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“Don’t try to be ‘one of the lads’.” – An interview with Layla Porter

Absolutely buzzing to share this story with you! I was introduced to Layla from Matt Gilliard after meeting him at CodeBar Bristol where he coaches our students. Matt told me all about Layla and TwilioQuest & Tea (read below about this.) I had to connect and get to know her! After speaking with Layla she blew my mind within the first couple of minutes. Not only is her career journey one of encouragement and positivity, she also is heavily involved in the tech scene and travels around the world attending tech conferences and even talking at these events. And then there’s the UK tour of TwilioQuest. (again read below about this) and I am buzzing to say that Women Rock are partnering with Twilio to bring TwilioQuest and Tea to Bristol on the 20th July. If you’re a developer or you want to be one. Read this! Also keep an eye out for details on Twilio & Tea which will be announced in the next 2 weeks.

Personal Trainer to Software Engineer/Developer Evangelist at Twilio. When did you decide you wanted to get into software development and where does that passion come from?

I have been dabbling with code for some time before I became a web developer full time. I started with Flash and ActionScript then progressed to a little iPhone App development. I then mostly did front-end design work in my free time. I started programming with C# and .NET in 2013 when I created, with much assistance from my partner, an online booking system for my Pilates Studio. I needed to improve my programming skills to enable me to maintain my booking system. I spent the time when I wasn’t teaching Pilates studying. I have a logical and creative brain, so the challenge of coding along with the creativity you can have really appealed to me.

What is your role as Developer Evangelist at Twilio?

That’s a tough one to answer! I do anything from write technical blogs for the Twilio website to speaking at conferences. I also do a lot of work in the community, organising events and meetups.

You’re a self-taught developer through Free Code Camp. I’m seeing more and more people come through who are self-taught, how did you motivate yourself to do this?

I really wanted to change career so I was very strict about coding every day. I taught myself JavaScript with the help of Free Code Camp and C# by watching videos on the Microsoft Virtual Academy. I also had some pretty hefty manuals that I would take everywhere with me, even on holiday. I was inspired by the CodeNewbie podcast and thought “I could do that too” so that was also really motivating.

I know you attend and speak at a lot of conferences and events. What’s been your favourite one to date?

I have to say it was New York City Code Camp. It had such a lovely sense of community even though it was in the Microsoft offices in Times Square. The organisers were great and I definitely will be attending again this year.

What advice would you give to other developers, both male and female who would like to speak at conference but haven’t got the confidence to do so?

I started in my local meetup group. Many meetups encourage Lightning talks, so a quick talk that last 5 to 15 minutes. The other confidence booster is to do a talk with a friend.

You’ve started TwilioQuest Tea Time in the UK, could you tell me a bit about it?

Twilio has a gamified learning platform called TwilioQuest. It’s based on the 8-bit games of old. I have often felt the games were a little male-oriented so when my colleague Megan ran a TwilioQuest Tea Time event in Los Angeles last year, I knew I had to start them in the UK, the home of Tea Time! The events are focussed around women and non-binary individuals, with fun prizes and a real sense of working together rather than competing against each other.

What is the one bit of advice you would give to a woman in tech?

Don’t try to be ‘one of the lads’. When I started, I tried to fit in around all-male teams. I laughed at the innuendos, always wore a T-shirt and jeans, and tried to avoid being at all ‘girly’. In hindsight, I should have just been me and helped build a more balanced workplace for all genders.

Twilio are great at promoting and hiring diverse technical talent, how do they do this?

Twilio runs a series of events called AfterHours which focus on underrepresented communities. They have inspirational speakers from said communities speaking about their journies. We also have a sponsorship framework which helps us choose to sponsor events that reflect our values, thus continuing to support diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

And finally, what’s your favourite quote?

Although I am an atheist, I love the saying “God helps those, who help themselves”. I think it embodies my beliefs that to get on in life, you need to be proactive and go after what you want.

Thank you so much Layla, your story is great and I cannot wait to follow you in your career and bring Twilio & Tea to Bristol in the summer!


A voice of diversity in tech.

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