Making An Impact, Engineering Change

The Bridge Foundry community is filled with passionate change agents.

Not too long from when Sarah Allen and I met, she told me the story of Stone Soup. In this story, a group of people combine forces to make something happen in order to help themselves and each other. As one having organized ​some ​RailsBridge workshops, I can attest to the incredible forces that bring all of the volunteers together (teachers and assistants, organizers, donors, advocates) to make not only workshops happen but to keep the ​RailsBridge ​soup pot full. ​Those that have donated their time and energy into any Bridge Foundry effort, let’s call them ​*Bridgers,​​ ​keep connections ​and pipelines ​open​ to​ build and cultivate​ this network.

Each *Bridge contributor is doing what it takes to make computer language literacy more accessible. RailsBridge contributor Michelle Glauser is one of them. From being a RailsBridge student to having moved forward into a career as a Full Stack Web Developer, Michelle is doing her part to put technology in front of as many faces as possible.

Currently, Michelle is helping spearhead the Indiegogo Campaign to get #ILookLikeAnEngineer big and bold on a billboard. We caught up with Michelle and she gave us a great insight on her journey and why she is passionate about this cause.

Q: Let’s start with an introduction, tell us a little about yourself and your *Bridge connection.

Hi, I’m Michelle Glauser, a full-stack web developer at Zana.io and self-proclaimed “inviter of women to tech.” I first found out about RailsBridge when I was googling “how to build websites.” Since I was living in San Francisco, I was excited to see some workshops coming up and joined one at GitHub. I attended several workshops after that and after I did Hackbright Academy, I began to gather all sorts of learning-to-code resources in a spreadsheet that I’ve curated ever since. When I moved to Shanghai for nine months, I organized the first RailsBridge workshop in mainland China.

Q: What made you get into technology?

I wrote my Master’s thesis on autobiographical acts on the internet, so I was very interested in how we use technology to tell our stories. I was hoping to get into a PhD program to become a professor of digital humanities, but when that didn’t pan out, I was working at a small startup in San Francisco. I was supposed to post social media updates about our product, but I didn’t feel like I was getting new things fast enough. I started wishing I could just build stuff myself and that’s how I ended up googling “how to build websites.” The interesting thing is that looking back on my life, I’d always been interested in computers and technology (I’d been blogging since 2003, for example, and I was the only member of my family who loved to play around with DOS), but I’d just never known what the options were for careers and had never known what I could learn.

Q: Why is #ILookLikeAnEngineer important to you?

Since joining tech, I’ve felt really passionate about women-in-tech issues, and my husband works at OneLogin with Isis, so when Isis started getting a lot of attention for the OneLogin ads, my husband told me about it and I ended up connecting with Isis. During our conversation, Isis thought of the hashtag and I thought of the billboard and we’ve been working together with many others since to funnel all that attention into positive actions.

This movement is important to me because I’ve also been assumed to be a recruiter or non-technical just because I’m the only woman in the room. That’s a really awful feeling, knowing that an assumption was made about you just because you don’t fit the stereotypes. Every underrepresented engineer I know who’s in tech has dealt with some kind of discrimination (the stories told at our event were awful yet inspiring), and I’d like to not only create awareness and normalize non-stereotypical engineers, but also to inspire people who may not have thought of being an engineer before seeing someone who looks like them rocking it.

Q: You are a connector, with lots of concurrent projects going. I know many of us would like to do more with our time. Can you give us a few tips on time management? How do you choose the thing/action/cause/movement/craft/fun that you want to spend your time on?

I’m afraid I don’t actually manage my time very well. I get my hands into too many things and have to cut back. Basically when I feel passionate about something, I just naturally get this “make it happen” attitude that can get me pretty far, but I usually end up crashing multiple times because it’s just a lot of expended energy. I’ve definitely learned that I’ll want to work more on the things I’m more passionate about, but I need to delegate, focus on individual tasks, schedule meetings or some things will never get done, and take breaks to re-charge. For me, that means taking walks in the park, being around dogs, reading books, and just spending time away from the computer with my husband.

Q: Technology is prevalent in our lives, in what way do you think that we can help people expand their relationship with technology? Like, from consumer to builder?

I honestly believe that everyone should learn to code, even a little bit, because if people had a better idea of what’s possible, we could see technology expand in ways we haven’t thought of yet.

Q: What is the status of the billboard campaign and how can we help? >Our campaign to get an #ILookLikeAnEngineer billboard (and possibly some online ads as well) is about $15,000 short right now. We’ve been working on getting some corporate sponsors (who will get their logos on the ad), but since this has been such a grassroots movement, the time each member of the organizing committee can spend on that is limited—we all have full-time day jobs. Any help from the community that relates to #ILookLikeAnEngineer or supports the movement would be greatly appreciated.

I can’t say enough how amazing it has been to connect with so many people who have had similar experiences, to see what we’ve accomplished in such a short time, and to feel inspired to do something to encourage more inclusion and understanding in tech and beyond.

​It is comforting and humbling to know that to be a part of the larger Bridge Foundry community is to be shoulder to shoulder with caring world citizens that are passionate about life and the advancement of humanity. We thrive at watching the people around us live their truth and honesty.

Passion is electric. It is contagious. And it can be magnified.​ ​We can positively affect our environment with what we radiate out to it. #ILookLikeAnEngineer - this one idea and one focal point, is its own stone soup. In true *Bridge fashion, let us bring what we can to the table - to make this billboard happen - and let us feed each other with the energy that can catapult more positive ideas into the light.

By Isa Herico, contributor