Meet Jennifer Mann, Chapter leader and True Inspiration

Meet Jennifer Mann, Chapter leader and True Inspiration

Jennifer Mann – Chapter Leader of Girl Develop It Atlanta

**What’s your coding story?**

I’ll start from the beginning. I grew up in a household that always had a computer. I had a personal computer in my room from the time I was 10 years old. I now realize that this is why learning to work on computers came easier to me than for others.

Although I spent a huge amount of my time growing up on computers (I even made my own website to share an album of songs I wrote), it wasn’t obvious to me that a career involving computers was a good idea. I dove into college and majored in a lot of topics that were interesting to me, but I never thought much about what a career in those fields would actually look like. What would I be doing from 9-5 everyday and would I actually enjoy it?

I eventually had to take a break from school because I had a lot of student loans and no clear direction on where I was headed. I took a job that I knew I was good at, nannying. After years of working as a nanny, I reached a point where I was unemployed, felt that I deserved more money, but couldn’t find anyone to employ me for what I was asking. I was making the exact same amount of money I had when I started years ago.

At the same time, my then-boyfriend (now husband), Brian, was running a financial company that needed a website redesign. I thought I could probably do that because I had dabbled in Photoshop in high school. I went through tutorials and comped a design that they used. After that, I spent all my time after work and during ‘nap time’ going through online tutorials and designing fake projects.

Brian and I discussed taking a break from my job to learn full-time and that he would support me. I took every course on []( in Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. I eventually designed a website for another side project that Brian didn’t have the time to code (he is a web developer). So, I started to learn HTML & CSS online. I began attending local Meetups like the Atlanta Web Design group, where I originally met Julie, now one of my co-leaders of Girl Develop It. Attending local Meetups has by far been the biggest accelerator to my learning.

Brian and Jennifer at Startup Weekend in 2013

After that I took an unpaid internship as a graphic designer and web designer, which I would never recommend anyone do. While it gave me more experience, the amount of respect and appreciation that I felt from the company was lacking. After that, I was hired on at a startup through a family recommendation. I was lucky to work for a company that encouraged me to increase my skills on the job. I quickly moved from doing mostly graphic design work to mostly web design and front-end development.

Around this time Rails Girls Atlanta was forming and I began attending their Meetups and workshops to learn Ruby (the language of choice at my job) and Rails. It was so inspiring to meet and become friends with other women developers. A space like this hadn’t existed in Atlanta. I was almost always the only women at tech Meetups, but now all of these new women were showing up that had never come to a tech Meetup before.

After a couple of years working in design and front-end, I was offered the opportunity to learn JavaScript where I work. I documented this experience on my blog ( I was given 6 weeks to learn full-time. Over the next year, I continued my learning in JavaScript while building an application. It was hard and I often felt like development might not be what I should do. A lot of this stemmed from my frustration with not knowing everything. Watching Kylie Stradley’s talk helped me learn that everyone in development experiences this feeling of uncertainty. I now work for a startup that my husband founded called Cypress which pushes my skill set way beyond what I would have expected.

Last October I was approached by Julie and Carmella, the other GDI Atlanta leader at the time, about being a Co-Leader of the Atlanta chapter of Girl Develop It. GDI’s mission really resonated with me. I knew that creating spaces for women to learn in an affordable and non-judgmental environment was very effective. I also liked the idea of encouraging non traditional learning paths since this is where I started my career. I immediately accepted.

Learning to run the Atlanta chapter has been both rewarding and challenging. Luckily the national organization is extremely helpful and has provided materials and a community to communicate with other chapter leaders. This includes a yearly summit for us to share our experiences. A few months into my Chapter Leadership we brought on another Chapter Leader, Caijsa, who brought a positive attitude and work ethic that has helped us grow even more. Since all 3 of us have been leading, we’ve been able to start a scholarship program, see our own students go on to TA and teach classes, offer new classes and workshops, and bring on an amazing team of volunteers.

Jennifer and Julie, GDI Atlanta Chapter Leaders, at last years Intro to Mobile Development class with Salesforce

I look forward to our 2nd anniversary party and also teaching the Intro to JavaScript class next week. This will be my second time teaching for Girl Develop It. I love it. I’m also looking forward to seeing the ideas and contributions of our new volunteers. They inspire me every day with their enthusiasm. I look forward to offering new workshops and seeing new women take our classes. Their lives, stories, and determination to learn never cease to amaze me.


*Take the Intro to JavaScript class with Jennifer starting Thursday, July 14! Spots are limited, so sign up before the rush!


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