Black women’s perspectives on the demanding world of web dev

One of the most rewarding parts of my newfound career in web development comes from the relationships I didn’t even know I had. Being a part of the Wellesley network on Facebook — and it is quite the extensive network — connected me with tons of super-intelligent, motivated women of all backgrounds that I never had the confidence (or chance, giving myself somecredit) to meet while on campus.

Today, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sefina Adasi Lucki, who also graduated in 2007 (although we had never met in person). She emailed me from the Contact page that I am now so glad I thought to throw up there, and it turned out we had a very similar experience.

Hi Nicole, I am Wellesley ’07 and saw your post on the Wellesley in the Workplace page (by the way, thank you for starting such a great resource). I just started my own web design business on my 30th birthday in March. Prior to that I taught Spanish and tech in NYC (Spanish and Econ major). My father is a computer scientist and I was raised in the tech world but I was pretty discouraged at Wellesley after an Intro to CS class didn’t go as planned; I didn’t pursue it as a career. I teach Spanish online now and decided to launch my business to hopefully transition over eventually. I initially was going try to apply to coding academies but I’m a mama of two small kids so I didn’t have the time or dinero to do it right away. I had an epiphany this spring that I should just jump right in and start designing sites. I only started in March but I’ve had seven clients so far, mostly friends and contacts of friends. Anyway, I’d love to chat with you about things as it seems we are in a similar stage! Best, Sefi

Sefi and I chatted for a bit on Facebook, and we agreed to have a call this afternoon. I don’t think I’ve felt so revitalized after speaking with a peer in quite a while! Conversation flowed naturally, leading us over a wide variety of topics, and a lot of valuable insight into the real experience of Getting This Thing Going.

As it turns out, Sefi is a freelance front-end web developer, and has her own unique experience growing her skills. By Sefi’s own words, she began learning front-end web development as an interest of hers, and gained most of her knowledge and confidence through tackling client requests she had no idea how to fulfill. She agreed it is quite important to value all of her services, such as mobile responsiveness and SEO.

As a mother of two (incredibly beautiful) babies, her time is limited as it is, and monetizing on services that require her special skill sets and valuable time is extremely important.

Sefina Adasi Lucki ‘07, Front-End Web Developer

Out the gate, we spoke freely about our feelings regarding Wellesley’s Computer Science major at the time we attended, and how we felt largely discouraged from a passion we had held due to lack of a variety of reasons. I am curious to see if this has been a story of other students of color (so far, the feedback received has been somewhat dismal; the good news is that the curriculum seems to have improved to adopt more relevant technologies and marketable skills.)

Women of color, and young Black women in particular get mixed messages from our communities, including incredulity, shaming, or outright disapproval, for pursuing what can be considered largely “useless” or non-traditional careers in technology.

The difference is made in the personal connection between mentor and mentee, behind closed doors of office hours, and openly via additional support and encouragement in the classroom. These small additions to the way we teach a woman of color yield a far greater reward: every time an institution of higher education truly invests in cultivating a woman of color in technology, an angel of color gets its wings.

Most prominent to me from our discussion was our mutual agreement that confidence in Black women is lacking, and we need to do better. Our conversation reminded me of a quote I had seen previously, encouraging women to be “as confident as a mediocre white man.” If we employed even half the entitlement to positive, good things as our white male counterparts did, I can’t imagine the difference it would make in our outcomes.

Every time an institution of higher education truly invests in cultivating a woman of color in technology, an angel of color gets its wings.

Web development in particular is not merely a white man’s tech industry. It is a people’s industry, and web development is an artform. Problem solving is an artform. And these skill sets that you pick up while learning the ins and outs of what makes literally everything that pops up on your web browser are ultimately collateral, and we need to sell ourselves as artists, problem solvers, and creators.

As women, this should come naturally to us, as we fill all of these roles in our daily lives.

We are artists — intrinsically adept at making things beautiful, for ourselves and for others.

We are problem solvers, mediating the chaos around us.

And we are creators, bringing new life into the world.

Why is it that the confidence to utilize these traits in order to better our financial situation and have a fulfilling career doesn’t flow through us as it does our male counterparts? Sefi and I remain baffled, and committed to encouraging women, and Black women in particular, to own this.

As our conversation wound down, Sefi told me that she felt more inspired and motivated than ever to pursue her passion and expand her skills, because she never wants her daughters to feel like they can’t do something. Now knowing you, Sefi I don’t believe that will ever be an issue.

You can view Sefi’s work and contact her directly at www.sefinalucki.com. If you have feedback, please feel free to keep the conversation going in the comments.