Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Kimberly Blessing and I’m a web developer, technical architect, and people leader. I’ve been building websites since 1994, starting with sites for various musicians and my university before moving on to work with large companies like AOL and PayPal. I have spoken at conferences, written books, and taught web developers for many years, and I’ve also served on the World Wide Web Consortium CSS working group. For the past 10 years, I’ve worked in consulting and digital agencies to help a wide variety of clients create a useful, accessible, and delightful web experience for their customers.
How did you come across Umbraco?
I lead the development team at Dog Digital in Glasgow, Scotland. We’ve been an Umbraco Gold Partner for many years and use the platform to implement various types of sites for clients across a wide range of industries. Right now, we’re very interested in Umbraco Cloud and Umbraco Heartcore, which will allow us to move away from hosting and platform support and focus more on building innovative sites and progressive web apps for our clients.
When you decided to enter this industry, were you concerned about facing prejudice as a woman? If yes, what were your concerns?
I have been writing code since I was 5 and have had jobs involving tech since I was 16, so I never really thought about entering the industry -- tech has always been around me and I have always been a part of it. I was fortunate to come across many supportive individuals who coached me and were cheerleaders for me; their encouragement sustained me whenever I did encounter anyone who tried to discourage me in my pursuits.
What do you think would help increase gender diversity in the tech community?
Employers of tech folks (not just tech companies, but governments, schools, etc.) need to demonstrate a greater commitment to equity and inclusion for all: through their business practices, standards of conduct, processes surrounding hiring and review/promotion, and through the benefits they offer. The organisations that demonstrate a more level playing field are better at attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce.
What advice would you give to other women looking to make a career move into tech?
In any endeavor, it helps to have a community that supports and encourages you -- so find yours! That may be a close circle of friends who are all trying to reach different goals, but whom you can confide in. It may be an online meetup full of people who come and go but regularly inspire you to grow and learn. Or you may want to assemble your own “board of directors” -- individuals in the field whom you seek out as mentors and coaches.
If you were going to speak at Codegarden (or TEDx), what would your talk be about?
I love to share my knowledge about the early web and findings from my two research trips to CERN to work on emulators of the first two web browsers: WorldWideWeb (or Nexus) and the line mode browser. Did you know that the line mode browser was mostly coded by a woman, Nicola Pellow?
What book, TV series, podcast, etc. do you recommend to everyone?
I recommend three films to anyone working in science and technology: Real Genius (1985), War Games (1983), and Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970). All of these films serve to remind technologists that we are ethically responsible for the impact of the technologies we create. The leads in all of these films are men, which makes you wonder -- if the stories were written around women as the central figures, would the technologies have been created in the first place? (Watch and decide for yourself.) For a bit of levity, and to see a smart woman lead put a computer to shame, check out Katharine Hepburn in Desk Set (1957).
Anything else we should know?
You’ve asked for my thoughts on getting into tech as a woman, but I think the more difficult challenge is remaining in tech. It’s likely that anyone entering any field is going to encounter some difficulties, but for a woman (or any minority-identifying person), to remain for the long term in a field that predominantly favors white male cultural norms requires a wide array of traits: perseverance, patience, grit, determination, self-confidence, and a thick skin. It’s not fair and it’s why we need a more diverse industry -- so that we don’t require everyone to be all of these things, all of the time.