It all started back in 2006, that's when I enrolled in college to study computer programming. I was excited that I finally had the courage to take the step, since a lot of people I knew, my parents included, had discouraged me because I was a bad student throughout high school.
It's true I hated studying and loved doing more creative stuff. But I always had this thing with computers even from a young age.
College was though and I had to drop out after going through a very traumatic experience, so it took me a while longer to actually get into tech. A couple years after I initially enrolled in college I finally started an internship as web developer.
Not much later I landed my first full-time developer job. When looking back at that time I have a lot of regrets. Mostly about not taking better care of myself and not standing up for myself.
At that time I was still recovering from that traumatic experience I went through a couple years earlier. But I was so motivated to start working as a developer.
I knew I had a lot to learn, it was my very first job after all. I quickly learned that one of my direct superiors thought that women shouldn't be developers. He gave me hard time by making me feel dumb when I didn't get something, giving me impossible deadlines, which of course I tried to make by working as much overtime as possible. I didn't have any teammates to help me, they all had their own projects and deadlines.
And then came the time that everyone of the dev team got to go to a local dev conference, everyone except me... When I asked my superior about it, he just laughed and said that it wasn't a place for me. That I wouldn't gain anything by going to the conference... so simply implying that I was too dumb to learn something from such an event...
Not long after he fired me. My initial plan was to stay there for 3 years and gain the experience before moving on. That didn't really pan out.
It was the start of years and years of personal struggles... Today, I am still trying to heal from those times when I didn't stop to take care of myself and just kept going until I just couldn't anymore. At some point I even started to hate coding as a profession.
Not letting myself get pushed into situations that I know will be a setback to my health and mental wellbeing.
In the past I often let myself get pressured into doing jobs that I knew where a bad match for me. And also situations where I didn't know what to do when I felt that people treated me very different from my male colleagues. Being invited to the table but being ignored by everyone there...
These situations and jobs often resulted into very low self-esteem and taking time to rebuild it afterwards. I had to learn to trust my gut the hard way.
Creating a community that supports fellow women who code with their struggles in a male-dominated sector, until there is no need for it anymore.
In 2017 I came up with the idea to start a local community for women who code in Belgium 🇧🇪. After a shoutout on Twitter I found some partners in crime to set the idea in motion, that's when women.code(be) was born. (pronounced as women dot code be)
What started as an idea to organise women-only events and an online chat group, evolved into a community with volunteers and guest bloggers, a monthly newsletter, a variation of events such as our TechTalks, and interviews with women who codes!
Looking back at all those years of struggle, today I can say that I am glad that I'm able to help others with the experience and knowledge I gained over the last decade.
I was also able to rekindle my love for coding after taking a (long) break from it. Redefining my boundaries and goals, now, I only code for myself as a hobby and for projects I really believe in.
Happy International Women's Day!