Geek Girls Carrots: We are demolishing stereotypes in the world of technology
Women are building an ever-better position in the areas of technology and business. The global organization Geek Girls Carrots is also striving to demolish stereotypes by bringing more diversity to the world of technology.
Through meetings and workshops, the organization Geek Girls Carrots inspires women to learn from each other and to support each other. They believe that networking is the key, therefore, they are connecting women with interest in technology from around the world. According to Geek Girls Carrots, women are the avant-garde of innovation in new technologies.
Geek Girls Carrots is headquartered in HubHub coworking space in Warsaw, where we were given the opportunity to have a talk with Agata Piekut, the organization’s Communication Manager.
Agata could you introduce yourself a little bit and describe your role in Go Carrots?
Hi All, my name is Agata Piekut and I’m Communication Manager at Geek Girls Carrots. I like to think about my role as a connector – making sure that our programs and community grow together.
Hello Agata – Geek Girls Carrots is dedicated to educating women and girls in the IT environment, tell us why did you establish your organization.
Geek Girls Carrots were started in 2011 by Kamila Sidor as a series of local meetups in Warsaw. Kamila was the organizer of the first Startup Weekend in Poland, and when she saw how few women attended, although she’d run a special campaign directed at them, she decided to act. Over the following months local organizers joined her in different cities in Poland, and then around the world. By the end of last year we’ve organized events in 35 cities on 4 continents. If someone asked me how I define girl power – this is how 🙂
We started as a movement to connect women in IT and encourage them to start a career in this field. And right now our mission is even broader. We focus on three elements: obviously, our core activities are still about helping women develop their careers in IT. But we also engage in creating new female tech leaders, as there are still too few women in the leadership positions. And we have a special program, called Hacking Carrots, dedicated to showing people in IT how can they use their skills for social good and build solutions for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Which SDG points are important to you?
Both personally and as an organization – all of them! Because only when combined, they’ll have a real, positive impact on our lives and environment. That is why Małgosia Ratajska-Grandin, our CEO and mastermind of the Hacking Carrots, decided to create it as a long-term educational program, rather than focus on single hackathons. And we just finished this June the first edition. When we think about SDGs there are two main problems: people who know how to build solutions that can have a big-scale impact don’t know the needs of each of the 16 fields. And people who understand what’s behind the goals, don’t have the tech skills to implement it. So first we educate and connect everyone during meetups where we talk e.g. how technology can help design more inclusive education or more ecological cities. Then we run workshops in advanced technologies like AI in Cloud or Data Science. And as a final of each edition we run a hackathon when during one weekend we build real solutions for the tackled goals.
What are the key possibilities for realisations in your program? How many girls have passed your program?
Depends on the program. If you’re still looking for your place in IT or would just like to connect with like-minded people (guys attend our events, too!) then meetups are the right choice. If you’d like to improve your technical skills, we organize a high number of IT workshops on different levels. And when it’s time to become more serious about your future in IT, there are our flagship projects: Carrots Academy and Hacking Carrots. The first one is a three-week long course that helps you start a career in IT consulting. We organize it together with Accenture in Poland and after the first edition one third of participants started new jobs with them. And if you’d like to build something on your own, then you can join Hacking Carrots. As to the number of participants, it all depends on the number of available spots in each program. E.g. we have a limit to the number of participants on our workshops to 30, so by now we can count those who participated probably in thousands.
How do girls react to IT today? Do you face to lack of interest or pressure?
They love it 🙂 I think that nowadays everyone understands the role technology plays in our lives. And that whichever area of business or industry you choose, in the end your work will be highly impacted by IT, even if you’re not going to be a programmer. For example, for the past year we’ve observed a huge rise in interest in data science meetups and workshops from girls with professional or academic background in finances and economy.
What is your experience in engaging your girls in IT companies?
It depends on the program we run. Although all are designed to help girls raise their IT skills, not all are directly connected with recruitment possibilities. We run one program that directly helps girls get a new job in IT. It’s called Carrots Academy, it’s a three-week long training program that helps them gain the skills necessary to start a career in IT consulting. We teach them both hard skills (Salesforce, BI, SAP, e-commerce etc.) and soft skills useful in business environment (public speaking, designing presentations etc.). We run this program together with Accenture. After the first edition one third of the participants received job offers just after the course.
Also, after our weekend programming workshops, we receive emails from girls that say that they were their first step to changing their career paths. One has to remember that a 2-day training is not enough to get a new job in IT. On the other hand, Hacking Carrots program was focused more on building our community’s entrepreneurship skills and we’re keeping fingers crossed for the teams from the first edition who are starting their own projects now – startups, new NGOs.
How do men look at this subject? What are their reactions?
It’s hard to generalize. But in our community we have a lot of men who are very encouraging and happy to help, share their knowledge. They understand that to build winning solutions, you need diverse teams. And they often come to our events for both great speakers, and friendly atmosphere. Although our hackathon was seen by some as an “event for girls”, we had about 40 % of male participants and they really enjoyed it.
Are you facing to do stereotypes in this topic?
There are still many problems facing the industry, as can be seen in our “Women in IT” report, in which we research the situation of women working in the IT companies in Poland. And this is why we’re so happy that we managed to create a supportive community that welcomes everyone. And that by working closely with employers in IT, we encourage women to join the field.
Organisations such as yours have emerged over the past few years in multi-EU countries, how do you cooperate?
Thanks to Małgosia’s (our CEO) participation in the International Visitor Leadership Program which US Embassy run last year for women STEM organizations, we have connections with over 40 organizations around the world. Of course, it’s not possible to run programs together on this scale. So we try to support each other’s work, and use these relations as a platform to show our local communities how IT looks in different areas of the world. We have something special planned for this autumn so keep your ears open 😉
If you have to choose a success story from your organisation what would it be?
Every story 🙂 Because every story counts – no matter if it’s a girl who joins us for the first time and doesn’t know any programming languages yet, one of our volunteer organizers who started and developed their careers in IT with us, or members of Carrots Academy and Hacking Carrots programs. I may sound like an overexcited cheerleader here but one thing that is the biggest blocker for women who’d like to join IT is lack of belief in themselves. This is why it’s so important to show role models, their different career paths, backgrounds etc. And the first step is always the hardest.
How many people do you have in a team? Why did you decide to work from coworking?
There are four of us in the managing team, our CEO Małgosia Ratajska-Grandin, Adelina Frydel and Elizabeth Tischencko who are our PMs, and me. We also have local teams in over 15 cities in Poland and around the world who are run by volunteers.
So, on the one hand, we are a small team working full time and we don’t need a huge office on a daily basis, on the other, as every month we run a meetup, some workshops and have a lot of meetings in between, coworking gives us the elasticity we need. And on top of that we are surrounded by a very active community of tech startups and other innovative nonprofits.
What is the biggest benefit to you from HubHub?
As I mentioned before, HubHub gives us a lot of elasticity. We have a comfortable, 4-person small office but also unlimited access to various meeting rooms. Most importantly, HubHub has some of the best conference spaces for events up to 200 people in the center of the city, and in the main business hub in Warsaw. We regularly run our events here and our members love it. HubHub was also our strategic partner during the first edition of Hacking Carrots program and together we run a 3-day long hackathon in one of their Warsaw locations. Again, everybody loved the space! Not only we had a lot of space for team stations, we had a spacious chillout zone, kids zone, mentors zone and access to outdoor space.
What is the biggest myth about working in a coworking space?
No idea, honestly. Personally I love coworking spaces, because of the comfort and the daily access to the community of like-minded people. I think some people may fear working in open space but it all really depends on the interior design. And HubHub has it well thought over, with a lot of solutions that provide privacy and silence for work.