A Coach’s Experience from the Django Girls Accra Event
I was really excited for this event. To be a mentor and to be an inspiration to someone was the drive. Why DjangoGirls?
Well, one could say the coding industry has already been plagiarized enough by men, so to speak, hence, DjangoGirls. I had seen this movement a while back in countries outside Ghana yet I had no idea it had stretched across the globe to Africa. This event was held to enable ladies, those already having an interest to code and those not having, to develop an interest that goes beyond the superficial but genuine and authentic. So it’s my unbiased remark to say that the goal of this event was effectively met.
Of course the coaches had their challenges, so did the mentees but in the end both parties gained far more than they could bargain for and the organizers did a really good job at making the event a successful one. It was a collective effort.
From day 1 to day 2 it was all cheerful and lively.
On the first day, 16th June 2017, the event was supposed to set off early but we run-in late due to bad weather conditions. Despite the fact that some coaches and mentees couldn’t make it, a handful of them made it. So it was a great opportunity for some mentees to get to know coaches they were not assigned to, in effect, creating a network and an atmosphere where everyone knows everyone. It was a great experience for me. These ladies who made it to the event were really humble, they listened a lot, made mistakes and learnt a lot too.
Not much happened on day 1 because it was suppose to be the installation party for the whole event and the coaches were meeting the mentees for the first time. It was a start. A beautiful one at that. Which made me look forward to the following day.
On day 2, 17th June 2017, final day of the event, I was super psyched. Upon my arrival I noticed the room was full, all coaches and mentees had made it. How encouraging. The event set off after my entrance and we commenced with teaching these awesome and beautiful ladies how to create their first blog website using the Django web framework.
And this is where the real FUN begins.
On a side note, FUN to a computer programmer is a two-edged sword. It can be spotty and patchy. To elaborate, running a successful line of code could be fun, facing errors or bugs could be super fun and also seeing your mentees in a state of perplexity could be fun too, right?
As coaches with experience in the Django web framework we could relate all too well with the struggles of the mentees. We had been through that before. We had seen it all. It felt nostalgic. So we did our best to motivate them to carry on. Some mentees on the other hand had taken a comfortable lead among their peers.
Every mentee had been given the django girls tutorial two weeks beforehand. Those who had ample time on their hands took the pains to go through the tutorials, hence, attended the event fully prepared.
They had questions and we answered as best as we could. Coaches and mentees faced challenges that are worth taking note of. Some of the mentees came to the event with unreal expectations. They felt they could learn and understand it all at a go. Some had little or no knowledge in python. Some with little or no knowledge in basic html and css. Some had different versions of python and different versions of django installed.
Like the Great Beatles once sang, “Look out, helter skelter, She’s coming down fast”.
So it was only a matter of time that some mentees faced bugs and compatibility issues.
It led to a barrage of questions as each coach had three mentees to mentor. As silent as the room was, the look of frustration on their faces reinforced the moment all too well. It was amazing. These ladies did not know then that they were only building resilience towards the frustration that sometimes comes with coding. It was a great experience for them. I urged my mentees not to focus too much on understanding some of the syntax now but rather on familiarity. It would have been awesome to let them know to approach Django like they would a person. You don’t expect to completely know and understand people at first sight, rather you would familiarize yourself with the person. It takes years of friendship to get to know people. So will it take a while to get to know Django.
Late in the afternoon our awesome organizer, Opetunde Adepojue, broke the ice with the lunch break where both mentees and coaches could step away from their computer screens for a while to eat their lunch and have a chat. Truth be told it took our organizer about three more trumpets before coaches and mentees went out to take their lunch break. I guess we were all so into what we were building that we developed the addiction.
We also participated in the mannequin challenge which was quite uncomfortable but fun. At the end of the day three ladies were chosen out of the many as they were able to finish building their blog and publishing it too. They had their feel of wonderful prizes.
Everyone at the event did not go home without something. All mentees and coaches got a certificate on top of the experience. We took a lot of pictures and socialised in the process. These mentees learnt a lot. The package was to learn Django but they went home with knowledge in some Command line syntax, Linux commands, html and css basics, some basic python knowledge and some knowledge using Git commands too. These ladies met people they could look up to. They knew then and now that if they are to run into any errors in the future, say they decide to keep at it with Django, they can contact their coaches for ease and we would be ever ready to assist them.
So Kudos to all the coaches, Andrew Smith, Bubunyo Nyavor, Gerald Pharin, Noah Alorwu, Joey Daniel Darko, Mannie W. Young, Nkansah Rexford, Olorunfemi Bilesanmi, and myself, Samuel Baafi Boakye who contributed to make this event a successful one. Much appreciation to all the mentees who can’t be mentioned because they are a lot. To the organizers Opetunde Adepoju and Elizabeth Kolade with the support from Tessie Waithaira, I stand in behalf of all the coaches thanking you for the opportunity you gave to us to contribute to the Djangogirls movement..