The topic of women in tech has been center stage lately, for good reasons such as Cheryl Sandberg’s biopic on her experiences as an executive, and for unfortunate reasons like the thoughtless actions of a few at Github and Atlassian.
Here in Chicago we have our own controversy, TechWeek’s event promotion that used images of scantily clad women. As someone who was nominated for TechWeek100, I’ve decided to be part of the event even as others declined to participate.
A few colleagues suggested that I withdraw from the TechWeek100, as a few of my peer nominees had done. Although I respect their decision to withdraw, I would be remiss to pass on an opportunity to be a voice in a space that needs advocates. I have never walked away from a conversation, no matter how difficult or painful. I don’t plan to start now.
I feel strongly about gender and racial equality issues, and I seek to normalize opportunity across the spectrum of humanity. This is my ideology and an area where I continually strive to make a positive impact.
I have long maintained that we are missing a gigantic opportunity by not having roughly 50 percent of the population engaged in creatively and intensely solving the problems that software developers face daily. In my 25 years of experience, albeit entirely empirical, I have seen many women make fantastic coders.
For the past several years, I have been giving back to the city that gave me so much, and there are no real measurements for giving one’s time away. In the past year, I have turned my attention to mentoring kids, specifically girls, who show an interest in a technical career. I want to help solve the problem of why technology loses our middle-school girls, and I want to draw women into the career of coding.
As co-founder of Eight Bit Studios, I can’t say enough about my Eight Bit family. The past six years have been a titanic roller coaster of both career and personal growth. John Ostler and Steve Polacek have been with me through thick and thin, challenging me to be a better developer, a more thoughtful leader, a genuine person. Through it all, we have aggressively sought to diversify not only our staff but our client roster, engaging women and minority business owners on a regular basis. I am extremely fortunate to have partners who are equally sensitive to diversification and being as authentic as possible, not only espousing our personal values but living them.
And as co-founder of Mobile Makers Academy, along with CEO Brandon Passley, we have the opportunity to swing the pendulum on underrepresented minorities’ presence in software development jobs. Brandon and I have been galvanized by the recent education movement and our combined interest in changing the software developer landscape. We offer a diversity scholarship to help make our iOS Bootcamp more accessible, and we’re delighted to see women among our strongest graduates.
We have been making tremendous progress moving the needle on diversity with both adults and kids. Words cannot express my gratitude at having this opportunity to make an impact in an area I care so deeply about.
The TechWeek100 nomination recognizes my contributions and validates my efforts, inasmuch as they have not gone unnoticed. Being included in this group of nominees, many of whom I admire and who influence my own aspirations, gives me a stronger voice in the tech community.
To walk away from the controversy, and from the opportunity to increase the reach of my efforts, extinguishes my voice on an issue that desperately needs advocates. I pledge to use my nomination to continue supporting diversity in tech. Please join me to reflect on how we can all use our voices to make tech a more inclusive industry, carrying the conversation forward in an actionable direction.
Don Bora has been an active, contributing member of the Chicago startup community for a number of years. Don is a co-founder of both Eight Bit Studios and Mobile Makers. At Eight Bit Studios, Don is responsible for delivering the technology responsible for many startups as well as informing the MVP and business strategy with his technical expertise and business execution experience. Don runs the immersive curriculum and is the Chief Instructor at Mobile Makers. Recently, Don has been an outspoken advocate for women and girls in technology, seeking to bridge the technology gap by exposing the fun and creative side of programming. Don frequently mentors both high school and college students who are displaying an interest in technology and coding. Don has lived and worked in Chicago for nearly 25 years.
Don has also received two Moxie nomiations for Mentor of the Year in 2013 and 2014