Find your tribe: Focus on Women Who Code

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    Name of meet up:
    Women Who Code (Belfast).

    Name of meet up organisers: Sheree Atcheson and Claire Burn

    Leadership Team of Women Who Code: 
    We have a leadership team of around 7 people who organise meet ups for Women Who Code Belfast. I function as the director, organising meet ups, making contacts and also overseeing and supporting the others in the leadership team. The team consists of women from many and varied tech jobs; and that's exactly what you need on a leadership team for it to function effectively: diversity. Our wonderful team consists of Desy Kristianti, Lisa Donaldson, Cailin Millar, Darcie Graham, Fiona Phillips and Heather Campbell.

     How often does your meet up meet & how would you describe your meet up?
    :We would aim to meet at least monthly, but over the past while it's been more frequently than monthly! We've gone through a bit of a re-org recently, and we're back to organising tech-focused meetups, with enthusiasm! I would describe Women Who Code Belfast as a hub: it's a place for people from lots of different networks and jobs to gather and learn something new, or just catch up with colleagues! It was really the first of its kind, and has spawned countless other networks and friendships, which I think is proof that it's doing its job well.

     How has your meet up changed from its initial conception?
    Sheree: WWCode in Belfast began entirely from scratch around 5 years ago. We had to start from 0 members. I brought it here initially because I wanted women (regardless of company/social stature) to have a place knowing they could confidently nurture their digital confidence and better their technical skillset with likeminded people. WWCode Belfast has now surpassed that ten fold. We are 824 members strong and have created an environment for many other women in tech groups to now spawn here. We are now longer just a meet up, but rather a movement of influential and inspiring women in tech, working to inspire the next and current generation

    Has your meet up spawned new ventures/products/networks?

    Sheree:Like I said, WWCode Belfast is no longer simply a meet up to learn a new skill. It's a movement which is empowering women all over the country. WWCode was the first group of its type here in Belfast - a non-company centric group for women in tech. Since we began (and flourished), many other groups have popped up which is fantastic. We need different groups for different kinds of people. I am extremely proud that WWCode has spurned on these movements.

    Have you collaborated with other groups?
    :Yes, we have. We're actually focusing a lot on collaborating with other groups this year, and we've been having initial discussions with Startups Hub Belfast, Product Tank and HackTheHub. If you're reading this, and you're a meet up organiser, please get in touch, we'd love to hear how we can team up with you! We've also collaborated in the past with GDG Belfast on Women Techmakers Summit (mostly because I'm involved in both organizations!), and we will be continuing this partnership this year. 

    What was the motivation behind starting the meetup, and how did you go about setting it up?
    Sheree:My motivation was simply because I wanted to make a change. I wanted to push where I lived to be better and to be the industry it should be. I was not ok with accepting that what it is was all it would ever be. At 22, I was happy to devote a lot of my own time (as I still do) to creating an entirely new network of women. I contacted the WWCode CEO Alaina Percieval through a colleague. I researched the area of "women in tech" meetups globally and contacted various other leaders. I chose WWCode because 1)It was free for everyone, and that was very important to be - I wanted this to be as inclusive as possible and 2) It was a growing global brand I could utilise to give credit to this UK venture. To start, I reached out to different companies to host and we were inundated with interest. This meant I needed to create a leadershipteam and now we're where we are - an influential and successful meet up.

     What would your advice be to someone about to join their first meetup?
    Sheree: Don't be scared. It's no big deal. There will be many other people in your shoes there too and everyone has had to be there at some stage.Most meetups will allow you to see who else is going, so have a look at that, make some connections before you go (a simple message/tweet will do that!) and go from there.

    Claire: Make sure to go to a meetup that you're interested in, and don't be afraid to talk to people. Also, speakers love to know that their talk has been worthwhile, so if you find anything particularly useful, make sure to reach out to the speaker at the meetup and say thanks.

    What would be your advice to someone who is looking
    to start a meetup?

    Sheree: Be prepared. Organising is no mean feat and it takes time - however it is extremely rewarding (and you never know where your meetup will end up). Spend the time researching the market, determining if there is a place for your idea and if not, look at what there is and how you can help there.

    Claire: Don't be disheartened if there are drop-outs. Keep organising, keep going - you will always have supporters. Ask for help if you need it - the NI Tech community is a wonderful resource full of really helpful people. 

     Meet ups are informal – but there needs to be some rules of engagement. What are the ground rules to your group? How do you make sure time spent with your meet up is productive and worthwhile?

    Claire:So, there are official Women Who Code Codes of Conduct, which are filtered down from the main WWCode org HQ in San Francisco, which we try to abide by. In Belfast we also just have a general rule of "don't be a jerk"; and we assume that people will be polite, open-minded and friendly when they attend our meetups. We're all about freedom of speech, but if someone starts being openly hurtful and not taking someone elses' point of view into consideration, then maybe it's time to diplomatically take them aside and have a conversation. 

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