#82 Pariss -Athena- Chandler learns jumping in with both feet first
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Pariss Athena Chandler 0:00 They mentored me very well. They're very supportive. And they took time. They took an hour of every day to sort of bring me into a room and asked me where I was getting confused. Did I need help on something specific? Is there something specific I wanted to learn felt like they took very good care of me. And I just learned what it means to be a developer on the job and prepared me for my next role and what I do now. That's where I made most of my mistakes, but I learned from all of them.
Tim Bourguignon 0:41 Hello, and welcome to DevJourney, the podcast shining a light on developers lives from all over the world. My name is Tim Bourguignon, and today, I received Paris Chandler. Paris is a front end developer at GE to AI remote company of engineers. vetting and marketing other engineers. Parris is also the creator of the hashtag, black tech, Twitter, a movement bringing awareness and exposure to the black community in the tech industry. And she's also the founder of the black tech pipeline, a platform offering continued support, resources and opportunity to the black tech community and supporters. Paris, welcome to their journey. Hello, let's go right in there. Where did your journey into tech and more specifically into software development start in the first place?
Pariss Athena Chandler 1:36 And so it started back in 2016. I was actually a wax specialist back then. So I was waxing body here full time, that during this time, Obama wasn't presidency, and he kept talking about getting kids into STEM and steam. I didn't really think much of it, but one day I kind of I went to my brother's school for school. function they were having. And out as I was walking down the hallway, there were these posters and pictures on the wall of, you know, talking about coding and software engineering and technology. And I found it really interesting because I felt that children that young wouldn't really care for coding or understand what it was because I didn't even really know what it was. And so I ran into my brother's principal, and I asked him, you know, what's up with all this coding? Why are people talking about it? What is it? And he explained to me, you know, if you don't have some sort of technological background, then you're most likely going to be left behind because people were losing their jobs to machines. So that scared me. And it really resonated with me because as a wax specialist, I was losing clientele, to laser hair removal, which is a machine. So you know, once you get laser hair removal, your hair doesn't grow back. So that means you have no reason to come and see me. So I was like, Hmm, maybe I should learn More about coding and see what this whole, you know, technology industry is about. I ended up speaking to my school counselor at the time I was in school, getting my associates degree. So I went to my school counselor and I asked her about coding what it was how I could learn more about it. And she told me about a hackathon happening at this with this boot camp called resilient coders, which is based in Boston. And it's this organization that teaches, you know, people from underserved communities to code. So she told me about their hackathon that was coming up, and I went, and I learned, you know more about what coding was. And I ended up getting into their program from going to that hackathon. And starting in January of 2017. I quit my job and fully focused on learning to code.
Tim Bourguignon 3:48 Wow. Let's unpack this. By the time you went to this to these hackathons, you haven't coded anything yet. How do you
Pariss Athena Chandler 3:58 know I didn't even know what coding was. I didn't even know it existed?
Tim Bourguignon 4:02 That's amazing. That's amazing. Do you remember what convinced you to get
Tim Bourguignon 5:05 I'm just amazed I sorry, I'm still stuck on this. On the on the hackathon, when when I hear diversity or inclusivity I, I always think of Okay, now let's let's include people from different races from different for different gender, different backgrounds. But I've never faced the topic of inclusion with people who would not done any coding before. And it sounds like this, this company resume coder managed to to pick you up at this very first hackathon and, and grab you and and empower you right from the get go.
Tim Bourguignon 8:11 Definitely sounds like it's
Pariss Athena Chandler 8:12 Yeah, it was very stressful. I mean, there I there were, I've cried plenty of times. I broke down. I felt like I couldn't do it. But I got through it. How many people were in the in the cohort
Pariss Athena Chandler 8:25 there were
Pariss Athena Chandler 8:26 I want to say there were four tene of us and not, not all 14 graduated. I can't remember how many did graduate, but not everyone made it. So the other part of this boot camp is you can get clipped. And getting clipped means you get taken out of the program. If you're not, you know, putting in your full effort. If you're not showing up to class, if you're showing up late, you know, things like that would get you kicked out of the program. So it was very intensive. There was a lot expected of you
Tim Bourguignon 9:00 Know that you've, you've reached the other side of you though those eight weeks? Well, it was a few years ago put that would you do anything differently? In US eight weeks? I
Pariss Athena Chandler 9:09 don't think I would do anything differently. Not that I can remember. I really like I worked the hardest I ever worked in my life, those eight weeks, you know, there, you know, there are times in my life where I could say, Yeah, I wish I was more productive. I wish I didn't slack off, but not for this program. I really put everything I had into it. I really worked hard.
Tim Bourguignon 9:32 And this was all driven by this fear that got instilled into you by this counselor back then.
Pariss Athena Chandler 9:39 Yeah, I wanted to you know, I wanted to make it I wanted to graduate from this program. I wanted to learn a valuable skill that I could pass on to my community. And um, you know, I wanted to get other people who looked like me interested and I wanted them to try and get into the program and try to break into the industry. as well. So there was a lot that was driving me, to be honest.
Tim Bourguignon 10:04 Do you remember when when this fear kind of took the second place and something else replace it.
Pariss Athena Chandler 10:11 So the fear is what made me learn more about coding, which was going to the hackathon. What made me really stay was the hackathon itself. Because, you know, during the hackathon, we had to think of, you know, a problem in society that we wanted to solve. And because there were people of, you know, it was mostly people of color in this room for this hackathon. There was a lot of, you know, conversation around, you know, race and equity, social, you know, social justice matters, like all of these topics that I'm very passionate about. It's something I grew up with because my mom does this sort of work as her job as her full time job. So that's what really kept me engaged and kept me going this
Tim Bourguignon 11:00 Social involvement was already in your mind right from the get go. When you did this eight week I kept on writing on eight week boot camp,
Pariss Athena Chandler 11:08 right? But like, I didn't go into the hackathon thinking about those issues. But because that was sort of the topic of discussion during the hackathon. That's when I was like, oh, wow, like technology can really be applied to anything. And I didn't really think about it. I didn't think about, you know, bringing, you know, issues around racism or police brutality or system we have in this country, like, I didn't really think of it and apply it to technology, if that makes sense. But the hackathon brought that awareness to me, and that's when I was like, Okay, this is pretty cool. Like, I can use technology for anything. It doesn't have to be about, you know, just, Oh, I know how to code. It's like you're solving these issues with This skill set. And that was really powerful to me. So was it what you started doing after this hackathon? When you started developing for for for money, I would say, oh, how do you go from there? Like after graduating from the program, I actually got in internship, a summer internship at this advertising agency in Boston. And I really love this agency. I actually tried getting an internship at this agency, when I was in school, getting my associates degree with something completely unrelated to technology. And, and I didn't get in but then I gained this skill set. And now I'm applying to this internship again. And I ended up getting in and I worked over the summer in their innovation and technology department, and I worked on multiple projects for big brands. And yeah, I just learned a lot. It was really cool. I also learned about like marketing and advertising. So Yeah, I don't know, I just gained even more valuable skills over that summer for that internship.
Tim Bourguignon 13:06 You were coding already during this internship?
Pariss Athena Chandler 13:09 Yeah, I was. Yeah, I was part of Yeah, the innovation engineering department. So I was helping them work on some projects in development for these big companies, which I don't think I'm allowed to say.
Tim Bourguignon 13:24 Yeah, thank you for yourself. Okay, when did you or how did you mix and match this interest for front end? And and this this work in the agency, do you naturally drift toward front front end? Or how do you how did that work out?
Pariss Athena Chandler 13:42 No, I like again, I I didn't know anything about coding at all. I didn't know that there was such thing as front end and back end or full stack like I didn't know those existed until I went through this program and they explained all the different fields in the industry that you can Get into that, you know, are still considered technological skill sets. And I the boot camp was teaching only front end web development at the time. So that's what I learned. I didn't choose that. That's just what it was, you know, but if, if I had a chance to choose, I would still choose front end web development. Why is this I it's visual, and I, like, you know, taking this design and bringing it to life and I love CSS I love I don't know, I just love bringing that idea to life visually. It To me it's more creative area of web development. I know there's like this whole argument with back end being more creative and in terms of functionality wise, and then there's this argument with front end being more creative, but I don't know that's just me. I just, it's more visually pleasing to Me.
Tim Bourguignon 14:57 Mm hmm. No, I'm from all the interviews have been doing, I have the feeling there is a tendency to, to search for fast feedback. And whichever the the right kind of fast feedback is, is the one that that suits us. So I've interviewed people who are kind of core back end engineers and really get a kick from Okay, I tell the computer to do something and it does exactly that. And if it doesn't do this, then it means I screwed up and I get the feedback right away and I can iterate with this. And I've seen also the complete or extreme opposite with Well, when I manipulate something visual, then I see already what I'm getting and, and I can I can do very short increments and I already know what my customer is going to feel like etc. which is exactly the same feeling. Just a different level. Exactly. I really love that. not been that much of a visual talent. I really like that. Okay, so where did you go after this, this internship? or How did this story continue?
Pariss Athena Chandler 16:06 So after the internship, I got a job maybe three or four months later at a startup. And so I got an offer to be a software engineer at this startup. I was the fourth engineer on the team. And I, that's where I learned react. They taught me react, I was a react developer, I worked on their react app, and a whole life just turned to react pretty much. And at this job, I actually learned how much I didn't know. Because my boot camp it was for such a short amount of time, I didn't learn about things like testing. I didn't learn about things like I guess more in depth information on like, how can I explain? I don't know. It's like a whole array of things. That I learned that I didn't know. But um, no, yeah. But that's where I became a react developer. And they mentored me very well. They're very supportive. And they took time out of it took an hour of every day to sort of bring me into a room. And, you know, asked me, you know, where I was getting confused? Did I need help on something specific? Is there something specific I wanted to learn? You know, I felt like they took very good care of me. And I just learned what it means to be a developer on the job and prepared me for my next role. And you know what I do now? So that's where I made most of my mistakes. But I learned from all of them, you know,
Tim Bourguignon 19:10 Sounds like a plan. Yeah, I'm definitely gonna do this. I've been doing for a while. Okay, you said that you said this, this company took really some time to ramp you up to teach you the missing pieces of your, of your computer science phase and the childhood all this? Why do you think they took so much time to do this?
Pariss Athena Chandler 19:36 I think they understood. You know, they they understood they were taking in this junior developer. And they understood that I was coming from a boot camp, and they understood that I was hungry, like I wanted to learn. So they wanted me to be successful. And they believed in me, you know, they were very supportive of my goals. So they Yeah, they want Just take that time to make sure that I was succeeding in that. I, I knew that my team really, like had my back and they they wanted to see me grow. I just think they were very genuine good people. And I feel really lucky that that was my first day on the job experience with that specific team differently makes
Tim Bourguignon 20:23 sense. I wonder if if the the realize as well that they were getting diversity from the ghetto, you said you were the fourth engineer in this in this company, which is absolutely, absolutely great to already shoot for a completely different background, a completely different skill set a completely different kind of people, right at the very beginning of life of your startup. Yeah,
Pariss Athena Chandler 20:49 they are also the only woman on the team. So I think they really appreciated they appreciated it like a few things. I think the fact that I was a woman, they really wanted diversity on their team specifically. So they wanted a woman I was a woman of color. I was from a boot camp, you know, I was someone was just underrepresented in tech as a whole and in all three areas, and they took me in, they even coming from a boot camp, they believed in my skill set that I had the potential to grow and become this great engineer. You know, when they gave me their full effort, their their time and energy, and it was great. really sounds like it
Tim Bourguignon 21:31 sounds like it. I've really seen companies do this, that extensively, so kudos to them. So this was, um, company before GTI
Pariss Athena Chandler 21:44 Oh, yeah. GTI doesn't come in for a while.
Tim Bourguignon 21:46 Okay. So take us there.
Tim Bourguignon 23:10 my growth as a developer. That's good. But I guess it's now the right time to talk about like tech, tech Twitter. What is it? And then how did did emerge or good born?
Pariss Athena Chandler 23:20 Yeah, everything happened very unintentionally. I just had put out a tweet on Twitter asking what black Twitter in tech look like. And I put that tweet out just to see, you know, what other developers who look like me in the industry were doing, like, what their roles were. And I wasn't really expecting anything from that tweet. I wasn't expecting any sort of reply. I guess I wasn't looking for any type of growth in my follower account or anything like that. But the tweet ended up blowing up and developer not just developers, just black technologists from all over the world ended up replying And that's when I, you know, my eyes were opened and I was like, wow, there's an entire community that looks like me in the tech industry. And I didn't know that existed because it wasn't something I saw. You know, I'm, I work in Boston, it's a tech hub. And almost I've, I've went in toward so many of these companies, and I don't really see people who look like me and I go to lots of tech conferences and meetups. I, I barely see people who look like me. So when I got on Twitter, and I put out that tweet, that's when I was like, wow, we are here. It's just, you know, where we're scattered where we're, you know, we're in different fields of the industry. But we exist, we're here.
Tim Bourguignon 24:49 Yes, we definitely do. That's an interesting, interesting thing to realize that there is a community that you don't see, but which is definitely here. And how did you react When you when you when you discover this, and what did you do after that,
Pariss Athena Chandler 25:02 um, I didn't really think anything of it. I just felt like I had a tweet that went viral. So I think much of it, but then people started messaging me and telling me like, Hey, I think you did something, you know, got awarenesses community that a lot of us didn't know existed. And that's how the hashtags sort of formed. And we just went from being a hashtag to also have movement. And now we are this community with, you know, we have communication between one another we, we can find each other very easily. Now, we're easily accessible, because we have, you know, that's the blessing of the internet and it makes things easily accessible. So, yeah, we just formed this giant community. And it's just grown. It's grown ever since it started which was almost a year ago. our anniversary is Coming up next week.
Tim Bourguignon 26:01 Well, I had the feeling it was two or three years ago already, but there's only one year ago. Wow. Yeah. Cool. Cool. Cool. And if you if you had to, to, to summarize the movement into a very, very few words, what what words would you pick?
Pariss Athena Chandler 26:20 If I had to describe it in a few words to someone who asked what it was, I would say, awareness, exposure and opportunity to black technologists. I don't know if that's too many words, but that's how I would explain it.
Tim Bourguignon 26:33 awareness, exposure,
Pariss Athena Chandler 26:35 and definitely opportunity. That's I think that's probably the most important word.
Tim Bourguignon 26:40 Okay, what what, why that
Pariss Athena Chandler 26:41 opportunity because we're because we're underrepresented. So now that there's like, now that there's been this exposure to our opera to our community, and there's this awareness now that we're here, people can extend opportunity to us So that we get even more visibility, and we can get things like jobs we can, you know, get opportunities to be speakers and, or, you know, do things like podcasts, like there's just exposure to our community. So people are like, Okay, this community does exist, let me shine more light on them by giving them these certain opportunities. So, you know, even doing a podcast like this, I get to bring exposure to our community, doing any type of interview, I get to bring exposure to our community, you know, those, it's just really important opportunity piece two, because it allows
Tim Bourguignon 27:38 growth and where do you see the movement going in the next months or years?
Pariss Athena Chandler 27:44 I mean, so, I mean, I have goals and steps along the way. But right now, what I want is to just bring more opposites, smaller opportunities, so helping these black technologists get, you know, jobs and I get jobs that are in leadership positions, and doing things like speaking at conferences or, you know, connecting them with people who have certain information that they, you know, they need and would really value. I really want to be able to be that person who connects really just connects my community to opportunity extenders. And, um, you know, eventually I would want black tech pipeline to be lots of things. I want it to be a meetup, I want it to be an annual conference, I want it to, you know, be this giant resource for black technologists, and not just devout. This isn't just for engineers. This is for anyone in the industry designers, digital marketers, sales engineers, really anything. Anything that has to do with tech, I would want black tech pipelines to be their resource for almost anything.
Tim Bourguignon 28:59 That's an High School. That is a very nice goal. Yeah, I remember interviewing Sarah on it break. It was a few few months ago really, when she was talking about code newbie and how this whole emerged and this this kind of, of sounds a bit a bit similar, something that grew up a bit in spite of itself, but was very, very great thing. And then the founder got on top of it and and push for it and continue doing stuff. And, and for Simon's cases, it's now a company and that's doing doing fantastic and doing in conferences and stuff. I could see a similar similar path for you in this, though that would be awesome.
Pariss Athena Chandler 29:39 Right? Thank you. Yes, the goal.
Tim Bourguignon 29:42 Cool, cool. Cool. So just just to Jeeva if I understood well, the black tech Twitter is the hashtag, which was the discussion you started on Twitter. And the black tech pipeline is the the slack the the website and and the other activities, right?
Pariss Athena Chandler 29:57 Yeah. So it's sort of it's like More than it's more than what it presents itself to be right now, because there's a lot being worked on. But I do. My job right now is basically I act almost as a recruiter for a black tech pipeline. So, you know, a lot of companies work with me where they want to hire out of our community. And this, this also goes for conference organizers who want diverse speakers and things like that. And they come to me and ask if I have candidates who you know, would be willing to interview with them or partake in this opportunity. And I go into my community, I find the candidates who are you know, looking for these types of opportunities, and I extend it to them and they either get a job or they get to go speak at conferences, attend conferences, is really just a platform again of like opportunity and resources. Are you
Tim Bourguignon 30:55 the only one working at this concert at this metal level.
Pariss Athena Chandler 31:00 Yep, it's been me for a while I so it's a lot of work, but it's a lot of work that I can handle for now. I kind of learned, you know, I went through my own mistakes, and I learned from them and I, I found ways to make my job more easier. And so and so that's what I'm doing now. And I'm sure one day, it'll grow to a point where I'll need you know, extra hands on deck, but for now I've got it, do you see
Tim Bourguignon 31:27 yourself opening it to to somebody else?
Pariss Athena Chandler 31:30 Um, as in hiring an employee or someone taking over?
Tim Bourguignon 31:33 Um, either or,
Pariss Athena Chandler 31:35 I don't know, to be honest. I mean, hiring employees, yes. To help out and, you know, in their own unique and visual ways, yes. For someone else to take over. You know, maybe for certain things, you know, in certain areas that I'm not good at myself, then yes. But you know, I want to be heavily involved in in my community. It's just very important to me,
Tim Bourguignon 32:01 I can completely relate to this. I have the same, the same discussion with myself. Right now. I'm still I'm still the only one producing the podcast and with the, with the automation, I kind of keep my work down or my workload down to two very minimum. And I've had a few inquiries when people wanted to get involved and, and I was amazed by my gut reaction of, well, not not, not now. Not yet. I was pretty reluctant. And I, I wasn't, I couldn't put words on it. I was I still can't really say why it's so well, I'm working on it. That makes sense. No, it's a lot of work. It's an interesting process.
Pariss Athena Chandler 32:45 Right? I feel like in this process, there's a lot to learn kind of about everything but also a lot to learn about yourself. And you need to learn you know, what are you good at? What are you not good at? What are you willing to handle? What do you think would be better off in someone else's hands? How would you do that? Like, there's just so much that goes into it. It's not something that happens overnight. It's like a thought. It's literally a process. It takes time to like, you know, get down, get down to getting a little bit away from the
Tim Bourguignon 33:17 from the from the hashtag on the and the black tech pipeline. This seems to be a trend in what you described. When you want to learn or do something is just jump in both feet first, and and you do stuff and and you learn along the way. Is this something that just bam reading? Or is this something you'll see as well?
Pariss Athena Chandler 33:40 No, I think that's true. If you want to learn anything, you need to like just do it. Just try it. And if you fail you, you learn why you failed and how can you you know, what's the next approach and you might fail again and then you have to repeat the process, you know? But I feel like you don't, you don't ever truly learn unless you just jump into it,
Tim Bourguignon 34:05 I leave by the same philosophy. I have been guilty as charged of submitting the talk six months from now, knowing that I have nothing, and I have to learn it until then. And this has been the best motivation ever to learn something.
Pariss Athena Chandler 34:24 Right? Right. Same with me. I'm like, Alright, I'm going to talk about this topic. And since I know this conference is months away, I have so much time to learn it and then I do.
Tim Bourguignon 34:37 So, yeah, so what do you intend to learn the next six months? Um,
Pariss Athena Chandler 34:43 definitely, graph qL um, I definitely need to learn graph qL Oh, a lot about Gatsby and themes. I think for now that's what I need to learn. And then there's a lot of needs one about just business in general, running a business and the legal side of things and just at least high level, I need to learn these things.
Tim Bourguignon 35:05 And how are you gonna go about them and learn all this?
Pariss Athena Chandler 35:07 So what happens is I have to learn these things because opportunities are presented to me. And even if I don't know exactly what I'm getting into, I'll say I just say yes to every opportunity. And then I learned what this opportunity will consist of along the way. So yeah. And if it can't come to something like a conference where I'm like, I'm going to speak about this topic. That's just what I'm going to build something. I'm going to build something that uses this certain technology, so that I can build my talk around it. And that's just how it works with me. I just, I always say yes. And whatever happens happens, you learn along the way.
Tim Bourguignon 35:48 That is very courageous. That's really amazing. Well, congratulations. Thank you. Yeah. If
Pariss Athena Chandler 35:55 you could speak to the next cohort of boot campers. I'm not sure what the term is for that of the next students coming into into the boot camp you You did what Atrazine coder, what would be the the one advice you would give them, do not compare yourself to your classmates. everyone learns differently. everyone learns at a different rate. Some people are just naturally, they naturally understand something faster than you may. It doesn't mean this isn't your that you're not cut out for this, it doesn't mean that, you know, your future isn't going to be as bright as theirs. It doesn't mean anything. It's, you know, it just means you are two different people. And you'll get to where you need to be the way you you get there individually. You know, comparing yourself is just, it's just never a good idea. It just never turns out well and it's just it's not necessary. There's no point in comparing yourself to a human who is completely different from you Everyone is unique, and you need to just trust yourself and do things the way they work for you.
Tim Bourguignon 37:10 And it'll work out. I certainly hope so. And that's, that's very wise indeed. And I really hope they listen to to this and then follow this advice. Thank you very much. So Paris, um, if the listeners wanted to continue the discussion with you, where would the appropriate place to do this be?
Pariss Athena Chandler 37:29 Definitely on Twitter. You can follow me at Paris, Athena Paris with two s's and definitely follow black tech pipeline on Twitter, which is at bt pipeline, same handles for Instagram. And you can also go on to www dot black tech pipeline calm and just find out more about the community in how to reach me and the rest of us.
Tim Bourguignon 37:55 You've heard it listeners do this. Anything coming up in the next month that you want to plug in? Next month What is happening?
Pariss Athena Chandler 38:02 Not? Um, yeah, nothing just happy holiday.
Tim Bourguignon 38:05 Happy Holidays. developers will come after a holiday. So this one do. Um, but you will you will be in Amsterdam in April right?
Pariss Athena Chandler 38:16 Yep, I'll be in Amsterdam in April for react summit. I will be in Atlanta for node ATL in February. I'll be doing render ATL I'll be speaking there in May. These are all months out of order. I apologize. And in January, I'll be doing a talk for the CSS community on South means. So yeah, that's what I've got coming up next year.
Tim Bourguignon 38:43 Fantastic. Now people know where they can find you in real life and continue this chat with you over some coffee or or whichever beverage of their choice. That might be. So thank you very much. And this has been another episode of developer's journey. We will see each other next week, bye. All right, this is Tim from a different time and space with a few comments to make. First, get the most of these developer's journey by subscribing to the podcast with the app of your choice, and get the new episodes automagically, right when the air. The podcast is available on all major platforms. Then, visit our website to find the show notes with all the links mentioned by our guests, the advices they gave us, their book, references and so on. And while you're there, use the comments to continue the discussion with our guests or with me, or reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn. Then a big big THANK YOU to the generous Patreon donors that help me pay the hosting bills. If you have a few coins to spare, please consider a small monthly donation. Every pledge, however small counts. Finally, please do someone a favor, tell them about the show today and help them on their journey.