Sandra Persing, Senior Developer Relationship Manager for Events and Engagement at Mozilla and a leader in Seattle’s Women Who Code organization on diversity in engineering and the future of the tech industry.
What ultimately led you to work with Mozilla and Women Who Code?
[At Mozilla,] my responsibilities include reviewing and investing in sponsorship opportunities for our Tech Evangelism team and to produce our company’s global web developer conferences. I also lead the Seattle chapter of Women Who Code as the co-director, working with a core team of 7 volunteers and inspiring 2k local members. I can proudly claim to have a very literal definition of a liberal arts background. I studied English literature and psychology for my BA, spent years abroad as a Fulbright Scholar studying language diaspora, and earned my MBA in management consulting. On the side, I worked in luxury hospitality management and even founded my own technical startup in the wellness industry. Before my current positions at Mozilla and Women Who Code, I spent significant time producing and advising technical events, mostly in the form of hackathons. In every step of my journey, I followed my passion to fix things – identify a need and find or create solutions. And this is what the tech industry needs. People passionate about facing problems head on, and to use all of their intelligence, experience and connections to find the best solutions.
Why should Americans care about supporting and nurturing a diverse engineering community? How does it benefit the collective for there to be more women working in technology and engineering related fields?
Americans must support and nurture people to come in and thrive in the engineering community who are from diverse backgrounds – whether that’s the person’s gender, race, sexuality, education, language. Solutions do not arise from vacuums. The problems in the engineering world are becoming highly complex and demand answers that can be generated through a system of collaboration.
You recently mentored on behalf of Women Who Code at a hackathon for women in tech students at Facebook’s Seattle offices. What surprised you about that event and why would you encourage companies to look for similar opportunities to host a hackathon?
The biggest surprise from mentoring at the Facebook hackathon was my own renewed sense of faith and enthusiasm for the event. I started in the hackathon world and after a few years became disillusioned with the fixed process and the large cash payouts. At the Facebook event, there was diversity with not just gender but talent and a real drive towards emphasizing teamwork to build awesome products. I felt my faith renewed in supporting events that allow ideas to be tested. I actively encourage and advise companies now to go forth and plan hacks to get innovation and passion flowing within their teams!