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Corgi — Undergraduate Women in Tech: Reflecting on Our 1st Year

Over a year ago, sketches were made on the back of napkins, bold coffees were had, and a student community for women in tech was in the works. From nothing to a welcoming and supportive community who help create a sense of belonging; Corgi has thrived in its first year and I’m proud to have been apart of it!

Why did we Create Corgi?

  • To give Women in Tech (WIT) students the opportunity to connect and create their own support network, to help them through their studies and entry into industry
  • To inspire, by promoting the success of women in the industry. We believe in the importance and visibility of role models, whether that be through event speakers, or featuring women in social media campaigns
  • To increase the number of women in the technology industry, by creating an environment where women in the early stages of their tech careers feel a sense of belonging. Allowing us to maintain the students already here, and inspire new girls to join

We started Corgi, a community and meet-up group designed for undergraduate women in tech based in Belfast. Providing a digital and physical space for students to network, learn and support each other throughout the early stages of their careers.

  • Events: Social and Academic
  • Community Platforms: Facebook Group and Discord
  • Social Media: #MondayMotivateHER campaign, Freshers’ campaign, promoting events and sharing resources

In the Beginning…

Once upon a time in 2018/19, I was a Computer Science (CS) student on my placement year, working as a Software Engineer in London for a Belfast based company. If anyone reading has ever moved to a new city on their own, with no flatmates, no uni mates, no family, with your only social interactions being receptionists and weird men who try to flirt with you on the tube whilst the rest of the carriage watch in despair (lol). Whilst working 9–5 with engineers far beyond your stage of development, you’ll know how lonely this can feel.

As much as I would have loved to be downing shots of Apple Sourz, livin’ my best expenses life in the big smoke, this was not the case. I missed having a connection to people other than my co-workers, and a sense of community with a long-term plan to grow into. I felt like I’d no choice but to move home after 7 months.

When I returned to Belfast, I wanted to ensure no one else in a similar position would have to endure these feelings of loneliness. This sparked my motivation to create a community for undergraduate women in tech community, here in NI.

After some brainstorming, I reached out to some friends; Sapphire Duffy from WWC Belfast for advice on building communities, then teamed up with Maire McCrystal, a fellow CS student from Queen’s University Belfast to make this idea come to fruition!

Testing the Waters

Although we knew there were undergraduate women in technology across NI, we wanted to test the waters to see if this idea was viable — Did people want this kind of community? Would people show up to our events? How do we ensure we’re inclusive?

Group of women that study computing degrees, smiling whilst meeting for coffee.
Group of women that study computing degrees, smiling whilst meeting for coffee.

Lo and behold, a Facebook group, Facebook page and Twitter were published, shared among our friends, and we announced our first event; a casual coffee meet-up.

Success! Everyone commended the relaxed vibes and supported the idea of a student WIT community. From this event, we welcomed Lauren Burns to our founding committee, and we even had our first ally! (hiya Marcus)

Corgi Events Overview

Since this initial coffee meet-up, the Corgi committee organised 4 events within it’s first year — Pretty impressive considering Covid-19 hit us at the start of 2020! Let’s take a look back on what went down…

N(AI)LS — Collaboration with WWC Belfast

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N(AI)LS women in tech meet-up with AI talks, nail art and free pizza

To officially launch Corgi, we collaborated with Women Who Code Belfast and SmashFly, a local software company, to create an event featuring 3 awesome artificial intelligence talks, combined with the creative world of nail art. Attendees were encouraged to relax and paint their nails whilst listening to our AI speakers, leaving the meet-up with new knowledge, friends and a dazzling set of nails!

We asked attendees what they enjoyed about the launch — Safe to say, the feedback speaks for itself:

“The atmosphere and friendliness of all attendees and organisers”

“Love all the talks and the general atmosphere”

“Fun atmosphere”

“Everything!”

“Great talks, interesting people and not afraid to do “girly” activities while also talking tech. Also great food!”

Winter Warmer — Social Coffee Meet-up

Group of women smiling in a Christmas Market
Group of women smiling in a Christmas Market

By this stage, we somewhat established our place in NI as a meet-up group, and aimed to stay consistent with our platforms and events. 2019 concluded with our Winter Warmer; a festive community meet-up to enjoy chill chats, cosy coffee, festive food and a stroll around Belfast Christmas Market.

My cravings for those churros will have to wait until 2021, as the market won’t be open this year! 😭

#MondayMotivateHER

We created a social media campaign called #MondayMotivateHER to inspire and uplift Monday morning spirits, by featuring local and world-wide WIT, applaud them for their success and generate visibility of all the fantastic women. These are a mixture of crowd-sourced and committee written testimonials; Submit your own message of kindness to a friend or colleague here!

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Here are some snippets of my favourite quotes over the past year:

Chloe McAteer: “Because of Chloe’s amazing teaching and support, I have been able to take part in AI based events and get opportunities which would not be available to me without what she provided me with. I’m so thankful for all of the educational and general support she has given me over the past year!” ~ Ceilidh Davison

Amy Gardiner: “Amy motivates me with her “can-do” attitude, her extremely positive outlook on life and her honest approaches on her work which made me feel more comfortable in my own role. She’s an extremely supportive person and is always willing to provide emotional support when I have moments of self-doubt about my abilities. Thank you Amy for always being so cheerful and motivating me to do the best I can do!” ~ Niamh Duffy

Niamh Cassidy:I admire Niamh because of her optimism and drive to succeed. When our entire Android team was down in the dumps during one of our many 12-hour coding sessions, she was able to keep up morale and have us all ticking along with jokes and encouragement.~ Cameron Thompson

Lauren Taylor (FYI I almost cried when I read this): “Lauren is a natural-born leader with an ability to bring people together. She doesn’t rest and consistently seeks to improve, learn and help others. If there is an opportunity to be had, you can be rest assured she’ll go for it. I am privileged to know Lauren and she’s most definitely an inspiration to me. I have no doubt that she will go on to do great things!” ~ Raymond Dillon (Cheers, son’s crying 😭❤️)

COVID Disruptions

After working our way through the lull that is January exams, we had 3 exciting events in the works — Until we didn’t.

Similar to everyone else on the planet, Covid-19 struck and all our plans were put on pause. After a few months of uncertainty, it became clear this was not going to be a short-lived period. To overcome this, we pivoted to online events, and went ahead with our first event, Careers in Tech!

Careers in Tech

Zoom video call screenshot of women in the technology industry smiling at a digital meet-up
Zoom video call screenshot of women in the technology industry smiling at a digital meet-up

This was a collaboration with Women Who Code Belfast, featuring a panel of 5 inspiring women in the industry, highlighting the different disciplines available, regardless of your background. This included a Software Engineer, Games Producer, Senior Venture Designer, Data Science Research Associate and Product Manager.

Despite the disruptions, the event went down brilliantly with the community:

“I can honestly say this evening’s event was one of my favourite events to date — our panel of speakers were all so insightful, inspiring, and wholesome. There were so many great nuggets of wisdom” ~ Mary-Jane

The New Academic Year — Freshers’ 2020

To pop-off the new academic year with a bang, we teamed up with Kainos for our Freshers campaign. This involved a Freshers Quiz (who doesn’t want £100 worth of Amazon vouchers to replace those scratched up pots and pans?), alongside a social media competition to win a stunning pink and white mechanical keyboard and mouse worth £140 (WFH setup goals).

Pink and white wireless mechanical keyboard and mouse
Pink and white wireless mechanical keyboard and mouse

As the weeks of social distancing and lockdowns dragged on, we realised how much we valued social contact with each other. It made me think about how I felt being on my own in London, and the importance of having that sense of community. Alas, we decided to bring the community online, and created a Discord server where anyone can hop in, chat, share resources and play impromptu games of Among Us!

Join our Discord here! ✨

Corgi Committee Applications Now Open!

That’s all of Corgi’s events up until today! We’re growing strong, and hope to continue hosting events over the next year to bring people together and provide a fun support network.

If you resonate with the Corgi community, want to inspire others, organise events, learn new skills in communication, planning and teamwork and network with local leaders and companies — Apply to be on our committee!

I’ve had an incredibly rewarding time building Corgi from the ground up, and I’ll be sad to say goodbye as I graduate into the working world. That said, I’m super proud of the women behind the 2020/21 committee, and their ability to adapt and lead the community towards bigger and better opportunities! I would have loved to join Corgi as a nervous undergraduate first year, so I’m super grateful knowing it’s fallen into good hands and has a promising future, that’ll only bring more joy into more people’s lives, and provide students with the sense of belonging and support they deserve!

Applications close: Monday 2nd Nov, Midnight.

Please share this post with anyone you think would enjoy being on this years committee! Lastly — Thank you for reading ❤️

Corgi Platforms

Written by

1st Class Computer Science student @ Queens’ University Belfast. Founder of Corgi — Undergraduate Women in Technology. Associate Software Engineer @ Kainos

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