Sarah Explains Ladies Learning Code

This is a post from Sarah Cundiff. Visit her blog at http://www.sarahcundiff.com/!

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Unless you’ve been living under a stone, I’m sure you’ve heard all the buzz recently about how important it is to learn how to code.  Just check out the US Bureau of Statistics info on the job outlook for software developers to see why.  There’s even a campaign in the US for all school children to learn coding called “The Hour of Code.”  I regret not pursuing computer science as a major when I was in college!  But, as I proved starting my MBA at the age of 32, it’s never too late to learn something, and, it turns out you don’t even need a “degree” to learn how to code.

Itching to learn something new, I recently signed up to take some coding workshops through a non-profit called “Ladies Learning Code.”  It’s based out of Toronto, with chapters all over Canada, and is run completely by women.  The Montreal chapter is led by Nancy Naluz.

HTML

I felt so “empowered” after the Intro to HTML & CSS workshop, where we created a simple website from scratch.

So far, I’ve taken three workshops:

  • Intro to HTML & CSS
  • Intro to JavaScript
  • Intro to Mobile Web

The courses cost about $60 each and run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a Saturday.  The Montreal chapter doesn’t have a dedicated space for it’s workshops (unlike Toronto), but many different tech companies in Montreal have offered to host the workshops.  I actually found the uniqueness of each location to add to the wonderful atmosphere of each workshop. The HTML workshop was held at RPM Startup Centre in the Griffintown area of Montreal, the JavaScript workshop was held at the Microsoftoffices in downtown Montreal, and the Mobile Web workshop was held at the Busbud offices in the Mile End area of Montreal.  (Busbud is a start-up that provides an easy way to book bus travel all over the world, and won my vote for “coolest office” with it’s ping-pong table and amazing panoramic views of downtown Montreal!)

I felt so “empowered” after the Intro to HTML & CSS workshop, where we created a simple website from scratch.

What makes the Ladies Learning Code workshops so special is that they cater primarily to women (men are welcome to attend but must be accompanied by a female friend as the whole point is to introduce women to coding).  Local software developers and coding experts volunteer their time to “mentor” at the workshops.  The ratio of student to mentor I found was about 3 or 4 students per mentor.

javascript

At the Intro to JavaScript workshop, I learned how setup a website’s shopping cart.

In advance of each workshop, attendees are emailed a simple list of to-do’s to prepare, which basically consists of making sure you have the necessary free software downloaded in advance.  If for some reason you have trouble with the download, I would recommend showing up a little early and just asking one of the mentors for assistance.  Keep in mind that you need to bring your own laptop (and don’t forget your power cord!).  The workshop leader provides a very detailed package of slides that you can use to follow along with throughout the day, and keep for future reference.  One of the best parts is that you don’t have to come with any particular content – the workshop organizer provides all text and imagery for the coding exercises.  But, if you do have your own content, you’re also welcome to use it instead.

mobile

I learned how to add code to a website to make it mobile friendly at the Intro to Mobile Web workshop.

Each workshop usually starts with an intro to the software being used and an explanation of the reasoning behind the coding being taught, and then you’re led through a bunch of exercises.  At any point, you can raise your hand and a mentor will come over to help you trouble shoot.  The workshops are tailored to women who have never coded before and have just basic computer skills. But, if you’re a fast learner (like me), I found that the mentors are always willing to teach you some extra shortcuts and coding tricks here and there, while for the slower learners they’re willing to sit with you until you get it and are ready to move onto the next exercise. Basically, there’s no need to ever feel intimidated at a Ladies Learning Code workshop!

The workshops are also very social.  I met some lovely ladies at each of them, and even recognized some repeat attendees like myself, so by the third workshop I felt like I was entering a room of friends instead of strangers.  A healthy lunch is provided during the day, and plenty of time to socialize during the lunch hour.  I enjoyed getting to know some of the mentors and learning about their career paths and why they were inspired to volunteer their time.  The best was hearing some of the male mentors say that they just wish there more women were in their industry because they value women’s input and feel that the computer software and gaming industries would only be enhanced if more women learned to code!

pingpong

Showing off my ping-pong skills during the lunch break of the workshop held at Busbud.

When I left the first workshop, the word that popped into my mind to explain how I felt was “empowered!”

When I left the first workshop, the word that popped into my mind to explain how I felt was “empowered!” Not only did I learn code, a skill that I can continue to build on, but I also gained confidence.   The workshops are void of competitiveness, and are really about women coming together to support each other in a comfortable and collaborative environment, learning a topic that hardly any of us were comfortable with upon walking in the room.  Having recently finished my MBA, where only 30% of my classmates were women, the Ladies Learning Code workshops were such a breath of fresh air!If you live in Canada, check out the Ladies Learning Code website for a list of upcoming events and workshops in major cities across the country.A lot of organizations offering coding workshops I find cater to kids, but Ladies Learning Code is for adults.  I met attendees and mentors alike who ranged in age probably from 18 to 80!  I’ve heard of similar organizations in the US focusing on girls in high school.  If you know of coding workshops for adult women in the US, or other countries, please share info in the comments!  Or, if you already know how to code, why not organize an event in your area to pass it forward?  I’d be happy to help with event planning and/or with writing content to promote any women-focused coding/tech events.

ladies

A friend was so inspired by my learning to code that she joined me at my 3rd workshop. Friends learning how to code together, looking particularly “geeky” in our glasses.

Most of my career in marketing has been focused on the user-facing content side, but learning the back-side of the technology that powers digital marketing tools has given me a better understanding of the capabilities that I can then advocate for on a user interface.  It has also inspired me to focus my career on a technologically innovative industry, and perhaps even dabble in freelance website development.  If you run a small business and have an outdated website or no website at all, please feel free to contact me, and I’d be happy to offer my digital marketing consulting services and/or build you a new website.

And be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to follow along on my adventures in coding!

The author

Roger is an entrepreneur who has co-founded a social network entitled ThoughtBasin that looks to connect students looking to make a difference with organizations looking for difference makers. This experience has given him some setbacks, but also some priceless insights. He is deferring admission from the law school of University of Toronto to pursue his dream of creating impact through entrepreneurship, and he is constantly looking to learn and create, and to do more. He contributes to social entrepreneurship projects with his fellow Global Shapers, coordinates a volunteer tutoring site, and on his off time he unwinds by reading, writing, and dancing---sometimes, all at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Rogerh1991.