In early 2018, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, I can’t do this anymore. At the time I was juggling more than I had ever juggled: two kids, a full-time job, and frantically trying to keep PDXWIT afloat with little staffing. I wasn’t able to cut into my sleep any more; I wasn’t spending any quality time with my kids; and I felt like I was grinding it out every single day. If there had been a rock bottom in my life, I was looking straight at it. For weeks and months I was searching, but couldn’t find any answers. The only solution I could find was that I needed to quit or close PDXWIT so I could have my life back. But even thinking about that as an option left me feeling worse. Regardless, I gave myself a date. I told myself, by July 2018, you need to have a permanent solution in place or quit your post.
Here we are, six months later, in December 2018. I didn’t quit, and I am sitting in my kitchen reflecting on the top 10 proudest moments of this organization over the past year. What saved me is not some great idea I had or a solution I had formed; it wasn’t that I figured out how to hack myself so I could get more work done or that I started meditating (I’m sure that would have helped though!). What ultimately changed everything was the imagination of the people who listened to me. Those individuals—with their outside perspective—were able to see what I couldn’t, and encourage me to consider what I had thought was impossible: Hire an Executive Director.
Now, I do not want to give the impression that all my problems are solved, as I do often find myself with no time. But heading into 2019, I am happy to report I have created a life where I can take my kids to school (never an option before), have a 30+ day streak with my Spanish lessons on Duolingo, and write this blog post.
Below is the list of what we, as a community, have accomplished. My heart is full from the love and energy I get from this community every day.
Making a splash with the State of the Community Survey - The second annual survey had over 800 respondents, giving us data to demonstrate what it’s like for many of us in the industry and garnering local and national media attention. Scores of you have taken this data back to your employers to make change.
Hiring our first Executive Director - In the half-year Elizabeth has been at the helm of this organization, we’ve seen tremendous change. Our operations are stable, our programming is thriving and her social justice background is helping us ensure that equity is at the center of everything we are doing. Elizabeth’s abundance of energy and commitment to our work is positioning us to have an even greater impact in 2019.
Winning the People's Choice award - This Spring, PDXWIT earned TAO’s People’s Choice Award. This moment marked the point in time where we could tangibly see our work having transcended the grassroots and bubbling up to the business community.
Upleveling our Summer Soiree - When we landed on the event theme of intersectionality, we knew finding a panel wasn’t going to be easy; let’s just say, we had no idea what we were in for. After six months of searching high and low for diverse individuals who represented emerging technologies, we found them, and the impact of that could not have been more rewarding. To this day, I hear from folks who talk about that event being a turning point in their perspective. Since then, we’ve held ourselves accountable when it comes to ensuring speaker lineups and panelists are representative of our community. It is critical that our community see themselves up on stage.
Securing our first Platinum Sponsor - We are so grateful for every single dollar invested in us and this year, thanks to Prosper Portland, we secured our first-ever Platinum Sponsor. This significant milestone proved to us that the business community is committed to our ongoing success and that organizations in a position to do so, are willing to endow us with funds that help us scale.
Hiring our first Event Coordinator - For seven years, our events have been the lifeblood of our organization, and although we’ve had a huge group of dedicated volunteers supporting each event, we were finding it difficult to scale with volunteer support alone. Hiring Hazel has allowed us to ensure consistency and continuity across all events and her passion for our work allows for deeper engagement among event hosts, volunteers and speakers.
Updating our purpose statement - We FINALLY updated our purpose statement to be clear, more inclusive and intentional.
Debuting our Scholarship Program - Our original goal was to create a $2000 scholarship fund for individuals in our community to attend conferences as a way to build skills for their careers. Thanks to the tremendous generosity of the Folley Foundation, we were able to launch a $10k fund. We had nearly 40 individuals apply and we are thrilled to be sending these four individuals to conferences in 2019.
Katrina Johnson, Data Science Salon in Austin
Angela Patterson, PAX West Dev in Seattle
Sharlena Luyen, Grace Hopper Women in Computing in Orlando
Sarah Flynn, Developer Week in San Francisco
Recognizing changemakers with our 2018 Awards - Validating people in our community is so incredibly important. So many of you work tireless with little to no recognition for your work. We see you. The recipients of this year’s awards include:
Best Contributor - Perry Eising for their efforts to raise awareness for inclusive language in the workplace and for openly sharing their journey to find a new job, including the difficult moments. Their efforts have inspired and help many others in our community endure the sometimes arduous path.
Best Speaker - Tiffany Longworth, who did a lightning talk at the holiday party about the importance of planning ahead … for a zombie apocalypse. PDXWIT is donating $1000 in honor of each of these winners to non-profits of their choosing. Perry and Tiffany selected Rose Haven and Black Girls Code.
Blasting beyond 5000 members - We make up more than 30% of Portland’s tech workforce. We *have* critical mass.
A true tech community leader, Megan Bigelow is the founder and board president of Portland Women in Tech (PDXWIT), a 501c3 nonprofit. She created and continues to lead the organization with a singular focus on empowering women, non-binary and underrepresented people to join tech, while at the same time, supporting and empowering individuals to stay in tech. This is done by connecting people to companies, mentors and skill-building opportunities. The PDXWIT community is over 5000 strong — representing 29% of Portland’s tech workforce — and includes the support of 80+ tech companies. Above all, Megan is committed to building a diverse and inclusive tech community.