Is what I am doing a good idea? • Vicky Twomey-Lee
May 21, 2015
Last night I was at an after-party and I was introduced to someone who might have been a little bit merry after a pint or two and after finding out what I do, he claimed that the female-friendly workshops I run are not of any use to anyone. He said who would hire anyone just after doing a short programme? Although I tried to tell him that they are short two or four hour once-off workshops, and they are not programmes or courses. I’m also happy to have a back-up of a friend who’s a lecture and holds a PhD.
I understand where he’s coming from (with some thumping awesome tunes in the background), I think he is coming from a hiring perspective. Whereas I’m opening a platform for people who are curious to learn, and/or want to learn in a safe and friendly environment. I am not competing with colleges or professional training services. I’m providing a safe place to those who would normally shy away from tech workshops and events. I promote awareness that it’s okay to be scared but we are there to learn. The awesome mentors (who many are industry professionals, and volunteer their own time) reach out and teach folks who want to learn, where some might recoil at the thought of talking in public. So it works both ways. I have seen people attend the workshops and become mentors, I have seen returning faces to new workshops I organise. Unfortunately I don’t know what happens to people after attending these workshops, e.g. how they get on, do they detest coding, did they pick up the courage and write the project with the small boost we helped them with?
From experience, setting up and getting the right tools is the hardest part for anyone starting off, and from talking to other coding clubs and organisations, it’s the same as well. It’s a fantastic feeling to see some people progress to attend more tech events that are not just female-friendly. And yes, I have seen this happen and I am so happy it is working.
Maybe because he doesn’t see a problem. He doesn’t see the need for these coding clubs, these safe havens, these encouragements… and that it’s ok if you want to learn to code. But for many of us, it is a problem.
He asked a curious question, am I misleading people with these “programmes”? How am I misleading people? They are workshops, not programmes. Each event promotes teaching something in either 2 or 4 hours mentored by someone from the industry. It’s not meant to get you an entry level job or that promotion, it’s to help to get people a boost up, understand and ask questions (which are never stupid) in a “friendly and safe” environment. If you want to get that awesome job straight away, go and take up a college course, or go and attend a certified training course, or coding bootcamps. What I’m (and others) are providing is a stepping stone to learn more, and practice more, and if you do end up with a job/promotion, that would be down to the hard word of that individual stepping up and not being afraid to learn and do.
In any regards, in all cases, get involved with the community and have your own side projects. That shows dedication and passion.
I speak from experience of wanting to fit in, to learn and grow in isolation in the past, and what I could have done was to reach out to others, but I didn’t as I thought that would make me seemed stupid. There are many organisations like PyLadies, Rails Girls, Women Who Code, techmums, and many, many more globally. So how wrong am I? I’ve been running female-friendly coding workshops and events the past 2 and a bit years, and there’s still a demand.
When I did mention how long I’ve been doing this, and if he’s heard of Coder Dojo, we are like Coder Dojo for adults (but not affiliated with them). And asked why do we want kids to learn to code? He said “fair enough”, but he wanted to continue the conversation as he finds it interesting, which to be honest I don’t have to time to debate about through emails. Emails, social media, is a time sync for me as it is, and I would rather talk with him in a quieter setting instead of through emails over tea/coffee. :-)
So that is my first encounter with a naysayer of female-friendly workshops and events I run. Interesting (aside from the shouting because we were in the pub), but I know I wouldn’t have stood a chance if he said something like that to me a couple of years back. At least I am able to hold my own last night.
Finally, here’s a nice article about adult coding clubs from Silicon Republic: http://www.siliconrepublic.com/innovation/item/34563-way-to-code-adult-coding-g
Originally published at whykay.svbtle.com.