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INSPIRE 20 Podcast: Tanya Janca, We Hack Purple

Linda Rosencrance Freelance writer/editor
Tanya Janca

Tanya Janca has had quite the interesting journey that's included "crashing" male-dominated tech events.

The first time she crashed a tech meetup, Janca—founder, security trainer, and coach at online learning academy We Hack Purple—felt uncomfortable because she was the only woman at the event. Then she and a male friend crashed a Python meetup where she was again the only woman, out of about 80 attendees. She soon changed that.

The INSPIRE 20 podcast series

Janca is one of the executives taking part in INSPIRE 20, a new podcast series that showcases 20 executives from around the world who are making a difference in terms of inclusion and diversity in their organizations, communities, and/or industries.


Listen to the podcast with Tanya Janca on Apple PodcastsSoundCloud, or Spotify. Plus: See all of the INSPIRE 20 podcasts

Meeting-crashing worked out

Reflecting on that long-ago Python meetup, she said, "I don't know them," she explained in the INSPIRE 20 podcast. "And then they brought out beer, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm an idiot. This sounds unsafe. I should leave.' And they kept staring at me the whole time, too."

Janca's friend told her he was also uncomfortable with the way the other men were staring at her and suggested they leave the event.

But the pair soon realized that all was not quite as it seemed. Before they left, the host walked up to Janca, explained that there hadn't been a woman at the meetup in five years, and asked how he could get more women to show up.

"Well, stop staring at me like a zebra just walked into your meetup. I feel so uncomfortable."
Tanya Janca

Ultimately, Janca made friends with the men in the group and has presented at their meetups several times since.

Making a difference

Janca has been coding and working in IT for over 20 years. She has won numerous awards and worked everywhere from startups to public service organizations to tech giants, including Microsoft, Adobe, and Nokia. She is also the author of Alice and Bob Learn Application Security.

Janca values diversity, inclusion, and kindness, which shines through in her countless initiatives. Besides her work with We Hack Purple, she hosts a community and weekly podcast that revolves around teaching anyone to create secure software. She also founded Women of Security International (WoSEC), OWASP DevSlop, OWASP Victoria, and #CyberMentoringMonday.

In her INSPIRE 20 podcast, Janca talks about the importance of hiring and maintaining a diverse workforce. She also offers advice for how tech companies can attract more women and other underrepresented groups to the tech industry.

Try it for yourself

As for crashing events, Janca and her WoSEC group are still at it. "We would sign up and RSVP and do whatever you're supposed to do, but I would make a separate meetup with WoSEC and say, 'Let's crash this conference,'" Janca said.

In fact, one year the group crashed the BSides Ottawa cybersecurity conference.

"We told BSides, 'We're going to do this because it's uncomfortable when there's so few women, and I want there to be a lot of women.'"

The organizers of BSides Ottawa, as well as other male-dominated events, have been working with Janca and WoSEC to encourage more women to get involved.

Keep learning

Read more articles about: Enterprise ITDigital Transformation