WIT PGH Launch Party w/ W00dy, Char Stiles, and Kha’DJ
Women in Tech PGH Interview
I’ve known Shani Banerjee for over a decade. Shani is what I would call a polymath. From photography, film, and fine art to an accomplished musician and vocalist to a full stack engineer, Shani is now the Chief Operating Officer at Women in Tech PGH. I was lucky enough to chat with Shani about WiT PGH and their upcoming launch party.
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?
My name is Shani Banerjee and I have been working in various parts of tech and nonprofit for the past 10 years in Pittsburgh!
What is WiT PGH and how did you get involved in it?
Eventually my efforts led me to becoming a Software Developer, and Alison Falk approached me about helping to take her organization, Women In Tech PGH, into the non-profit sphere so we can create workshops and networking opportunities for subject matter that often doesn’t get discussed honestly in tech.
What are the goals of WiT PGH?
Ultimately it’s to give individuals autonomy in tech and from tech; and create equity in the technology sector that goes beyond what have become pretty superficial Diversity & Inclusion tactics. As we see AI and Deep Learning grow; as we see cities be taken over both physically by financial development and with the Internet of Things, the responsibility of developing more considerate technology (taking into consideration who is affected by what is being developed) is beyond evident, it’s necessary.
However, it is systemic; so we have to address the entire ecosystem of the tech sector. Through workshops, networking opportunities, speaker series, and development we’d like to be able to broaden the conversation to be inclusive of womXn, individuals who are queer and gender non-binary, and work with companies and organizations to create meaningful, long term pipelines for inclusion of black, indigenous, and people of color(BIPOC)who are, again, affected by technology created around us, but are left out of the processes in creating it and benefitting from it.
What is your specific role in WiT PGH?
In the beginning of an organization, whether it’s for or non-profit, small business or something aimed at extreme growth, it’s literally all hands on deck. So though my title is Chief Operations Officer, it’s really like, what do we need to get done? So you’ll find me filling out IRS paperwork, helping to strategize Alison’s workshops ideas, as well as assisting with relationship management, talking to people on the street, connecting vendors and representing WiT PGH at the Prototype PGH 2020 Incubator Cohort. We are all pretty involved in all of these things though, so it’s a balancing act!
What are you working on at the moment?
We are launching our brand as a non-profit and our interpretation of what is happening in tech and art and music outside of Pittsburgh through a fundraiser this Saturday(Pi Day!) 3.14.2020, at Cobra in Bloomfield. The proceeds will go towards our first speaker series and workshops covering election hacking, facial recognition, and professional development in 2020.
Can you tell us about the WiT PGH launch and party?
The connection between tech, art, and music are now ubiquitous. We have a lot of strong players within the city doing remarkable work with live coding visuals, dj-ing and production, and are really tapping into what is happening globally in that intersection. We wanted to create a fun event that helps to shed light on what our goals are as a new organization, as well as give people a chance to get to know us and the individuals who are creating awesome experiences that they might not get exposure to in their day to day.
These artists are Char Stiles, Kha’DJ and W00dy. We also have a raffle ranging from a year of free bootcamp(if you are already well versed in tech we can help you pay this forward to someone who might benefit from it!), to mentorship opportunities with technology leaders in our city, and much more!
What plans do you have for the future of Wit PGH?
Our hope for the future, immediate and long term, is to truly create a fresh approach to development and representation in the Pittsburgh Technology sector; we want to be part of the solution while more than just “shedding light” on the difficult conversations that come along with change. Ideally, we’d like to be able to function with very steady programming that is funded and to help connect people who have even the slightest curiosity about tech, but have maybe felt like it’s out of reach for them. Different approaches serve different people, and we just want to create more options for interaction, education, and exposure to create equity in technology.
What advice do you have for young women wanting to get involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields?
Finding a mentor is extremely important, as well as just showing up to spaces where there are other people that can give you their stories and experiences and help you decide what the right path is for you. I was a career switcher and have an awesome network of individuals that took time to answer my questions and teach me what they already know to help grow me as a developer.
I read voraciously and asked ALL the questions! Ask all the questions! Build stuff; definitely BREAK stuff, and then fix it. If something doesn’t work out, try another approach!
Cold e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and check our job board and spotlights for a mentor! There is space for everyone; it’s just about investing in yourself and your personal motivations to make sure you end up where YOU want to in the context of the field.
Any closing thoughts?
We hope to see you at the Launch Party at Cobra; you can learn more and purchase tickets here. Donations and funding will help us with our programmatic efforts to continue bringing dynamic individuals who are literally changing the face and context of technology.
As womXn, we often get asked to do this work for free; we would like to support the work that womXn are doing across this city and shine light on everything from the pay gap to the bottlenecking of growth and opportunity.
We will have tons of facts on deck at the party, as well as the chance to just cut loose, ask questions, and meet people who want to work on this effort together. Every bit counts and we are beyond thrilled to have a chance to rewrite the narrative of technology in our city.
Presale: $30 ~ raffle ticket, VIP reception
Door $10-$30 sliding scale donation
Tix at www.cobrapgh.com/nightlife
Tonight’s WIT cocktail: CTRL+ALT+DELETE THE PAY GAP
▶ 830pm-10pm: VIP Reception
▶ 10pm – 12am: Sounds by Kha’DJ
▶ 12am – 2am: Algorave! live coding by Char Stiles + music by W00dy