Code Like A Girl founders, Vanessa Doake and Ally Watson

Ally Watson codes like a girl — and is proud of it.

We recently had a chat to the Code Like a Girl co-founder and upcoming Myriad guest, Ally Watson.

Code Like a Girl is an initiative dedicated to providing girls with the tools, knowledge and support to enter and flourish in the world of coding. They run a series of tech-focused events and workshops around Australia; bringing together local talents and like-minded girls who are passionate about coding and technology to learn, connect and celebrate each other’s achievements.

Favourite part of your day?

Breakfast time. I’m at my best in the morning and it’s my favourite meal of the day!

Latest concert you went to?

Jimmy Eat World at the Australian Open!

Dogs or cats?

Cats. I have a tattoo of one on my leg.

Instagram or Twitter?

Instagram. A picture tells a thousand words, Twitter only allows you 140 characters.

What’s your star sign?

Aries.

How much do you love coding?

‘Coding is like cooking’ this is one of my favourite analogies for it. You can either tinker with code and treat it as a hobby or you can make a career from it. I decided to go for the latter because I’m good at it and I get an overwhelming amount of enjoyment from the process of putting the ingredients together and creating something beautiful. Just like cooking!

The best food in the world is…..

I visited Vietnam at the end of last year and I haven’t stopped eating spring rolls since…

Do you play an instrument?

No, I’ve never been very musical but have always secretly wished I’d been in a rock band.

When did you start Code like a Girl?

March 2015 I started the website then we had our first event in Melbourne, August 2015.

Best thing about being a girl?

Turning gender stereotypes on their head.

White chocolate or dark chocolate?

Dark.

Favourite movie?

Tie breaker between Amelie and When Harry Met Sally.

Favourite vegetable?

Sweet potato

Why did you start code like a girl?

The idea for Code Like a Girl really came about when I relocated to Melbourne three years ago. When living in Scotland I was comfortable in the network I’d built slowly over time from early education to my career. Attending tech meetups to knowledge share and network was something I did frequently and enjoyed. Knowing how important it was in my field of work to keep up-to-date with the latest technologies I was adamant to retain this pastime when I moved to Melbourne.

However, when it came to the night of the tech events I’d take one look at the male dominated guest list and I’d bail at the last minute. That familiar feeling of anxiety took me right back to the beginning of my studies in computer science, I’d become so comfortable in my network over time that I’d forgotten how intimidating in can be for a noob starting out in tech, but for women in particular, I believe the challenge is greater.

It was this moment that I decided to create a space that accommodated for this. The name ‘Code Like a Girl’ was inspired by the powerful Always campaign (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs) and had been my Twitter bio for some time before I decided to name the initiative after it. Ultimately the campaign is about turning an insult on its head and increasing girls confidence and self-esteem. I felt this message really resonated with my ambitions for the initiative.

Have you been to Brisbane before? If so, what do you love most about it?

I have such a soft spot for Brisbane. It was where I flew in to when I arrived in Australia for the first time. We spent our first couple of days hanging out at South Bank Parklands area eating, drinking and walking around the beautiful sites.

Android or iPhone?

I’ve got a few of the Apple products now and love the way they’re built for collaboration with each other. I’ve been tempted by [Google’s’] Pixel though!

Tablet or computer

Computer.

Coffee or tea

Flat white, please.

Adventure Time or Family Guy?

I’ve never seen Adventure Time! So I guess I’d have to say Family Guy.

Right or left-handed?

Right

Latest TV series you watched?

The OA. I’ve been practising the 5 movements since…

What’s the hardest thing about being a woman in tech?

I can only speak from my own experience but I feel the hardest thing is being in a minority constantly. It can be tough to integrate into male-dominated teams, to speak up in meetings and to generally feel included at times.

I don’t have any horror stories of being a woman in tech only small incidents that over time build-up and can cause you to lose confidence in yourself. Fortunately, there are employers and managers who value diversity and promote an inclusive learning environment that caters for everyone.

Do you believe in Bigfoot?

In Scotland we have the Loch Ness Monster… If I’m going to believe in Nessy, I’m open to the idea of Bigfoot!

What advice would you give for girls who want to follow in your footsteps?

If you want to get into coding you have to accept first and foremost it’s about problem solving and the journey to a success is going to be littered with error messages and failure. Embrace the error message! In the context of coding and tech we need to teach girls to be fearless and embrace failure. Fail fast and fail often.

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Ally Watson
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