May 16, 2013No Comments

Women Learn to Code: Girl Develop It

2013-03-27 18.46.51Technology is cool. Creating websites is fun. Building an app is the modern day equivalent of being in a band. Oh, and there's the added benefit of exciting, well-paying jobs, too.

The number of people who build software is growing, thanks in part to educational alternatives that have emerged over the last few years—from online offerings like Code Academy and Code School to intensive immersion programs like Dev Bootcamp and Starter League. Free online courses and local meetup groups are helping make coding more accessible, and it's exciting to see the diversity of the technical community expand.

Here in Chicago, we've recently launched a local chapter of Girl Develop It, an international organization "that exists to provide affordable and accessible programs to women who want to learn software development through mentorship and hands-on instruction." It's all about creating a non-threatening environment where people can learn, practice their skills, and network.

We recently wrapped up our first class, an Introduction to HTML/CSS that ran for two hours, one night a week for four weeks, and included nineteen women and two men. Many of the participants work with developers on a regular basis—as project managers, account managers, social media specialists, marketing managers, or graphic designers. Some are interested in making a permanent career change and becoming developers, while others want to get better at their current jobs and improve their communication with the coders on their teams. It was fun to watch their excitement, confidence, and curiosity grow as their web pages came to life, and they were able to control things they once considered magic.

Some of these women may now go off and practice on their own, explore online courses, sign up for the next Girl Develop It class, or even make the leap to a bootcamp program. Building software is fun and rewarding! It's so great to see people who had never considered it a possibility have a chance to launch a new career in coding.

This Saturday, May 18, at 10am we'll be hosting a Meetup: PairUp! Practice Your Coding Skills (Give Forward, 1564 N Damen Ave, Suite 303), so stop by to pair with another person at your skill level and hack on a project for a couple hours. Whether you're just getting started with HTML or looking to strengthen your Javascript skills, all levels are welcome.

And if you know any women who are interested in coding, please tell them about Girl Develop It!

August 29, 2011No Comments

Notes from Social Dev Camp 2011

Social Dev Camp took place here in the Windy City this past weekend, and I had the pleasure of attending. First off, many thanks and congratulations to Tim Courtney, Andy Angelos, Veronica Ludwig, and Heidi Massey (and many others that I didn't talk to) for their hard work in organizing and pulling off this event so smoothly.

There were some wonderful presentations, but the best part was just having so many members of the Chicago tech community in one place. I ended up missing a few sessions on Saturday simply because great conversations kept running over.

Off the top of my head, here's what stood out:

  • Mike McGee and Neal Sales-Griffin of Code Academy. Responding to the shortage of Ruby on Rails developers, as well as the desire to make programming more accessible, Neal and Mike have recently launched a twelve-week program for coding noobs to get their feet wet and learn to build web apps.
  • Heidi Massey and Eric Lannert of I.C. Stars. I.C. Stars teaches tech skills to people who didn't have a chance to go to college. Their stats are outstanding: The average participant starts the program earning $9,000/year; the average graduate makes $30,000 their first year out and $80,000 by their fifth year; and 81% of all graduates stay in the tech field.
  • Dave Kadavy, author of Design for Hackers. Dave's on the front end of a national tour pimping his recently published book. He's got great tips for aesthetically challenged left-brainers.
  • Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of Reddit. Though his plane from New York was cancelled due to Irene, he managed to Skype in for his keynote. For a guy who created something so huge (a top 50 site on the internet in terms of traffic), he was very humble, and very funny. Seeing him speak was like seeing a celebrity. He's since gone on to cofound Hipmunk and Breadpig.

I'll be posting more about individual sessions in the coming days, so check back here if you're interested.

Did you go to Social Dev Camp? What were your top picks and takeaways?

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