(Photo by Flickr user Travis Wise, used under a Creative Commons license)
“I’m young, scrappy and hungry.”
These are the looping lyrics to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “One Shot,” a song from the mega-hit Broadway production “Hamilton.”
To Lizzie Siegle, it’s one of the verses from the musical that can help her explain what she feels is the important difference between diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
“Diversity and Inclusion in Tech Through a Hamilton Lens” is the title of the talk that Siegle, a junior computer science major and English minor at Bryn Mawr College, will be giving this Saturday, Dec. 10, at AlterConf in New York City.
AlterConf, a global traveling conference series, provides safe spaces for marginalized people in the tech and gaming industries, and their supporters, to give talks and presentations that promote a more inclusive future. Past AlterConfs in NYC and Washington, D.C. have featured folks we’ve covered before for their efforts in this cause: Catt Small, the cofounder of the Brooklyn Gamery who just developed a neat game about your friends breaking up, gave a talk on introducing more women game developers. Baltimore’s Charlotte James, communication director for Code in the Schools, talked about how the lack of diversity can’t just be fixed with money.
Using “Hamilton” as a foundation for talking about diversity and inclusion is a perfect fit. The musical itself is setting an example by featuring a diverse cast, a cast that has even voiced its concerns publicly to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
“Especially with current events, this musical is more relevant and relatable than ever,” Siegle wrote in an email. Siegle also plays tennis for Bryn Mawr in addition to being a TA for a computer science course. “At this moment especially, [AlterConf’s] values and goals are so important to not just me and the tech industry, but to the U.S.”
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Siegle came to Bryn Mawr from San Mateo, Calif., where she had her fair share of experience in the tech community as a developer evangelist intern at PubNub, a San Francisco-based company focused on APIs for developers building mobile, web and IoT applications. It was there where she started to build iOS, web and Android apps showcasing their SDKs and even writing tutorials on how to build them.
But it wasn’t Silicon Valley that attracted her toward technology — it was more the idea of constantly learning, building things that would help people and teaching others.
“Seeing the impact and the reach things I build could have on people … that really hooked me,” Siegle said. “It’s pretty neat to know that if you have an idea, you can build it.”
And she’s even delved into the startup world with Edify101, a web service she made two summers ago that matched East Palo Alto students she taught Algebra to with mentors. She only ended up helping one student but is still keeping in touch with his family to provide him with programming-related resources and college prep.
“Not everyone in Silicon Valley has access to tech, so this was my first exposure to the wealth gap and tech inclusion in the area,” said Siegle, who came to Bryn Mawr to become a middle school math teacher, writer and sports coach.
All this exposure, and the fact that she is a “multiracial and racially ambiguous young woman,” has pushed her even more toward the path of becoming a tech evangelist for diverse communities. But she’s heard firsthand how diversity in tech companies alone doesn’t provide the kind of healthy environment for all voices to be heard. The difference between an inclusive company and diverse company was obvious to her when she was one of the few women and people of color at such a workplace.
So Siegle is taking it upon herself to live out those second set of lyrics — “And I’m not throwing away my shot.” — as she works toward becoming an evangelist for not just developer tools, like she’ll be doing for Twilio next summer, but for a diverse and inclusive tech culture.
“I never ONCE felt out of place,” Siegle said. “I received mentorship and friendship across departments, one-on-ones with executives and so much time improving my code. Everyone made me feel supported, empowered, welcomed and valued. That’s inclusion — the creation and keeping of a CULTURE that allows everyone to feel comfortable and perform the best they can. It’s not about PC culture or special treatment, it’s about fostering spaces of growth and energy.”
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