How HubSpot Got My Daughters into Coding
Back in 2012, I came across this short video. I had just transitioned from being a publisher of books on local history to working in the marketing team of a b2b tech company.
Look, the woman in the video, it’s me!
The video stayed with me all through these years because it hit a nerve, I recognised myself.
The woman in the video loves her job, wants to get a lot of work done, but she also wants to spend time with her family.
Her solution? She uses technology to make her life better.
Working with software teaches you about software
Fast forward a couple of years. I use HubSpot at work now. It saves me time, and helps me to get more stuff done while keeping an overview.
But there’s more to it. I’ve learned a lot about software by using HubSpot.
Word was the only software I used to know, and I actually remember Clippy… I was a copywriter who ventured out into marketing before marketing technology existed, and it opened up a world to me.
I believe there are plenty more opportunities for great software to be built to help people, and perhaps introducing programming to children can help.
Software makes you free
Good software has a liberating effect. Instead of struggling with some reporting in Excel over the weekend, I have time to write this while my daughters are in a room next door taking their first steps in learning how to code at our local CoderDojo.
Bring your daughter to the… CoderDojo
I bring my daughters here, because I want them to experience the good side of technology for themselves. I want them to know that tech is not outside of their realm.
I take them here because I want them, if they should feel so inclined, to be able to build software that talks to their needs, as people, but also as women.
Is programming different for women then for men? Yes. For some reason, coding has become an almost all-male thing, although there is no biological reason for it. Women, who in the dark ages of computer history, used to code, have now lost their appetite for it. They need some help to get back into it.
I’m not alone who thinks like this. This particular CoderDojo tries to get as many girls to join as boys. Coach Yves Hanoulle just wrote an article on what he does to inspire women to consider going into IT.
“Hey”, I hear you think. “HubSpot is not built by women, yet you’re happy with it, so what is the problem?” Well, HubSpot got built because of a good target market. ‘Marketing Mary’, the buyer persona who is represented in the video, the marketer who is juggling all aspects of modern marketing while not necessarily being a digital native or tech freak, is a powerful persona because she represents a lot of money, considering that more and more of IT budget is being spent by marketing than by IT.
Yet, plenty of other great stuff that could be built, doesn’t get built because there is not such an obvious heap of money to be made from it, or because the people who need it, don’t think of code to solve the problem.
Built by men, built for men?
Most software is conceived and built by men. That means there is a bias to build things that are interesting and useful for men. It’s hard to explain what I mean without being misunderstood here. Men and women are equal, but equal is not the same. Software is simply going to serve women better if more of it is built by women.
If it’s good, it’s good, no?
You might argue that there’s no difference if good software is written by a man or by a woman. Sure, but how many health apps and fitness trackers do you know that take a woman’s monthly cycle into account? That’s just a biological example, there are many more differences that could be used to make better software for more people.
Should everybody learn to code?
“Hey,” I hear you thinking again, “do you think that teaching them to code is the answer? Just like they wouldn’t need don’t need to be bricklayers to be an architect, they don’t need to be able to write code to invent great new apps.”
I don’t think everybody should learn to be a fully proficient coder. What everybody should get, is an idea of what coding is, how it gets you to make the computer do something for you. And if they like it, they can go on to master a ‘real’ programming language.
If you have no idea of how programming works, you’re just going to be at the mercy of companies to build software for you, and they’ll probably only do it if there is enough money in your problem.
Computers are tools, not magic
I’m sure that the coming generations, girls and boys, need to learn that computers are tools, not magic. Waze is not a cute icon on mum’s phone that tells you how to get somewhere. It is lines and lines of code written by people, which is then executed by computing power in servers in physical racks in a huge data centre somewhere.
The challenge is going to be to find good problems to be solved by this awesome computing power. If more people are aware of how to get computers involved in solving different problems, we have a better chance of getting better software for everybody.
I was lucky that in my case HubSpot developed their platform for people like me, and I’m really happy to be talking at the Grow with HubSpot event in Brussels.
As for my girls, I wish for them to feel confident and welcome to learn whatever they want to learn.