How I Got Here: Software engineer Dawn Wages went from building websites in high school to Wharton

As a North Carolina high school student, software engineer, community organizer, and 2021 RealLIST Engineers honored Dawn wages knew she wanted to have the most attractive My space profile. Learning to code just made sure that happens.

“I would decorate my profile and correct my friends’ profiles,” she said. Technically during his recent Soft WADA. “There was also a student club for hip-hop journalism and I made their website for them.”

Wages enjoyed learning more about coding during this time, but felt she wasn’t advanced enough even in high school. When she learned Adobe Dreamweaver from a classmate to find out she couldn’t afford the program, it was deflating.

As an undergraduate student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wages earned a degree in business administration and hadn’t thought about technology or web development since she was a high school student. After graduating from college, she worked in finance for years before joining the Philly Python User Group in 2015 and fall in love with technology again. When DjangoCon was welcomed to Philadelphia in 2016, she never looked back.

Today, wages are a Wharton School research developer, community organizer of tech meetup groups and works to support black engineers in their growth. During a recent Slack AMA, she talked about her career, her community service work, and how her work as a technologist connects to who she is as a person. Check out the answers below.

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What interests you the most in your current work as a software engineer and researcher?

I love the process, the analysis, understanding the systems and replicating successful models in other ways. of which I am most proud We are currently working on the first Anti-Racism Ethical Source License and joined the cohort of other amazing ethical licenses with While simultaneously working on the license, we are also creating a Anti-Racism Software Development Kit. We are still in the planning stages, but we hope to adopt some of the principles of the Python improvement proposal process used by the Python Software Foundation for the maintenance and growth of our software development kit.

We’ve also seen cooperative and community models of governance, and ways to contribute subject matter expertise that’s still fun and close to the command line – tools built with React, Python, Wagtail CMS and Django.

What prompted your work on an anti-racist ethical source license and what are its implications?

Following the controversy with GitHub having a government contract with ICE Detention Centers, GitHub’s Operational Support System (OSS) products were used to support this contract. There has been a huge social media uproar about the power of developers with their intellectual property in Open Code.

Currently, there is no recourse method to limit someone’s use of the code for ethical reasons. the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) speak Open Source Initiative and the Free Software Foundation (two organizations that have become the arbiters of what OSS is) only limits based on how the code is used to make money – in the context of capitalism. It’s an important lens, but one that’s leading to a wave of libertarian tech bros who want “opinions” out of their code, while still maintaining an opinion frame. Irony.

the Organization for an ethical source just established itself internationally last year in Geneva. It has also released its Hippocratic License 3.0 which is modular and can add certain ethical components as per the user’s wishes. It is the most enforceable version of an ethical license that exists thanks to Coraline Ehmke and the Corporate Responsibility Lab.

It’s important to me that as engineers we have the power to build a world we want to live in. I believe in open code and I believe in ethics.

Dawn wages. (Picture via Twitter)

Which programming languages ​​do you prefer to use in your work?

I switched to Python and haven’t touched PHP since. JavaScript remains a language with absolute sticking power, I think, because it gives you 15 different ways to do one thing. During the consultation, I really appreciated Gatsby—a Static Site Builder with a twist – written in React. It produces high performing web applications with low overhead and very good development experience. The only concern I have with Gatsby is that there’s a lot of “magic” inside. In order to abstract away the complexity, it hides how it handles the things that are shown to you in Django.

Wagtail is another one of my favorite frameworks and tools and it’s hard to beat. Many websites use or could use strong CMS functionality. What comes with Django out of the box we can also take for granted in Wagtail but with more “syntactic sugar” and nice user features [like] the administrator function!

I can build a website with vanilla Javascript, HTML, CSS and Python and produce a very modern and useful experience that the company can update itself. I could explain in more detail why I love using Wagtail and being part of the Wagtail Core team. The people, Torchbox, who made Wagtail, the developer experience, the community, cool features like snippets, the robust third-party package library are all reasons why I love Wagtail.

As for apps that I use a lot, I use Linux operating system, Pycharm, Trello, a pad of paper and colored pens.

What was the difference between your workflow at an enterprise technology company like your former employer Lenovo and the work you do today at an educational institution?

We encounter incredible intellectual rigor here at Wharton, but we recognize work-life balance [and] how we work best when supported and our goal is to provide the best research services to our faculty – especially in my department as a research staff support service.

At Lenovo, we were rough and tumble. I worked for the online sales organization and during my tenure there, we captured a lot of market share in a very saturated consumer electronics market. We hastened to sell these units. As a project manager, we had programs and partnerships [using] tons of time and energy to get into the consumer’s mind and desires to position them with the best product and provide them with a pleasant purchase and post-purchase experience. In my role as an engineer, we had the latitude to come up with new ideas on features that would make the online process smooth, modern, and efficient.

I’m happy to be outside of the sales world, as calculating success per units sold is difficult, but I’m clearly attracted to organizations that have high standards and emphasize supporting each other as team and I’m incredibly grateful to have had that here at Wharton.

A year after the murder of George Floyd led to diversity pledges from leading tech companies, how do you think the industry has changed?

In my work, I don’t think I have the big picture of how the industry is changing, but I can definitely say yes. I’m inspired by people like Athena of Paris, founder of the Dark Technology Pipeline, career karma founded by Ruben Harris, People of Color in Tech (POCIT) founded by Michel Berhane, brand watch through Abadesi Osunsade, and Raheem AI through Brandon Anderson. They all examine how technology can bring tangible value to black lives – in and out of the industry – in very different and complementary ways.

I feel the tides are changing with responsibility as well as money, with energy shifting towards active awareness of impact as it relates to race and equity. I hope to be able to announce a Virtual Unconference Against Racism in Tech for summer 2022 or summer 2023.

There are so many anti-racism experts out there doing great work. I want to invest my time in holding this line. We’ve come a long way, and I hope we can continue to connect and provide tools for subject matter experts to keep the movement going and spread the knowledge.

Considering the importance of your community work in supporting other technologists and people interested in technology, what inspired you to give back in such a title and what have you learned from the experience so far? now ?

At this point in my journey, I’m not always comfortable leading with my personal brand. My heart and skills immediately go to how to fix disconnects or improve system inefficiencies. I have always enjoyed learning, interpreting and helping the noble ideas of others. Being a queer woman of color gave me the goal of seeing the universe in a beautiful, colorful, and unique way.

I try to fill my life with empathy, warmth and mutual support and hope to do the same for my communities. I feel like empathy is a skill that will always need to be perfected [and it] maybe my (read: our) superpower. There is no movement if it is not truly intersectional at its core. I learn something new in every conversation, and there is a wealth of untapped potential in the world. I’m particularly excited about what’s coming out of the African continent. Shout out to the Nigerian developers who are really kicking the game.

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Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-


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