Episode 71 – Learn to Value Your Skills and Focus on Your Personal Growth with Jennifer Wadella

 In Podcasts

Jennifer Wadella is a JavaScript developer, international speaker, foodie, fitness geek and community organiser, most well known for her work creating innovative and highly sought-after programs for women in technology. Jennifer is also the founder of Kansas City Women in Technology, an organisation aimed at growing the number of women in technology careers in Kansas City. And, amongst other things, Jennifer is Missouri’s Coolest Woman, according to Pure Wow.


Episode Description:

In this episode, Phil sits down with Jennifer Wadella to talk about how she entered the IT industry, women in IT in general, and what to do when you find yourself in a negative work environment. Jennifer also talks about self-motivation, and that you don’t necessarily have to find inspiration in other people, but can focus on your own personal growth and skills and have faith in yourself to be able to improve and succeed.


Key Takeaways:

(1.13) Phil begins by asking Jennifer to tell the listeners a bit more about herself. Jennifer says that she’s been a nerd her entire life, and while she liked being among nerds, she really didn’t see much in the way of women nerds and has made one of her missions to get more women involved in IT.


(1.38) Phil says he’s seen a lot of progress on that front, with more women entering the industry and Jennifer agrees, laughing while recalling that while at the last Kansas City Developer Con, there were so many women that there was a line for the ladies bathroom, which was a first.


(2.08) Phil moves along, asking Jennifer if she has a unique career tip that she’d like to share, and she talks about how she often hears people talking about being stuck in terrible job environments with terrible bosses and that because people in IT love their craft and what they do, they’ll stay in these jobs they hate. She advises people in those situations to not waste time in leaving to find a place where they can be happy doing the work they love. Phil strongly agrees that a good work environment is extremely important.


(3.01) Phil then asks Jennifer to speak about the worst experience in her IT career and what she learned from it. Jennifer replies that during one of her first jobs out of college, she had a boss that was a poor leader who would give her projects without much direction, and when she compiled reports on how long the project would take and the resources it would need, he didn’t like her answers, cornering her alone in the office to yell at her about how she was “a bad person with a bad work ethic.”


(3.45) Jennifer continues, saying that this was one of the lowest moments of her career, but it taught her to stand up for herself in the future and to understand and value her self-worth. The story at least has a happy ending, as she was able to get a new job just three days after updating her resume to leave that one.


(5.02) Phil takes that opportunity to ask Jennifer about her greatest success in her IT career. Jennifer talks about being a web developer right when things were expanding with JavaScript frameworks and single-page applications. As she learned JavaScript, she felt like she was struggling compared to other, more experienced people. But one day one of them came to her with a framework question and she was able to help them, and it gave her confidence and motivation to keep moving forward in her career. Phil agrees that this is often a turning point for people in their career.


(6.31) Phil asks Jennifer what she finds most exciting about the future of IT, and she answers that people are drawn to IT because they like problem-solving and that right now it feels to her like there’s no cap on what technology people can come up with to solve problems. Specifically, she’s excited about the possibilities of advancements in IoT.


(7.58) Phil moves into the Reveal Round, beginning with why Jennifer started working in IT. She says that, like many, she fell into IT a bit on accident. She was a graphic designer but couldn’t find work. In the meantime, she was building websites mostly for fun and realized it could be a career, and she was attracted to the creative side and creating something from nothing.


(8.33) Phil asks Jennifer for the best career advice she’s ever gotten, and she tells him that she had a mentor tell her not make herself fit a job, but to make the job fit her and not to try to force yourself to fit a mould.


(9.03) Phil then switches gears and asks Jennifer what she would do if she had to begin her IT career all over again right now, and she replies half-jokingly, “start younger.”


(9.32) As to her current career objectives, Jennifer says that she has been focusing on public speaking at international conferences and being at a place where she can “be a happy little code monkey.”


(10.05) Phil asks Jennifer’s opinion on what has been the most helpful non-tech skill to have in her career so far, and she answers that for her, it’s a tie between leadership skills and faith in herself and her ability to grow and always be improving.


(10.45) Phil brings things to a close by asking Jennifer for some parting words of advice for the audience, and she replies with the motto, “work hard and understand that there are no limits.” She adds that there is no cap on what you can learn and that you should focus on yourself and your own growth and not what other people are doing.


Best Moments:

(1.16) Jennifer: “I’ve been a nerd my entire life, and when I got into a career in technology, it was nice to be surrounded by other nerds. But one thing was lacking and that was female nerds. So that’s kind of the origin of me creating Kansas City Women in Technology.”


(2.35) Jennifer: “If your day job isn’t making you happy and is making you miserable, my advice would be to go find something that makes your heart sing. You’re lucky enough to love writing code, do it somewhere where you’re gonna love doing it.”

Phil: “I think you’re absolutely right. I think if you don’t find fulfilment and enjoyment within your career, I think it’s time to think about what you’re doing.”


(3.45) Jennifer: “That was one of the lowest moments because it was a really big assault against my character, but it was a really good life lesson of understanding how to stand up for myself and how to value my self-worth.”


(5.50) Jennifer: “It was kind of an amazing moment for me to realize, ‘I can do this, I can be a really successful developer,’ and just because I started out behind doesn’t mean I can’t come out ahead.”

Phil: “It can be quite self-inspiring, when people come to you for advice and knowledge and so forth and you realize that you’re actually able to provide that support and input.”


(8.58) Jennifer: “If you can find a way to bring your own unique skill set to the table, you’re gonna be way more successful that way.”


(11.10) Jennifer: “Find ways that work for you to learn and grow. Don’t look at what everybody else is doing, don’t try and emulate or be exactly like other thought leaders you see. Focus on yourself, what works for you, and the unique skills you have to share.”


Contact Jennifer Wadella:

Website: www.jenniferwadella.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/likeOMGitsFEDAY @likeOMGitsFEDAY

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-wadella-7985b46/


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