Tom has just finished his PhD at Oxford in Quantum Information Processing. He has designed the course for Code First: Girls and is currently teaching the coding students. Find out what it's like teaching 30 young women to code.
"One of the hardest things about learning to code is knowing how to get started. Even knowing what to learn in the first place can be pretty baffling. Enter "how to build a website" into Google and you will be faced with a multitude of confusing suggestions, most of them trying to sell you something. When you do eventually find some code you want to test out, it's far from straightforward to figure out where to write it and how to run it!
The purpose of CodeFirst: Girls has been to help overcome these initial hurdles to learning to code, to give an overview of the different technologies of the internet, how they interact and how to experiment with them. It's been a really exciting programme to be part of - it's amazing how quickly people move from knowing almost nothing about the internet to being able to put up simple but non-trivial web applications.
When I explain to people that I'm running the CodeFirst: Girls course, a question I frequently get is how I adapt the course to teach women. My answer is always the same: not at all. The motivation to program does not depend on sex, neither does that feeling of wonder when your program actually sends you its first email, or the feeling of frustration when it later decides that it won't be sending any more. Once you know how to start, learning to program well is a question of motivation and tenancity; in these departments women are every bit as equipped to suceed as men (if not more so!).
You might then wonder why a female-only course is even necessary. In some senses it isn't: I don't think there's anyone on the course who believes that it would be any worse to be taught alongside men. The problem is one of perception - despite the recent efforts of the development community to encourage women into the profession, it can still be a daunting prospect to enter a profession where more than 80% of the workforce is male. In an industry which values a wide and varied range of skills and approaches, and whose skills are very much in demand, it is vital we work to break down any barriers that remain in the way of large numbers of women joining. I hope that CodeFirst: Girls programmes can continue to play an active part in this!"
Code First: Girls