In her spare time, Beverley Newing, the Spring/Summer Intern at Code First: Girls volunteers with Three Rings CIC, a tech start-up and volunteer management system.
She recently interviewed Ruth Varley, the Managing Director of Three Rings, to ask her a few questions about the huge role she played in the creation of this system, and what she does now.
"Hi Ruth, so who are you and what do you do?"
R: My name is Ruth Trevor-Allen. While I was still a student I became the Managing Director of Three Rings (there were only two of us in those days so the title didn’t mean much but we had to put someone down on the form when we created the company!). Three Rings is run by volunteers, including myself, so I have a day job as well, working for Oxford Brookes University as a Solutions Architect responsible for a team of developers and analysts working on a range of strategic projects.
B: Tell us a bit about Three Rings - what is it and who uses it?
R: Three Rings is an online volunteer management system for charities and voluntary organisations. It’s entirely web-based and includes a rota management system, news and events, comms by email or SMS, and a secure filestore. We work with nearly 300 non-profit organisations, supporting almost 25,000 volunteers. Our clients include everyone from household-name charities like the Samaritans, Macmillan and Childline, to small student helplines.
B: What was the inspiration for it?
R: It came out of our own experience as volunteers, specifically at Aberystwyth Nightline, our student helpline. Back when the first version of Three Rings was written, they were still using pens and paper to organise their volunteering. Dan, who wrote the original incarnation of Three Rings single-handed, was studying computing and wanted to put the whole thing online to save time and effort. It was a very forward-thinking idea in 2002!
B: Who develops Three Rings, and what programming languages does it involve?
R: The original version of Three Rings was written in PHP, with a flat-file based storage system. In 2006 we rebuilt from the ground up in what was then a cutting-edge technology, Ruby on Rails. Three Rings is still written in Ruby, and still uses the Rails web framework. We also use various other technologies, including jQuery, Coffee, and SASS.
Dan, the original author of Three Rings, heads up our development team as Technical Lead. In addition to him, we have a team of seven volunteer developers, myself included - so far there hasn't been a single update that didn't include something I'd written even if some of them were finished at very much the last minute (and on one occasion, while I was in the early stages of labour!).
B: I know that you were one of the founders of Three Rings– could you tell us a bit more about your role in it's growth and development?
R: Shortly after I joined, we made contact with our first Samaritans region, which lead to the first ever paying Three Rings clients and the heady day when we no longer had to pay the server bill out of our own pockets! In those early days, I worked hard to put the company on a more professional footing. This included introducing a rota for tech support and a target response time of 24 hours, a huge amount of work on improving the testing of the system, and expanding it from its very focused early design to something more flexible.
For my Masters year, I had to choose a topic for a dissertation project which was expected to take up a large portion of my time. Rather than try and cram Three Rings work around another substantial project, I chose “Three Rings: Streamlining Administration for Samaritans”. I can remember sketching out a significant piece of design which we still use today (treating organisations as a tree, so one org can be the parent of another - important for Samaritans who are organised into regions, some of which have their own accounts with us) on the back of a program at a conference.
B: What advice would you offer to women who are looking to start a career in tech, or who want to create their own start-up?
R: It’s an open secret in the tech world that we all depend on research to answer most of our problems. I fix things by myself quite often, but only after I’ve trawled the Web to see if anyone else already found the answer! Don’t be ashamed of looking for help, we all do it.
If you’re planning on building something new, start with a very clear idea of the problem you’re trying to solve and what it is about your solution that’s special. I love the Lean Startup methodology (http://theleanstartup.com/), getting early and continuous feedback from your intended users is just about the best way I know of checking that you’re building something useful and that you’re building it right.
There are more men than women working in this area, it’s true, but I’ve never encountered prejudice or discrimination, either against myself or others. The tech world of today is a fascinating and vibrant place full of wonderful opportunities, and the only thing you need to join us is ability and passion.
B: Thanks for your time, it's been great to hear more about Three Rings!
To celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th of March we’ll be running a week long series of blog posts to celebrate the work we’ve achieved with our sponsors. The fourth and final company featured in this week’s series of posts is Level39...
Level39 are one of our oldest partners, in fact we started working together way back in 2013! We launched our very first course at Level39 in July of that year and since then we’ve run a total of eleven courses. Together we’ve taught a staggering 280+ women to learn to code for free at Level39!
Following on from our first course in 2013, we've run two London General courses every Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer since. Given the number of courses that have taken place it’s unsurprising that we’ve taught all levels of our curriculum at Level39, from Beginners HTML/CSS, to Ruby to Python.
One of our most dedicated Lead Instructors, Elizabeth Chesters, who has taught on several classes at Level39 said: "Level39 have not only provided a space but an honest and first-hand experience in their offices, our industry, and in careers."
Our very own CF: G Intern, Beverley Newing was a student and ambassador on the last Spring/Summer Beginner’s course. Beverley had this to say about her experience:
“I joined the Spring/Summer 2016 course myself as a student and Ambassador, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Adizah Tejani, Head of Ecosystem Development at Level39, stopped by in the 5th session to show us around the rest of the floor and talk to us a bit more about what Level39 does, which was really interesting and inspiring. Seeing other start-ups in the various co-working spaces whilst working on creating our own websites and start-up ideas made entrepreneurship feel really tangible, and showed us that it was a very real option.”
Level39 is an amazing venue, and its beautiful views have been distracting our students from all over London for the past 3 years! As Europe’s largest fintech accelerator located at the heart of Canary Wharf, it also offers fantastic networking opportunities. Our students have the chance to understand more about the many Fintech startups and wider communities within Level39’s ecosystem.
The staff at Level39 have always been incredibly engaged and committed to growing our partnership, in particular Adizah Tejani has been a real advocate for championing CF: G at Level39 over the last three years. In fact, Adizah Tejani joined us as a panellist for last year’s CF: G Annual conference, and received some great feedback on our Twitter feed from attendees who were clearly inspired by her talk. Amy French, Ecosystem Development Manager, and Amy Tsang, Assistant Finance and Project Analyst at Level39, have both completed our Beginner’s course and built some amazing websites! We’ve also had a number of guest speakers visit our courses from their ecosystem, including Veronique Barbosa from Revolut and Diana Biggs from Uphold.
Level39 has played a huge part in helping Code First: Girls get to where we are, and supported us right from the start. Running our London Generals courses wouldn’t have been possible without them. We are so delighted to be working in partnership with Level39 to take a lead in having such a positive impact on diversifying technology. We can’t wait to see how many women we will teach to code and inspire to pursue a career in technology and entrepreneurship together going ahead.
To celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th of March we’ll be running a week long series of blog posts to celebrate the work we’ve achieved with our sponsors. The third company featured in this week’s series of posts is Google’s Campus…
Another one of Code First: Girls long standing partners has been Google’s Campus (which is part of Googles ‘Google for Entrepreneurs’ business arm). Campus have not only hosted our first ever CF:G Conference in 2014, as well as our highly oversubscribed Summer Intensive courses and Summer bootcamp, but Sarah Drinkwater, Head of Campus, is also on the CF:G’s advisory board.
One of the great points for CF:G about working with Campus has been the opportunity to see one of the UK’s most vibrant and prolific entrepreneur communities in action. Not only do they run over 800 events for entrepreneurs and tech startups every year, but as one of London’s most popular free co-working spaces, they have played host to a significant proportion of London based tech startups at one point or another.
The other great way in which Google have supported us is through their people. Sarah Drinkwater as mentioned has been an incredible support to us both in an advisory sense as well as a fantastic conduit into the tech industry, and we’ve also had individuals such as Rupert Whitehead (UK Developer Relations Programs Lead) and Marily Nika (search insights specialist) come in to kindly speak to our students and community members on anything from how Google works with developers, through to how to work with APIs.
And from the CF:G side, we’re supporting Google’s Campus with their own ambitions to continue to support an inclusive and diverse tech community in London. A huge proportion of Campus’ entrepreneur members are already women, and CF:G plans to continue to send more amazing women with innovate ideas their way to establish and grow their businesses!
Sarah Drinkwater, head of Google’s Campus had this to say about working with us…
"Campus London and Google for Entrepreneurs are committed to helping diverse teams and founders thrive. We love hosting Code First: Girls and fully support their bootcamps which empower young women to upskill themselves, ready for technical roles within startups"
So a very big thank you to Google for their support of CF:G, we love working with you and look forward to continuing to do amazing things together!
To celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th of March we’ll be running a week long series of blog posts to celebrate the work we’ve achieved with our sponsors. The second company featured in this week’s series of posts is Twitter...
Most of you will have already heard of Twitter, but some of you may not know that Twitter is also an amazingly generous sponsor in kind for Code First: Girls.
The Code First: Girls and Twitter partnership also started out as a one off event last Spring. Little did we know then that they would go on to host, not only our courses, but also our annual conference and many other events!
Our relationship started with a whopping full day of activities with two Hack Your Career talk, supported by over twenty members of staff from from a wide variety of roles. Since partnering with Twitter we’ve been really impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of their team to CF: G activities.
We’ve achieved some fantastic results over the last year, over the last two semesters we’ve taught over 70 women to code for free with them. You can read some tweets from our students here and here about how much they enjoy the courses. Our Python curriculum lead instructor Andreas Savvides, Software Engineer at Twitter, has helped transform our teaching material. Andreas is always working hard to continue to make learning to code more accessible and fun and encourage more women to pursue a career in technology.
We’ve been so blown away by the level of support from the team of seven volunteer instructors at Twitter. Not to mention the steady stream of many other members of staff who have visited our courses as guest speakers and inspired our students to pursue their dreams, such as Jessie Link, Twitter's UK Director of Software Engineering.
This is what Andreas had this to say about working with CF: G:
"Since joining Twitter, the amount of support, enthusiasm, passion and interest to get involved with what I have been doing for CF:G has been immense. We now have a large group of Software Engineers spending hours of their free time teaching young women how to code."
We were delighted to have Twitter host our annual conference last October, our biggest to date, attended by over 180 tech savvy young women. The day was truly inspiring, jam packed with an exhilarating series of talks, and speakers who offered a real insight into how varied and rewarding careers in technology & entrepreneurship can be. In case you missed it, you can see the full range of tweets via the #CFGconf here.
We’re excited to announce that Twitter will once again host our annual conference on Saturday 12th November 2016- so save the date! Here’s Andreas again on his experience of the conference:
"Hosting the Code First: Girls annual conference at Twitter UK last October was an amazing experience, a day jam-packed with inspirational talks and fantastic role models. All attendees, including the many Twitter volunteers, left the conference buzzing with positive energy, excitement and hope for a future with more women in the world of tech!"
This month we are even partnering with Twitter & Elle Magazine, to run a “Code Your Way into a Career in Fashion with Elle/Twitter!” event on Saturday 19th March. On the day we’ll be running a series of useful coding sessions, hacks and fascinating talks, to show how coding can help women to find a career in fashion and the creative tech industries.
We were so pleased to be a part of Twitter’s 2015 diversity and inclusion post, and to be working together to diversify technology. It’s hard to believe what we’ve achieved together in just one year, and we can’t wait to see what will accomplish in 2016. We feel so supported by the enthusiasm of their staff who are committed to increasing the ways we work together, and to achieving positive change in the tech sector.
Thanks so much Twitter!
To celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th of March we’ll be running a week long series of blog posts to celebrate the work we’ve achieved with our sponsors. The first company featured in this week’s series of posts is Thoughtworks...
Code First: Girls and Thoughtworks’ relationship started with a single event in 2015, but has rapidly expanded to include hosting our courses and most recently us, as their London office became the new home of CF: G HQ.
Since beginning as hosts for our Spring/Summer 2015 courses at their Manchester and London offices, we’ve since run a total of four courses together and taught over 100 young women to learn to code for free. From Beginners Introduction to web development HTML/CSS to Advanced Python, we’ve been blown away by the level of support from the dedicated team of Thoughtworks staff who teach on our courses as Volunteer Instructors.
In February 2016 we took our partnership to the next level, as Thoughtworks became a space sponsor in kind for CF: G HQ as well as our courses, as we relocated to their London office.
Jade Daubney who has worked closely with CF: G and is the UK Graduate Talent Scout at Thoughtworks, (or as she terms it working in “finding the most amazing graduates for an amazing company”) said the following the work we’ve achieved together:
“ThoughtWorks have been partnering with Code First Girls for just over a year. We were blown away with how many young women were inspired and motivated by them and by the fantastic work they do to get women into tech. We have been involved in the actual teaching of programming languages and events such as 'Hack Your Career'. We were always impressed with the hard work and enthusiasm from the team at Code First Girls. I adore everything Code First Girls stands for!”
We’ve been inspired by working with an organisation that is as deeply committed to diversifying technology as we are. Thoughtworks very much walk the walk (not just talk the talk) shown by the fact that they have 33% of women in tech roles; well above the UK/Telco sector average of 17% of women.
Since moving to Thoughtworks we’ve found the office to be an incredibly friendly and inclusive environment, and have been encouraged by the support and positivity of all their staff. We’ve especially enjoyed being in the same space as other like minded organisations committed to diversifying tech, such as Mum’s in Technology, who are also supported by Thoughtworks.
For all of these reasons we’re really delighted to be celebrating International Women’s Day at both their London office tonight and their Manchester office tomorrow.
We find it hard to remember CF: G without Thoughtworks, and can’t believe what we’ve achieved together in just over a year. We’re excited to continue to work together this year, and to further grow the ways our partnership is creating the positive change we want to see in technology.
Code First: Girls