By Ihudiya Finda Ogburu
Smarter IT Fellow at the U.S. Department of State and incoming Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan
Systers is a close-knit, diverse, and global community for women involved in the technical aspects of computing. Founded in 1987 by Anita Borg together with 12 other women as a small electronic mailing list for women in “systems,” it now comprises more than 6,000 women technologists from more than 60 countries. In honor of Systers’ 30th anniversary, we’re sharing the stories of 30 members who represent the community’s breadth and depth.
Three years ago, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, I began looking for online groups that would help me reconnect with the U.S. tech community. I wanted to be part of a group where I could network with and find support from other women in tech.
I soon discovered Systers, a tech community where women from all over the world connect with each other. I knew that by joining Systers, I would be able to read about amazing and inspiring women from different backgrounds. Not only did this prove to be true, but I also ended up I gaining so much more than I could imagine.
The members of Systers provided me with a ton of resources that have helped me get to where I am today. I learned about various opportunities through the Systers email list as well as through the Facebook pages of the two subgroups I belong to: Black Women in Computing and Underrepresented Women in Computing. These Facebook pages provided me with information on scholarships and other useful resources that I used when applying for graduate school.
Upon returning to the states, I became interested in the Google Summer of Code program for university students. I knew Systers and the Peace Corps were participating in the program, and since I was a member of both groups, I asked Rosario (Rose) Robinson, the curator or “keeper” of Systers, how I could best participate.
Rose encouraged me to volunteer as a Summer of Code mentor and to lead a project, a suggestion that I’m so thankful for to this day. By becoming a mentor and project leader my first year, I gained the opportunity to lead another Summer of Code project, called PowerUp, the following year.
I remain involved with PowerUp—an open source game aimed at empowering women— even after Summer of Code. I’ve given presentations on this game at conferences, and as a result, I’ve gotten to meet professors as well as women and minority students in the graduate field. Speaking with them further inspired me to pursue a doctoral degree in Information Science. I feel I wouldn’t have had that experience and exposure if I hadn’t been a part of Systers.
Participating in Systers has been a great way for me to network and connect with women in tech. Although Systers is an online group, I’ve met many members in person at conferences and within my community. Sometimes when I meet someone for the first time, I’ll mention Systers and the other person will reveal she’s a member, too—it’s a great feeling of camaraderie between us. I love meeting and speaking with fellow Systers, especially those who are more seasoned in their careers and who can share stories about how the tech field has changed.