How this Software Engineer is Helping Underrepresented People in Tech
Veni Kunche is the founder of Diversify Tech. She explains how she built an audience, got her first customer, and her advice for others in tech.
Hi Veni! Can you give us a short intro to who you are and what are you currently working on?
Hi! I’m Veni Kunche. I’m the founder of Diversify Tech, a newsletter and job board for underrepresented people in tech.
After working as a Software Engineer for over 15 years, I launched Diversify Tech in 2018. I built it for people like me who are underrepresented in tech. It is also for everyone in the tech industry who wants to make it a welcoming and inclusive place.
How did you come up with the idea for Code with Veni and Diversify Tech?
A few years back, I was actively trying to start my own business. I attended a lot of startup and tech events around the DMV. I tried to absorb as much information as I could from other founders. One day, I discovered an event hosted by the Women Who Code DC community. I was curious so I attended their annual celebration. It was the first time in my life that I was in a room full of women in tech. I had no idea that there were so many of us.
“I wanted to show other women that there are more of us and that they can also do this.”
As I worked on my startup ideas, I volunteered and held office hours for women who wanted to get into tech. As I talked to more and more women from around the world, I noticed two themes: 1. Everyone felt alone in their tech journey 2. They weren’t sure if they could make it in tech.
Around that time another woman in tech reached out to me and asked me for an interview for her blog. That sparked an idea to start my own blog and newsletter. I researched what makes a good newsletter. I signed up to over 15 different ones and watched them in action. In April 2016, I launched my first newsletter, Code with Veni. I shared resources on learning to code. I highlighted women in tech to inspire others that they can do the same.
I also went to a lot of women in tech events around town as a volunteer. I live-tweeted the events to promote the speakers. I wanted to show other women that there are more of us and that they can also do this.
It was fun and actually helped me grow my social media presence and my newsletter. At one such event, I got my first customer. They were sponsoring the women in tech conference that I was attending. They said that they followed me on Twitter, were one of my newsletter subscribers and asked if I’d like to partner with them. They offered me a 3 month contract to highlight the women who work at their company. That is when I realized that I can monetize my newsletter through sponsors.
Around that same time, I faced some tough personal things in my life (several miscarriages). A women in tech organization copied one of my tools after chatting with me about hiring me. I felt mentally exhausted. I slowed down on everything for about a year.
In 2018, four months after I gave birth to my daughter, my mind felt clear without depression weighing me down. I took what I learned from running Code with Veni and launched Diversify Tech, a newsletter and job board to help underrepresented folks in tech find career opportunities.
It's been growing faster than I can keep up with. I started working on Diversify Tech full-time this year.
What's your backstory and when did you realize you wanted to work in tech or startups?
I studied Computer Science in college. Growing up, I didn’t have many role models who had gone to college. My dad had studied Electrical Engineering and ended up working in IT. It looked like an interesting field and I chose CS as my major.
“They offered me a 3 month contract to highlight the women who work at their company. That is when I realized that I can monetize my newsletter through sponsors.”
I worked as a Software Engineer for 15 years. I worked on building some interesting applications. I built a web app where farmers could check if the pesticides they were applying to their crops would harm any endangered fish and wildlife in the area. I worked at a startup that built software for engineers to build fuel-efficient trucks. I also worked as a consultant traveling around the US building applications for clients.
However, I found myself switching companies every 2-3 years. I either got bored or ended up in toxic work environments. After my mental health took a hit a few times, I started thinking about how I can do my own thing while still maintaining my lifestyle.
In 2013, when my husband found a job after completing his grad program, I took a year break to learn about how to start a business. I quickly learned that starting a business was going to take some time. I went back to working part-time and worked on several startup ideas until I realized that I could help others like me to get into and thrive in tech.
What are the tools of your trade?
- My tech stack is Netlify, GatsbyJS and Airtable.
- For organization and notes, I use Notion.
- For automation, I use Integromat and Zapier.
- For my todo list and journaling, I use Todoist and a bullet journal.
- For blogging, I use Grammarly, Hemingway and Bear.
- For social media, I use Canva and Buffer.
- For focus, I use SelfControl, Spotify and my noise cancelling headphones.
What have been the most helpful or influential resources you’ve learned from?
I have gotten a lot of help from my peers. When I started my startup journey, I did knowledge sharing sessions with other startup founders. For eg. I taught someone about what to look for when hiring a developer. In return, a social media marketer gave me the 101 on marketing.
I also love the interviews on Indie Hackers. As a Software Engineer, marketing was my weakness. I paid special attention to how other founders acquired their first users and how they marketed their products.
Right now I am focusing on writing, I learned a lot from Julian Shapiro’s Writing Well guide.
Other books I learned from are Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business, Just Fucking Ship by Amy Hoy, Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs, Running Lean by Ash Maurya, Atomic Habits by James Clear and Get Attention by Kelly Miller.
I also follow a lot of Indie startup founders on Twitter. Watching them try different things and ship products has been very inspiring and gave me ideas for my own business.
What advice do you have for someone looking to break into tech? Or, what advice would you give yourself when you were starting your career?
- Be persistent. You may have to try a lot of different things to find the right fit. This will take a lot of time and patience.
- Be critical of any advice. Most folks give advice from their own life experience. Sometimes it may apply to you. Other times it may not. You are the best person to know your situation and what you specifically need. Make sure to filter and take what’s relevant to your unique situation.
- Don’t measure yourself against others' success. Everyone has their own path.
Was there anyone in particular you want to shout out who helped your career along? An individual, or community?
Several communities helped play a part in where I am today.
Women Who Code DC helped me to trust in myself and my abilities. This community has also helped me with a lot of feedback on how to build Diversify Tech. Whenever I want to try something new, I go there first.
Dreamers // Doers, a community for women founders, is where I learned about how to to run a business. Several of my peers taught me things like how to do public speaking to social media marketing.
MegaMakers, a community of bootstrapped founders, to this day gives me support in various ways. This is one of the few communities where I learned it was ok to be a solo-founder.
MicroConf, a community and conference, specifically for bootstrapped founders has taught me a lot about managing a business with outside funding.
Lastly, Women Make, a community of women bootstrapped founders and makers, inspires me everyday. Their 30 Day Just Ship It challenge helped me launch my newsletter.
Where can we go to learn more about you and your work?
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