Kaylee McHugh

ChattyKathi.com CEO and co-founder Kaylee McHugh of Denver will present at the 2021 Women Who Code global conference.

The Women Who Code CONNECT REIMAGINE global conference starts Thursday with a remote platform due to lingering pandemic restrictions and some Denver flair.

The 2021 conference includes a program from Denver startup developer Kaylee McHugh.

The two-day conference includes all the staples like technical talks from industry leaders and experts, networking sessions, demonstrations, and remote-learning workshops.

“Get actionable advice, share best practices and meet people who believe that tech is better with women in it,” according to organizers.

Event organizers expect more than 2,000 participants to take part in the 45 sessions. It's the sixth year for the global conference. This year's conference is remote, like 2020, and organizers expect remote aspects to be a permanent part of future conferences.

2020 "was an amazing and powerful event that brought people from around the world together even while we were forced to be physically apart," according to organizers in a written statement. 

McHugh, in her first year presenting, will talk about Firebase — a Google product used to create mobile and web applications.

“That was definitely of goal of mine, to be presenter, after starting my own company,” McHugh said. “At this point in my career, I’ve learned a lot of good and bad about the tech industry. I want to share that with women.”

She belongs to the Denver Women Who Code chapter, lives in Five Points and is getting a masters degree in tech management from the University of Denver.

“I really love and appreciate the Denver tech scene,” said McHugh, who came from Washington D.C. “It’s welcoming and exciting. What I love the most is Denver has such a wonderful work-life balance attitude. A lot of cities, like D.C., have a tech industry that’s still 'work those 90-hour weeks for little appreciation.' Denver tech companies see how your ability to go on a hike, or grab a beer with friends, makes you a better employee because you’re more well-rounded and happier.”

McHugh and her team developed the ChattyKathi.com technology, which prompts a group of friends or family in a text (SMS) group chat with discussion topics to keep relationships strong – even miles apart. It launched in November and is getting ready to expand to business and membership organizations.

“It strengthens connections between employees and members,” McHugh said. “What was cool about ChattyKathi is the process is science driven. We connected with (Marisa Franco), an expert with a PhD in friendship psychology. We’ve amassed more than 1,000 different conversation points. … When you’re in a wonderful conversation with good friends and family, it seems so easy. But once you dig into how that happens, and to re-create that digitally, has been a fascinating process.”

There are premium versions of the technology if users want a better experience, but the free version doesn’t contain ads like most free tech or app products.

“We have not incorporated any advertising, and are going to stay away if we can,” she said. “We want users to feel their data is protected and the conversations are private. The businesses and membership organizations will use a pay version.”

Asked if the gender imbalance in the tech world has changed at all after Women Who Code, and many others, have been working the issue for years, she said not as much as it needs to.

“I’ve been to the boot camps that are 90% men, and at companies where I was the only female engineer,” McHugh said. “I understand that journey and (Women Who Code) has been really valuable. … Though I definitely wish it wasn’t, I can 100% say the industry is still male dominated. That was another driver for starting my own company.”

Getting more women in tech industry leadership roles will help swing the balance, she said.

Conference tickets are still available via the Women Who Code website.

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