “I learned that there’s power in community, so meeting others who’ve done it before can answer your questions.”
Rodrigo Espinosa, who teaches classes at Girl Develop It, said Siovailla has a unique perspective when it comes to the tech industry and teaching.
“I know there are a lot of technologies that she’s been learning along the way, too,” Espinosa said, “so I think it puts her in a unique position to understand where the students are coming from and be able to adapt the lessons to maximize their value.”
Even though Siovaila has taught coding, founded a chapter of a tech nonprpofit, mentored women and is a lead solutions developer at Salesforce, she still sometimes suffers with “imposter syndrome.”
“I have to remind myself to look at all the things I’ve learned, (compared to) where I began and how I started from,” Siovaila said, “but it took a few years to say, ‘yes, I’m a developer,’ without feeling I was just pretending.”
The Indianapolis chapter of Girl Develop It has grown to 1,200 members, Siovaila said.
“We’ve had a lot of women in Girl Develop It who’ve made career changes or attended boot camps,” Siovaila said, “and basically altered the course of their lives, and Girl Develop It was a part of their journey.”
Pairitz, for example, moved from a finance and management role to a position focused on design and coding.
Pairitz had no background in tech prior to her joining Girl Develop It. She was interested in math and statistics, not front-end development. But as she continued working as a finance management analyst, she realized that her interests were elsewhere.
At first, Pairitz thought she was interested in design, but she later found her passion for development. Since then, she’s been taking classes through Girl Develop It, with Siovaila as a teacher in several courses.
Adams, the other co-founder, said Siovaila was the “number-one driver” for the organization.
“Her desire to make a difference, to want to change the tech world so that women have the opportunity to get involved.” Adams said. “She was looking to do something different out there.”
Job: Lead Solutions Developer at Salesforce.
Advice: “Having a desire to be a lifelong learner is a must if you want to get into tech. In many ways, everyone in this field, whether you have been working for 10 days or 10 years, is a beginner in some way, so being open to learning and improving will help you stay ahead of the game.”
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