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Lightning Interview #6: Linda van der Pal on JDuchess

Posted by editor on September 7, 2013 at 8:01 AM PDT


Linda van der Pal has been a developer since 2002, visiting many conferences to gather and share knowledge. In 2006, she founded Duchess, a network for women interested in Java. She is now a member of the board of the Dutch chapter, along with Régina, helping to organize several social and technical meetings a year, as well as organizing Devoxx for Kids in the Netherlands. And to further the cause of getting more kids interested in coding, she also visits several schools a year to talk about being a programmer on behalf of VHTO, the Dutch organization for women in technology.

In this sixth "Lightning Interview" I asked Linda about Duchess.


1. Why did you decide to found Duchess?

Linda: I've been going to conventions for a long time now and while it's a man's world out there, I noticed that the number of women was rising (though sadly not the percentage). And I decided that I'd like to meet more of them to talk to them about their experiences. But since I'm a bit of a shy person and an introvert, getting in touch with them was rather hard as they were always surrounded by men. So I decided to set up a network, get myself a shirt with a logo and go out to collect them all. That way I would have to talk to them! And it worked, most of the women I talked to were really enthusiastic and quickly turned my brainchild into something that was a lot more than I had envisioned at first. My first intention was to name the organization Dutchess, with a T to make it a pun on Dutch. But the others quickly argued against it, saying that if we ever became international, the T wouldn't make sense anymore. And right they were, only three weeks later we had Brazilian members! Later on we introduced the concept of chapters to cater to local needs. Of course I can't run all of the chapters, or even decide on what is best for them, so we've given all chapters free reign.

2. How does networking through JDuchess help women who work, or who want to work, with Java technology?

Linda: I'm not really sure if we actually ever really helped anyone in particular, but our social events do offer the possibility of comparing your own situation to those of others. In that way we also offer a network that might feel a bit safer than the general networks (which consist of mostly men) that are out there. I know our French chapter got a lot more women to attend the French Java events by going out to dinner together before the actual event. And beside such social events, we also organize our own technical events, encourage women to become speakers at international events, reach out to schools to talk about being a programmer, and help organizing programming events for kids (Devoxx for kids).

3. What advice do you have for someone who would like to start and grow a local JDuchess chapter in their country?

Linda: Just do it! Talk with some other women in the region to see if they're interested and what they would like to do. Then contact us if you want more hints and tips or have specific questions. We have several chapters already, and each has their own experiences and their own rules. Some chapters let men come to their meetings and some don't, it's really all up to what the women in your region would like.

Where to find Linda

You can follow Linda on Twitter: @DuchessFounder.

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-- Kevin Farnham (@kevin_farnham)