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How AdieCon Was Started

My name is Leah and I attended Ada Developers Academy Cohort 5. Over the past eight months I have worked with an incredible group of volunteers to bring this conference to life. This is the story of how we got things started last spring.

2014 was a strange time in my life. I was thirty, I decided to leave the career I built for myself in my twenties as a motorcycle stunt rider and start something new. The only problem was I had no idea what it would be.

Illustration of Leah Peterson performing a stunt on a motorcycle

I knew that I wanted a job that was in demand. I wanted clear skills, room to grow and diverse opportunities to work on cool problems all over the world. I wanted financial freedom to support myself. After about a year of iterations, I realized computer engineering checked all these boxes. While taking coding courses online and researching how to break into the tech industry, I found Ada.

I applied, was accepted and started working full time in the tech industry as an engineer in 2016. It has been many things: a commitment, a challenge and sometimes exhausting. In spite of everything, I feel so incredibly privileged to have been given this opportunity. Today this career has given me a life I never even dreamed possible. I have an amazing job in NYC, time to spend with my family and financial freedom. I was able to buy an apartment, save for retirement and enjoy my favorite hobby - riding horses. I also have endless opportunities for career growth and flexibility.

This is all possible to Ada and the folks who gave my an opportunity to learn and grow in the tech industry. When I hear stories about Ada grads who are struggling after Ada, I wonder what tools would help them overcome these challenges. How can we help folks find the right job? How can people find more meaningful work and negotiate fair salaries and benefits?

In March 2019, I was driving home at night after riding my horse, thinking about this problem. There is no one solution for Ada folks to succeed: everyone is unique. Some need to meet the right contacts who can help them get their foot in the door at certain companies. Some folks need encouragement - someone to point out how rad they are and remind them how much they’ve already accomplished. Some people need to see someone LIKE THEM succeeding in a way that makes them feel their dreams are possible. The list goes on, but what I realized is that we already have all of this in our own network.

hands together

What we need is a place to bring it all together, to get to know each other better and to reinforce our network. As the Manhattan skyline came into view sparkling against the night sky, it hit me: “WE NEED AN ANNUAL CONFERENCE!” The realization felt like fire, but admittedly my next thought was, “Crap. I have never put on a conference before. I need help.” Immediately I thought of Jade Vance, another Cohort 5 alum, to help me kick this off.

Jade is a force of nature and an incredible, empathic, powerful Adie. She has earned herself the title of Senior Software Engineer at Getty Images in two years. Jade has also been active in the Ada community since graduation and the perfect person to help helm the ship on AdieCon’s inaugural event.

So I sent Jade a text. “What do you think about a one day annual Ada alum conference?” Jade immediately put on her engineering hat, looking at the idea from all angles and perspectives, trying to find its value and limitations. After some back and forth, I dropped the big one: “Want to help me put it on?” Neither of us have put on something at this scale, but we saw the value and power in bringing Adies together, so we scheduled some time on Saturday mornings to draft a proposal.

We approached Ada Developers Academy and immediately had their support and agreement this would be an event created by alums. Since gaining Ada’s blessing, more alums and allies have joined our volunteer coordination team. Together we have built the first AdieCon.

A conference is by no means a novel idea. Many folks (including some of our volunteers!) have had the idea before. What is making this event real in 2020 is the group of volunteers who are using their free time and energy to put on this event. There is no guidebook, we are learning as we go and doing the best with what we have.

One of the first things we did was write our mission. We are using this mission to drive all our decisions related to the conference and we can't wait to see it turn into reality January 31st, 2020.

Thank you for taking the time to read our story. If you are interested in attending, sponsoring or speaking at AdieCon 2021, please sign up for our mailing list on the homepage to stay in the loop. If you are an alum and want to help put on the event next year, send us an email!

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