Last night Syracuse CoWorks hosted the Women in Coding & Design interest group meetup. There was a solid turnout, but even better than seeing a number of Syracuse’s tech scene regulars attend was seeing the large percentage of new faces and first time attendees that made time for this event.
The issue to be discussed at the meeting was interest in a local Girls Develop It chapter. Zoe and Kseniya, the two women focused on leading the chapter, have to prove not only interest from the community, but the ability to find teachers to start the chapter. Girls Develop It is a national organization with branches in 52 cities. Zoe & Kseniya, who met during the recent New York Code & Design Academy coding class, would like Syracuse to be the 53rd.
Girls Develop It offers coding classes at very low prices; they keep the classes under $12 an hour. So, for example, you could take a course that spans two days a week (2 hours each day) for two weeks, giving you 8 total hours of learning, and your maximum price would be $96. Girls Develop It also offers scholarships through the national chapter if that price is still prohibitive.
One of the challenges with creating any group like this is finding a large enough interest base. I think this meeting and the positive feedback that Zoe & Kseniya have received since they started this project have proven that there is interest. Those of us who were involved with Girls in Tech (where we taught some basic classes) and Code Like a Girl (where we currently teach women Python for free), have also seen that there is interest in Syracuse and are very excited to see Girls Develop It take shape. It means more classes for more people in Syracuse.
I’ve long been a proponent of the fact that we simply need more developers in Syracuse. We have enough to make Hack Upstate great, enough to keep OpenHackSyr going, but overall, we simply need more people educated in various programming languages. Syracuse is at the point where it doesn’t matter whether classes are geared towards various genders, minorities or age brackets, we simply need more. Inclusive education is, absolutely, important, and making sure people who traditionally haven’t had access to STEM education is a priority, but at this point, there is such a lack in the number of developers in Syracuse that we are at a critical point where we need to do anything we can to create more local talent.
I’m excited to see Girls Develop It, which offers classes to everyone regardless of gender, take hold in our community.
One of the other challenges that Zoe and Kseniya face is finding instructors that can teach classes. Girls Develop It, like Code Like a Girl, populates itself with instructors by moving people from students to TA’s to teachers. However, this process takes time and lots of effort. For example, we have been running Code Like a Girl Python classes since summer, but this weekend is the first class I move into a teaching role (quick plug, you can sign up for that class here). To start, Girls Develop It will need people willing to teach their curriculum.
And that’s where the community of developers that is currently making up Syracuse’s talent pool comes in. If you can teach, are interested in teaching, or just want to be supportive to this new learning environment, I strongly suggest you reach out to Zoe or Kseniya to let them know you can help. Projects like this are difficult to get off the ground, anything you can do to participate will make it easier for everyone to benefit. Let’s help our community grow.