How it all started
I (Desi McAdam) joined ThoughtWorks in 2005 as a Developer. Until that time I had worn many hats at a couple of companies, always in search of a good fit. After graduation from Georgia Tech as a C.S. major, I decided that I did not want to go into development, because the image I had of a day in the life of a developer looked like it could make you “go postal”. My outgoing personality doesn’t tolerate a cubicle and low level of people interaction, so I went in a different direction.
I had an introduction to the concepts of Agile right out of college at my first employer. However, I didn’t see the benefits at that time because I wasn’t a developer and the company was still very unsure of how to do Agile properly. Once I started working at ThoughtWorks, where Agile is practiced properly, (pair programming, constant customer feedback, open communication, and collaboration etc.), I realized that many women, like myself were unaware that real Agile development existed. I decided to make it my mission in life to get the word out to other women that life as a developer can be a wonderful place. I realized that the mindset of the software world about women needs to change, and that my responsibility as a woman and passionate developer is to help make that change happen.
I started by looking for other groups of women developers out there. I found groups for women in IT, women Sysadmins, women Business Analysts, but was unable to find any group specifically targeted at women Developers. The industry as a whole is changing its mindset about women in IT and we have seen some growth in the number of women in areas such as system administration, quality assurance, and business analysis, but women are still poorly represented in the world of code. I knew from attending user groups and other events that there are some women developers out there. I figured that I should use my outgoing personality to build a community of women developers. Thus the DevChix was born in late 2005, with an initial membership drawn from some user groups that I attended and RubyConf 2005.
Luckily for me, the first few women I met were ambitious, intelligent, motivated individuals, who are also were very excited about getting to know other women in programming. These women quickly helped make DevChix become a reality.
The original DevChix group was Nola Stowe, Jennifer Stander, Liz Cortel, and Desi McAdam. The four of us have started to talk to other women developers everywhere we go and the group has begun to grow.
Nola Stowe, a developer out of Chicago, deserves credit for getting things off the ground. She named the group, registered the domain, and threw up a PHP bulletin board for us. As we’ve grown, the bulletin board wasn’t really working for us, so we turned DevChix.com into a blogroll for all the members of the group. We’ve also started up a Google mailing group for internal group communication.
DevChix now has a very diverse group of women from varied technical backgrounds and levels of experience. We have experience in Perl, PHP, Python, Java, C#, Ruby, .Net and C. We have women who own their own companies and some who work for very cool shops. We have students and we have women who have been in the industry for more than 10 to 15 years. We are a friendly bunch and have a lot of aspirations for ourselves.
Eventually we hope to build a web application for managing all our group needs. It will replace our aggregation (although that will still be available as a piece of the larger DevChix app). We hope to build a brand around our group as a community of women who want to give back to the development community and generally make it a better place for everyone.
We have an active mailing list and this group blog, and we would love to meet more women developers and to hear their stories.