Growing a Community for Women in Tech From the Ground [Interview With Claudia Cafeo]

Claudia Cafeo -founder of Floxies and CM of No Code Ops- tells us what it's like to build and grow a community for women in tech.

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We interviewed Claudia Cafeo, the founder of Floxies -a community for women designers and no code devs- and community manager of No Code Ops to explore her journey to grow online communities. Here’s what she shared with Unita’s team 👇

Why did you start Floxies and NoCodeOps, and what were your first steps in getting the first members?

Hey everyone!

First off, thank you all for giving me the opportunity to share my story with you, being a Community Manager, one of my major goals is that of empowering people from my communities and I love when other people allow me to do the same by sharing my experience.

Floxies started at a time when we all felt stuck and needed a chance: covid.

As many other beautiful initiatives, Floxies came along and started growing when we were all facing personal challenges.

For me, personally, I was working as a primary school HLTA at the time and I had been working in the education sector for over 8 years.

When the virus hit, schools and hospitals were the fields most affected and put under an incredible level of stress – as a teacher working at a school for key workers, I had to be on-site even during our national lockdowns and when the risk levels were pretty high.

I live in the UK but I’m originally from Italy and that meant that during such a period of need I couldn’t fly back to see if my family was ok and vice versa, all whilst working on the front-line every day.
It was hard.

I’ve always been a curious, creative individual though and as a result I started looking back at those skills that I had put in a drawer during my studies. I started studying UX/UI design and Webflow development as a self-taught in the evenings after work and to me it felt like that was the light at the end of the tunnel that I needed in order to get out of school.

I soon realised how many of my teaching skills were easily transferable in those required for designers (and even more, community managers after that) so I found the transition to be very smooth and almost natural I would say.

Even though my studies were super exciting and I wanted to learn more and more every day, I also felt lonely. I felt like I was embarking on a huge journey by myself so I started outreaching for mentors and senior designers online.

Although I had some absolutely great experiences with communities like Bring You Own Laptop by Daniel Walter Scott and landed an internship with UXBeginners with Oz Chen, I also had some pretty bad interactions where some mentors that I wanted to receive help from were asking inappropriate, personal questions in return.

That put me off a little bit, to be honest with you.

I also worked for another internship for a month and never got paid for it.

Now I was also very angry.

Instead of throwing in the towel, though, that feeling of injustice and just overall resentment towards those experiences pushed me to seek out for other women who were possibly living a similar experience to mine.

I posted a message in a design group on social media asking if, in fact, there were other women out there who wanted to form a group to study design and Webflow together.

The positive response was HUGE and totally unexpected. I received about 70 responses to that message and what I thought was going to initially be a simple WhatsApp group turned out to be a beautiful Discord server that I built up from scratch.

I used Discord because I’m also an avid gamer and I knew that platform and knew how to use it and I also knew that it would have been able to easily accommodate 70 people in.

I did not know that that initial group would grow to over 1300 members in one year.

I did not know that I would have become a Community Manager.

Looking back now, that was definitely the best decision of my life.

I grew the community with the input from all the people in there and using my people-centered approach that I carried over from school, I was able to establish solid relationships with some of my founding members, people that I’m happy to today call friends.

The word Floxies itself comes from my Latin studies too, as the word “phlox” in latin means flower or flame and it’s also the scientific name of a flowery bush that grows even during tough meteorological conditions – is there a better metaphor to represent women growing in tech? I don’t think so. 🙂

To this day, Floxies keeps growing beautifully and I’ve hosting live events for our members from the very beginning – these events are not only an opportunity for us all to learn from influential guest speakers from the design and Webflow space, but also an opportunity for us to bond even more and continue empowering and supporting one another along our tech journeys. 

👉 Read Floxies community full review

Which are the most important events or activities that keep community members interested?

As well as our weekly events on a Wednesday, which we call “Wonder Wednesdays”, I also recently opened up two forums within our server where our Floxies can ask and receive support with their design and Webflow builds.

Forums are great because it allows to keep focused conversations and it’s easier for people to find an answer to an issue that might have been already previously addressed.

Thinking about the future, we definitely want to start hosting more in-person meetups and with that idea in mind we selected 10 different Floxies Ambassadors representing Floxies in ten different countries around the world. 

What are the benefits of having a private space for paid members? How is it different from the free NoCodeOps Discord community?

Having a paid membership allows for us to keep providing the community with the best experiences such as meetups and our virtual events.

In return, people get faster support, an opportunity to reach out to experts in the field, tools and educational discounts on our educational bootcamps. 

Can you tell me which tools you use to manage the community daily?

Discord (of course), Airtable, Tally, Zapier, Mailerlite, LuMa, Streamyard or Melon, and we used to use GatherTown as our virtual metaverse but we are looking into new tools where to build our next virtual office. 

Would you share your tips for effectively managing an online community, specifically for design and no code communities?

Stay human.

Whenever people ask me that question, I always say that the first 3 skills to have are to be kind, be a good listener and don’t assume solutions for your members, instead ask them what they need and build on top of that need.

What’s coming next in 2023 for Floxies and NoCodeOps?

All good things, I hope! Haha

Jokes aside, I think communities are ever so much needed right now.

We live in times where we spend most of our day in front of a screen and you all know how that can feel daunting and isolating at times.

Finding the right community for you is definitely a life-saver. That applies to businesses too.

You know your product is successful when you’re building it thinking of how to help those people you work every day for.

The future at Floxies and NoCodeOps will definitely focus more on education as in both of my communities I really want to make sure everyone feels empowered and is equipped with the right tools and knowledge that will allow them to reach their goal and success.

I believe in a concept that I refer to as  “collective growth” – there are so many resources out there, as communities we need to serve as a bridge for all those individuals that are yet to find their full potential.

I always say a community is as special as its members are – my success is their success too and it’s something that I always want to have close to my heart.

I hope that answers your questions, please do let me know if you’d like to know anything else from me and thank you so much once again for having me here today! 

Picture of Sofia Terlesky

Sofia Terlesky

I'm an SEO content manager with over five years of experience planning and writing for blogs and social media, helping small and mid-size businesses grow organically. Now, I'm responsible for planning Unita's content calendar—ensuring we are offering valuable content for community builders and founders.