The Grassroots Developer Community
Hi, I’m Vicky Twomey-Lee. People who are familiar with me know that I wear many hats. Most of those in the tech community will know me from my involvement with Python Ireland over the last 10 years as well as organising game jams and more recently promoting diversity in tech by running workshops with my not-for-profit organisation Coding Grace.
I first met Patrick, Managing Director of Dogpatch Labs, over a year ago when I was introduced to him by my husband who worked at Udemy when they were based in Dogpatch Labs. We chatted about my role in the tech community and he quickly proposed that I join the Dogpatch team as The Vaults, a new state-of-the-art events space, was about to open and he was keen to provide space for the tech community to hold meetups and workshops. Coming on board as a Tech Development Liaison & Events Coordinator was a perfect opportunity for me as Dogpatch’s vision of being a friendly and inclusive support to tech culture in Ireland relates a lot to what I have done voluntarily over the years.
My initial involvement with diversity in tech came when I was invited to a brainstorming session in 2012 with (mostly) female software devs/engineers to discuss the lack of girls in tech coding clubs. As a result of this meeting we founded Coding Grace; female-friendly, language-agnostic tech workshops for anyone interested in learning about coding. We ran our first workshop in May 2013, and since then we’ve organised and mentored over 60 workshops in Dublin. My current goal is to scale this model so that we can provide workshops to people nationwide. This ambition wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing work of volunteers, mentors and industry professionals who have shared with us their time, knowledge and skills.
One of Dogpatch’s missions is to be at the centre of the tech ecosystem in Ireland, and to support the spirit of collaboration across the community. Since joining, my role has been to reach out to communities looking for space so that they can meet up, learn and help foster community in their respective areas. With Dogpatch’s newly opened dedicated events space, The Vaults, there was always going to be a lot of enquiries and one of the challenges I faced was figuring out the best processes required for hosting big meetups. Hosting a successful meetup means not just being duty manager, you also have to look after the needs of the organiser and make sure attendees are well fed and watered – in this case pizza and beer! Figuring out logistic and tech requirements, identifying user groups we want to support, and answering general enquiries are just a few of the many day-to-day tasks of being an events coordinator.
Since I’ve started working with Dogpatch, we’ve hosted 60 events, supported 30 community groups and seen 3,000 event attendees come through the doors of The Vaults. Since I have a long history in the tech community running events, and partnering with various user groups, a lot of the people who have attended are familiar to me. The last few years I’ve been running events during International Women’s Day, and this year I was involved in the first ever ‘Diversity Week @ Dogpatch Labs’ with tech-events such as Diversity in Games where a variety of games industry professionals(who happen to be female) shared their knowledge; a Mini-Data conference with workshops; and multiple talks about fostering diversity within organisations from our partners and residents including Helen Tynan Head of People Operations at Google in Ireland, and speakers from Ulster Bank, Twilio and Pivotal Labs.
Receiving so much positive feedback from organisers and guests alike means a whole lot to me as it means that what I’m doing really benefits the community. By having been both an organiser and an attendee I now understand what’s required in making an event successful. Working with Liz and Jenny as part of the Dogpatch Events Team, and as part of the Dogpatch Team as a whole, has been a great experience, and that includes the rest of the Dogpatch Labs team. Without them all, we wouldn’t have the well-oiled event management machine that we’ve worked so hard to build since I started working here 4 months ago.
Overall, it’s amazing to see so many technical meetups in Ireland (around 150 in Dublin at most recent count, and another 100 across the country), and so much enthusiasm which feeds into a vibrant community. With over ten years of being involved in the tech community, I have met so many people who have become my friends and introduced me to other amazing people. I’m now able to stand up and speak in front of over 300 people, and mentor people in workshops, amongst other things, which I never thought I would be able to do!