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DC Tech Stories Season 2 Sponsored by Optoro!

A giant thank you to Optoro for sponsoring the WHOLE Season 2 of DC Tech Stories. Optoro offers a superior end-to-end reverse logistics solution that helps retailers and brands manage, process and disposition returned and excess inventory, from first touch. Visit their website for careers, services, and stories! THANK YOU OPTORO!

Season 2

DC Tech Stories: LIVE SHOW!

All Episodes DC Tech Stories: LIVE SHOW! August 15, 2018 Jessica Bell How did/will you learn how to code: Computer Science Degree? Bootcamp? Online videos? There are many ways to learn tech, but what comes with all of those pathways? Bootcamps are expensive, but traditional degrees are even more so! Learning online can be daunting and overwhelming and leaves you with fundamental gaps. Traditional degrees get you that theoretical background, but often lack real world skills you'll need on day 1 of that new job.

So we invited one of each to talk about the pros, cons, and realities of their learning journeys into tech.

Chris Nguyen has a degree in Computer Science and Linguistics from the University of Maryland and Masters in Computer Science. He now works as a Senior developer for The Washington Post

Elizabeth Barth, Dan Rader, Jabali Williams, Mariesa Dale: Design Systems

According to InVision’s Comprehensive Guide to Design Systems, “A design system is a collection of reusable components, guided by clear standards, that can be assembled together to build any number of applications.” So what does that mean for us techies? How doe tech companies create, utilize, and enforce these systems? Frankly I had no idea - so I brought in the experts! Elizabeth Barth: Creative Director, ThreeSpot Dan Rader: Interactive Art Director ISL Jabali Williams: Director of User Experience at CHIEF Mariesa Dale: Manager, Product Design Pivotal Labs DC They walked me through how they think of design systems, some pros and cons, and how their companies put them into practice.

US Digital Service: Feeling PatrioTECH?

The US Digital Service was created by Obama in August of 2014, USDS is a “startup at the White House who’s focus is to bring together the best technology, design, and government talent.” USDS works on three critical national priorities: modernizing immigration, Veterans’ benefits, and Affectionally known as Obama’s nergs, today, they operate in Departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, and the Small Business Administration. I bring in 4 USDS’ers to talk about what it’s like working in tech in the Government (its both not as bad and way worse than you think it is!). Here is my interview with Jordan Kaspar, Kristen Tran, Robbie Holmes, and Aileen Chen. ** Note this episode was recorded in Feburary 2018 **

Kris Lovejoy: Self taught engineer to chief global security officer

I had the chance to sit down with Kristen Lovejoy, a cyber security expert and founder here in DC. She walks us through her career, what cyber security means to her, and what is most exciting and most terrifying about the field. Kristen served as IBM’s first chief global security officer and then went on to becoming a founder in the DC tech space. She is now CEO of BlueVector, a ‘network security [company] with state-of-the-art AI, sensing and responding to the world's most sophisticated threats in real time’. If you want to hear more about her thoughts on security and risk, check out her Forbes Article ‘10 Security Essentials for CIOs’

Leslie, Shiela, and Brian: Community, Startups, and the African Diaspora in the DMV

Today our episode features Leslie, Shiela, and Brian of IO Spaces. Leslie is the co founder and managing partner of I/O spacer in Silver Spring. He has an infectious personality, with a big smile, cameroonian accent, and never ending positivity, it’s not a hard stretch to picture him as a community organizer. He brought with him Shiela, who after a few moments in a room radiates passion and excitement - you can tell this woman knows her stuff. As one of Leslie’s first IO Spaces residents, she shares how she has watched the community grow and evolve. Brian also joined us to talk about his role as a teacher and mentor with the new IO Spaces programming which focuses on skills training. Wanna learn SEO? Now you know where to start! The group shares their thoughts on community building, the intersections of tech and culture, and why IO Spaces is different.

Sam Bays, Kasey Randall, & Vincent Wanga: The Three Musketeers of Design

Today I have for you a tale as old as time… the ‘I’m moving to DC not knowing anyone and finding my place’ story. We all know DC is a hub for people from ALL over the world (although let’s all be cognisant to not fall into the “no one is from DC trap”). With fantastic nightlife, a young vibrant population, lots of culture, and let’s face it, a ton of A type people who know how to network, moving to DC can be exhilarating and exciting to some and intimidating and terrible to others. I talk to 3 recent-ish transplants on how they found each other and made their homes in DC

Roselle Safran: The winding path

Roselle Safran describes herself on twitter as ‘mother, entrepreneur, cybersecurity specialist, world traveler’. After my friend Amelia Friedman (season 1 episode 9) told me about Roselle I knew I wanted to hear her story. A background in science, blind applying for a job in whatever cyber forensics is, traveling the world, and starting her own company, Roselle seemed like a wonder woman… how did she get there, what has helped her be so successful, does she sleep?? Turns out Roselle is a pretty down to earth lady with an overwhelming urge to learn and experience. It always gives me joy to listen to how normal people get to extraordinary places... maybe that means we are all superwomen!

Rica Rosario, Dian Holton, Shannon Turner: It is time for a nap?

Today we are going to talk about Burnout, specifically for community organizers and activists in tech. Most of us know that working in technology can be an exhausting job from keeping up with the latest trends, tools, and frameworks to the incessant client who wants ONE LAST THING before the deployment. And for the people who help to run meetup groups, organize events and coordinate conferences, sometimes it can feel like the work never ends! I brought in three of the most busy and accomplished organizers in DC:

Janice Omadeke: Are you my Mentor?

Janice Omadeke is the founder and CEO of The Mentor Method, a social enterprise that provides curated mentor matches, connecting the next generation of tech leaders with change-making mentors at the top of their game. As a DMV native Janice knows the District - she shares her thoughts on tech, diversity, and leadership. ​

Jess Szmajda: Finding your voice

Jess Szmajda is the CTO of Optoro, the creator of the DC Tech Slack, and the organizer of the Joy of Programming meetup. She has a long history in tech and talks to us about how her life has changed from tech geek to CTO!

Season 1

Vinetta Project: #LadyBoss

The Vinetta Project supports female founders in tech by creating unparalleled access to experts, advisors, funding sources, and a community of peers. We bring together founders, funders, and industry influencers to create a dynamic, action-oriented ecosystem. The Vinetta Project launched in DC two years ago. In that time, we have built a powerful network of 800+ tech industry influencers, worked with nearly 200 founders, and engaged over 100 investors. Contact Amelia at for more info!

Monica Kang: We're all creatives

Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox®, is rethinking creativity and redefining innovation in the workplace. As a creative educator, her deepest satisfactions come from seeing individuals’ untapped potentials and talents being unlocked with creativity. She profoundly believes that creativity is not merely an ideation tool, but a very way of living. And at InnovatorsBox®, the only creative education firm that teaches creativity in a tangible, practical and relatable way, Monica empowers leaders by helping them understand, embrace and practice creativity in their daily routines, regardless of their industries or job titles. This is why, over 90% of participants have expressed that taking part in her programs have changed their lives.

Woman Who Code DC: Wait, How Many Events?!

Women Who Code is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers by creating a global, connected community of women in technology. The organization tripled in 2013 and has grown to be one of the largest communities of women engineers in the world.

Code for DC: Serving the City

Code for DC is a Code for America Brigade located here in Washington, DC. Founded in 2012, we are a a non-partisan, non-political group of volunteer civic hackers working together to solve local issues and help people engage with the city. We host twice-monthly hacknights and other events to gather, discuss, and get stuff done. We're looking to bring people with all different skill sets together to maximize our potential. Civic hackers aren't just developers—they're journalists, lawyers, designers, and interested citizens in general. The more community participation, the better.

Elizabeth Lindsey: School's in Session

Byte Back transforms lives by training unemployed and underemployed adults with limited access to technology and helping them move into living-wage careers that use technology. It's one of the only organizations in the country providing all levels of tech training for free to low-tech communities. Get involved at or by calling (202) 529-3395.

Kate Rabinowitz: Telling Stories with Data

Rabinowitz is the founder of DataLensDC, where she analyzes and visualizes data to tell stories about the District. She works with clients to bring data to life through data science and visualization. Kate serves as co-captain of Code for DC, a volunteer-based civic hacking group, and co-organizer of Tech Lady Hackathon, an event series for women in DC tech.

Monica Laufer: Politics and Code

Monica joined the Engine team as the Program Manager for Government Affairs in October 2016. In her role, Monica leads outreach in Washington DC and helps to engage and build Engine’s network around the country. Before coming to Engine, Monica was a policy analyst at the Alliance for Health Reform, a health policy non-profit started by Senator Rockefeller (D-WV), and a fundraiser at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). Email her at!

Black Code Collective: Building software and community

From The Organizers: "We are black software developers creating a welcoming community to grow our skills, share knowledge and help each other progress through our careers. Whether you're just starting out, or you're well along in your career, join us." Email them at!

Brian Jacobs: Digital Storytelling

Brian T. Jacobs is a Senior Graphics Editor who designs and develops interactive maps and graphics for National Geographic Magazine. Brian uses visualization and data processing tools to create and envision custom editorial experiences for the web. He was previously a Knight-Mozilla fellow at ProPublica, where he worked on "Losing Ground", an interactive story about the slow-motion environmental catastrophe taking place in southeast Louisiana.

Joy Whitt: Hackathons, Python, and Justice

Joy Whitt is a Program Analyst at the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), where she works on projects and programs utilizing DC Government’s open data. In 2015, she transitioned into a career in tech while learning to code through organizations committed to teaching coding and programming to people of color and women in DC.