Code First: Girls was recently featured in the Observer in "Six ideas to get more women into tech". Here is a snippet from the article:
"Addressing the imbalance in tech entrepreneurship is also about getting women to think bigger, says Alice Bentinck, co-founder of Entrepreneur First, an organisation that helps graduates build startups through a year-long programme. "I hate saying this because it's such a cliche, but the typical application from women [in the first year they ran the scheme] was around either cooking startups or craft startups, whereas the guys were applying with these ambitious ideas that were going to change the world." She now runs Code First, a nine-week summer programme to teach women leaving university how to code.To get more women on board, her colleagues had to "do a much bigger conversion effort" than when recruiting men – explaining why working in a startup is such a fantastic thing to do and why coding is such an essential ingredient in that career path, she says."
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Guest post by Joysy John, advisor at Level 39 and supporter of education initiatives that get more people to learn coding.
It was exciting to host the first cohort of 33 Code First Girls at Level 39! When I studied computer engineering back in the 90's in Singapore I was one of the few women in a class full of men.
I taught the class on database design. I really enjoyed teaching the basic concepts of data modelling, normalisation and relational databases. Programming with the latest web technologies like Ruby on Rails is so much easier than programming with C or C++. Even though the programming languages being taught were new to me, the fundamental logic of algorithms and data structures remain the same. For example once you understand the concept behind arrays and hashes it doesn't matter whether you are programming in Python, Ruby on Rails or something else.
The women on the Code First Girls programme have been exposed to a lot of different programming languages and technologies. They are definitely more confident about creating their own website now than when they started the program. I wish there were more initiatives like this that demystify coding and inspire young women to enter technical roles in startups and in corporates.
Initiatives like Code Club, Apps for Good, Decoded Edu are a great first step towards inspiring primary school kids to learn coding. I look forward to a world where we will have more female role models in tech.
Congratulations to Code First Girls for launching this initiative to groom our future role models!
As part of Code First: Girls, our free programming course for young women, we invited three amazing startup women to come and share their experiences of working in the tech startup space. So who was there? We were joined by Melissa Morris, Founder Network Locum, Katie Evans, Head of Account Management at Metail and Vivian Chan Founder Epistora and part of the Entrepreneur First 2012 cohort. Find out more about them at the bottom.
Here are some of the questions from the Code First: Girls.
Why do you need to understand how to code?
Melissa – “It took ages for me to get my minimum viable product together as I had to rely on friends who could code. If I knew how to code, I could have done it in a week.”
Katie – “In my role, I need to be able to translate from one language to another – by that I mean translating from the technical team to our clients.”
Vivian – “As a founder in a tech startup, you need to know how to communicate with your team and to resolve disputes in your team. My co-founder is technical and knowing how to code means that I can understand his thought processes and why he does things in a certain way.”
What advice would you have for someone who wanted to build a startup?
Vivian – “Just do it. Failing is the best way to learn”
Melissa – “Do whatever it takes for you to get the confidence to do it. I had to get the confidence that I could run things on my own. Identify what it is that might be holding you back and work out how you can fix it.”
Katie – “If you are a nervous, try working in a startup. In a startup, you can make your job what you want it to be. If you like learning, startups are the right place for you.”
What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your careers?
Melissa – “The importance of mentorship. You need to surround yourself with mentors from different fields so that you always have someone’s advice you can ask.”
Vivian – “I wish I had learnt Python (the programming language). Having to learn on the fly, while building my startup at the same time was quite intense!”
Katie – “Don’t worry about not knowing the answer. A little bit of panic is quite a good feeling.”
Melissa Morris, Founder of Network Locum, the UK's leading online community for GP locums. Melissa is the CEO and was previously a management consultant from McKinsey & Co. She learned first-hand that flexible staffing could be used to improve the services GP practices provide to patients whilst also reducing costs. She left management consulting to work within the NHS itself to learn better how it all worked from the inside, whilst tinkering on her business plan and building the perfect team. Network Locum launched in the spring of 2012 and now has grown to a team of 12.
Katie Evans, Head of Account Management at Metail, Katie joined Metail in September 2012 as the Service Manager. After graduating from the University of Bath, she worked for a number of different retailers including Nails Inc and Burberry and has joined us from Marks and Spencer where she spent two years in the merchandising team, buying both Lingerie and Beauty products. Katie is in charge of making sure Metail’s clients are looked after and are given the highest quality service possible.
Vivian Chan, Founder Epistora and part of the Entrepreneur First 2012 cohort. Vivian was previously the President and Chairman of CUTEC, and holds a PhD from Cambridge University. She set up Epistora to solve the problems she had finding scientific material while completing her PhD. Epistora looks at connecting and democratising scientific information, making it inherently easier and more transparent for everyone. She has raised a significant seed round and is now growing the team.
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!"
Gwen from Code First: Girls shares her vision and learnings from the course. Read on to find out more about how CF allowed her ideas to become a reality!
"Code First is an excellent opportunity to become exposed to the world of computer coding. The program allows young women the rare opportunity to gain an overview of different computer languages, build new projects, and work with incredible students.
Although I had no desire to become a professional computer programmer, I realized that understanding the basics of computer coding was essential to my career. I needed to communicate with the programmers on my team or else continue to rely heavily on other people. After only a few weeks in the Code First program, I was able to convey my ideas, set realistic deadlines, and identify improbable requests. The knowledge I gained from Code First enabled me to become both a rational leader and an independent thinker.
I had a surplus of ideas but I struggled with developing them into a digital reality. Without any coding exposure, my designs remained on paper. My only solution was to hire a website developer. Although they would be blind to what I had envisioned and I would have lost a lost of capital creating an idea I had not properly tested. I saw Code First as a chance to make my ideas into realities without jumping straight for professional assistance. I did not have the skills to create a refined product, however I had just enough to build a beta version. My independent projects transformed from sketches to full-blown prototypes that I could show friends, family members, and even co-workers.
In addition to gaining an extraordinary amount of technical knowledge, Code First graduates gain a group of friends. The program offers the rare opportunity to meet with young women who are incredibly talented, motivated, and brilliant.. It is rare to find this caliber of ambitious women driven to succeed in technology. Even without any computer coding, Code First was a valuable experience."
Code First: Girls, our coding course for young women, is taking place this summer at Level 39 of 1, Canada Square. Read on to find out about Grace's experiences as a code learner and enthusiast.
What are you doing at the moment?
I’ve just finished 3 out of 4 years of a manufacturing engineering degree at the University of Cambridge.
What are you learning at the moment?
At the moment I’m learning how to set up a form on my website so that the information which is entered by the user ends up in a neat table in Google docs where I’m able to analyse it.
How are you finding learning to code? Has it been easier or harder than you expected?
Learning to code can be tough when you’re trying to figure out why the little things aren’t working but when you get a nice website up and running it’s incredibly satisfying. My coding has come on in leaps and bounds since starting Code First : Girls thanks to a great group of helpers as well as an intelligent group of girls to ask questions to.
How will you use the skills you have learnt after Code First?
The skills I’ve learned will be beneficial to any job I undertake in the future, whether it’s starting on a graduate programme or founding a tech start up. Every modern company uses technology to a certain extent: having coding skills means that I’ll be able to use technology effectively and potentially offer solutions to help the organisations I work in to grow.
What has been the most useful part of Code First?
The most useful part of Code First has been learning a new skill amongst a group of incredibly intelligent and driven people. Not only is everyone more than happy to discuss coding queries but also I’m sure that these ladies will form an incredibly useful network in the future. Particularly if I chose to enter the world of tech start ups.
What would you tell a person who is about to start learning to code?
You get out as much as you put in. You’re not going to learn to be a pro-coder over night, but if you put in a decent amount of time you can get far very quickly, and there are so many free resources available online to help you get there. Codeacademy courses are great and nothing beats Google in solving those annoying little problems. I found the Developer tools (on a Mac) particularly useful. They’re a great way to look around your favourite website in html so give them a try if you’re looking for inspiration.
Code First: Girls