Meet a true resident tech rock star! An interview with #CodingIcon Vicky Twomey-Lee on motivation, career path, female tech talks and more

Imagine meeting a nice person who does not know you or your name. How would you describe yourself with one sentence only? Who are you?

My name is Vicky Twomey-Lee. I’m a coder, tech event organizer advocating diversity in tech in my free time.

Now imagine the person you meet is a young girl – would this one sentence change and how?

I would change it slightly to say I want to say how it’s not that scary to work in the tech - My name is Vicky Twomey-Lee, and I enjoy writing code and meeting people and finding more people like myself.

What is your current position at work?

I work part-time at an early-stage startup providing a platform for tech event organizers like myself. My role is Community Lead (aka Resident Tech Mystic 🦄)

What has helped you the most in the years back? What characteristic feature of yours has been of greatest help to you in your experience so far?

The tech community has helped me the most and has gotten me to where I am right now with so many atypical opportunities that you don’t hear about when you are in school. And my characteristic feature would be to try and keep humble, and an open mind in this drastic changing world of tech.

Have you had any your role models or mentors to help you our along the way?

There’s a fair number of amazing people who have helped me along the way including my parents, my husband & Pythonista (Michael Twomey), my partner in crime (Andrea Magnorsky, co-founder of Coding Grace and GameCraft), earliest female geek role model I encountered (Martha Rotter), someone who got me out of a spiraling rut at a conference by listening to me (Anne Ravanona, Global Invest Her), always there giving me a shout out and support of my events (Ann O’Dea, Silicon Republic). And there’s so many more I haven’t included.

What is your personal mission? What leads you forward and nourishes your motivation?

My personal mission is to try and keep learning as well as giving back to the community. My motivation, for example, if it wasn’t for the community, I wouldn’t have offered a job to be curator and researcher on an exhibition all about games at the fantastic Science Gallery Dublin. I also wouldn’t have connected with so many more designers, creatives, and indie game devs and studios. Via the Irish tech community, I wouldn’t have come across opportunities to collab with other amazing organizations and hear what they are up to, and through all this, I hope this will also bring people together and open doors for them also. It may not happen right away, but years down the line, a surprise job offer or another opportunity that is completely brand new might open up, for example, I’m still flabbergasted from last year because I was awarded the Community Spirit Award from the Python Software Community, and EuroPython Society’s Fellow Award; both were in recognition of my community work in the Python community since 2005. I want to see others receiving these or similar awards, those who work tirelessly in the background helping others.

What was your professional dream as a child? What did you want to become when you grow up?

A graphic designer was my dream, working in my own office in a high rise building in Hong Kong.

What is the most difficult part of being a female in technology?

Feeling that you are the only one whenever you go to a tech event or conference, and there’s no-one like you to talk to. And I don’t mean girly talk, I don’t really do that, I meant talking tech, being geeky and dorky with others like me. I only really became comfortable being female and queer in the last 10 years or so, mainly hiding as “an ally”, and when I started to promote queer in tech events, and met others like myself, it is a bit easier now.

What have you discovered about yourself while working in technology?

I get really excited about shiny new things, and I’m still surprised how much longer things take to code something that I’m happy with, even after so many years.

Any last pieces of advice you would like to share with our audience? Is there anything you have wanted us to ask you but we didn’t?

I didn’t take the usual route to where I am, it’s ok to take risks. I wanted to become a graphic designer when I was young, but couldn’t communicate it to my Chinese parents as my Cantonese was pretty rough, and ended up going into Computer Science. I experimented with graphics along the way, I was lucky to be there when internet just began, and lucky to have a dad to let me experiment with tech (hardware and software). You will get to do your dream job eventually, for me, it’s slightly different. I create my own graphics for all my events, workshops, YouTube videos, social media, website, so on. I also can produce videos and podcasts. Go out there, meet people (online or off) at events and conferences, it will open doors for amazing opportunities you never thought of.

In essence, remember who you are, keep learning and acquire skills outside of what you do for work/study, take risks and help others.

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