Women in Agile Co-Founder Deema Dajani Is on a Mission to Build a Global Community
Inspired at a tech conference, this longtime agile advocate couldn't shake the idea of starting grassroots local communities for women and allies. Now, it's going global.
With almost a dozen chapters worldwide, it's hard to believe that Women in Agile, the brainchild of Deema Dajani and her tight-knit executive team, including Natalie Warnert, Eric Willeke and Joanna Vahlsing, officially launched only two months ago. Inspired by a topic track at an agile conference earlier in her career, Dajani, an advisor in transformation consulting at CA Technologies, set out to create a community that would keep the conversation going—but that would also empower women to become connect and find their voices.
I'm excited about seeing friendships form and seeing more women find their voices to speak up in circles that, quite frankly, have been predominantly male-oriented.
— Deema Dajani, Co-Founder, Women in Agile
The idea struck a chord, and has grown organically—and rapidly!—15 groups in the first few months. The organization is rising at a time when there's a growing appetite for communities and networks that promote women in tech, and the level of enthusiasm continues to inspire Dajani. "We've all been surprised by how much interest and support we've gotten," she says. "There's a lot of momentum right now."
We spoke with Dajani about the response to Women in Agile, and her plans for the organization that's now flush with donations.
MSF Hub: How did you get into tech?
Deema Dajani: After college, I joined Accenture to be a consultant in systems integration. When it was time to move on, my next step was to join a fast-growing startup called WildCard Systems, which specialized in prepaid payments. Eventually, we sold the company, but I never looked back. I've been in the worlds of tech and agile since the early 2000s.
MSF Hub: How did you get Women in Agile off the ground?
Dajani: I attended an agile conference that had an event on women in agile. There was so much energy around that event that at the end of one of the sessions, I raised my hand and asked: What if we get together and form a community to keep this conversation going year round? I ended up launching a local Women in Agile when I moved to San Antonio, and from there, something magical happened. Several women who wanted to stay connected and start their own local chapters approached me.
MSF Hub: So, the growth has been organic?
Dajani: Yes. Before I knew it, Women in Agile Bay Area had launched, followed by groups in New York City, Atlanta, and Boulder, Colo. There was zero marketing. We did zero promotions. This is all thanks to women hearing about each other and wanting to do something locally.
As an official incorporated organization, we have the opportunity to provide support to the various local groups that are launching. We could even start to venture into giving back to the community. We are considering different ways to give back to the communities, including the idea of a scholarship.
MSF Hub: What are your top goals now that you're incorporated?
Dajani: It has only been a few weeks, but we've formed three programs. One is called “Launching New Voices." Through the program, we support women in the community who are interested in public speaking but lack experience. We match them up with seasoned speakers on the conference circuit to mentor them through the process. There are a lot of incredibly talented women in the agile community. They just don't have the confidence and need a little bit of nurturing to get out there and speak.
Another program is “Local Communities." This one is my baby, and, through it, we're helping to launch offshoot Women in Agile groups. We provide these groups with knowledge, assets and subject-matter expertise so that they can be as active as possible in their local communities.
The third program is “Conference Allyship." The tech and agile communities have a lot of conferences, and our mission is to work with conference directors to evolve their thinking. We work to get them on board with our diversity and inclusiveness values, ensuring, for example, that there's a balance of male to female speakers.
MSF Hub: What are some of the challenges you anticipate as you pursue these initiatives?
Dajani: Our challenge will be getting across the message that we're an inclusive community. Yes, we are Women in Agile, but we're not in any way excluding anyone. Women and allies are all welcome. The other challenge is what we're going to do with our donations. We weren't expecting to receive such an outpouring of support, so now we have to come up with solid ways to dispense the funds.
MSF Hub: What excites you about the near-term future?
Dajani: I'm excited about seeing friendships form and seeing more women find their voices to speak up in circles that, quite frankly, have been predominantly male-oriented. We have a way to go, but this is just another avenue for bringing more voices out to life.