Software Development
Events / Women in tech / Year in review

For LeeAnn Kinney, 2016 was a year full of organizing inclusive tech events

The Ela Conf cofounder and Girl Develop It Philly organizer recaps her 2016.

LeeAnn Kinney speaks at women's leadership conference Ela, which she cofounded. (Courtesy photo)

As I look back on 2016 and some of my accomplishments and experiences, the ones that seem to be the most meaningful are all the tech events I had the opportunity to help organize and plan. This has been the year of rediscovering how much enjoyment I get from planning events and more specifically events that enable and invite more women and beginners to get into tech.
If you count parties as event planning, my background goes as far back as theme parties in my early 20s, the most notable being the Arrested Development one I threw on a boat. Back in 2014, when I had the opportunity to join the Girl Develop It (GDI) Philly team as an event coordinator, it was a match made in heaven for me: tech + event planning. I started out organizing our monthly Code & Coffee study groups and happy hours and other social events. Soon after, I began to see a void in opportunities for folks that might not be comfortable meeting in a bar setting, who might not have that extra time or energy after work or members who had joined our Meetup group but weren’t quite ready to jump into taking a class. Noticing this led me to start planning our monthly Rise & Shine, meetups at a coffee shop in a different neighborhood every month. It was that one day a month when I pretended I was a morning person to meet other rad members of our community, some who were new to the area and others that were looking to start taking classes to make a career change.

Moving into the chapter leader position last year and growing our team of organizers has allowed me to take more of a backseat, giving a new team the chance to bring in some new, fresh ideas.
Organizing with GDI led me to other opportunities, like helping coordinate workshops at the 2015 Women in Tech Summit and joining the LadyHacks planning team for the past two years. LadyHacks, a women-focused hackathon, was actually my gateway into the Philly tech scene, where I met other women that are still close friends and colleagues.
It was a couple of these events I had helped organize that introduced me to Joni Trythall who later approached me with a crazy idea to start a conference with a mission to help adult women gain the confidence to become leaders, speakers and teachers in the tech industry. We called it Ela Conf. Returning for our second, successful year in November was definitely one of my highlights of this past year. Reading the feedback and blog posts that came out of this year’s event has solidified why I do this and why there is such a need for inclusive, welcoming tech events and conferences.

Another event highlight of my year was assisting GDI on a national level, heading out to Seattle in December to help facilitate GDI Hackathon West in conjunction with GDI Hackathon East, which took place in Wilmington. The events were similar to LadyHacks: an event geared towards introducing beginners to a hackathon in a non-competitive, beginner-friendly environment.
There is nothing more fulfilling than finding out that someone tried something new or took a new step toward a new career after or because one of these events. Looking back on these events reminds me of the need for and why it’s so important for me to be involved with organizations like GDI, events like LadyHacks and Ela Conf. Looking back on 2016 has gotten me excited and energized for planning more community driven events in 2017.

Companies: Girl Develop It

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