How to Code Like a Girl: Tech Resources for Women
There are countless reasons for wanting to improve your coding skills. You may be interested in expanding your knowledge for professional reasons, whether you want to add a new programming language to your arsenal, create a website for your business or switch careers altogether. Perhaps you did some programming in the past and would like to brush up on those skills. Maybe you are totally new to coding and you would like to give it a try. But you aren’t sure where to start, so you would like some help.
While there are plenty of resources available for learning how to code online, it can be hard to know where to get assistance when you run into problems. How can you find that guidance? One answer is to attend a tech event. However, it might be difficult to ask for help in this situation, particularly when you feel like a novice at whatever you are trying. This problem is particularly acute for women because the tech industry skews overwhelmingly male, which could add to the intimidation factor. Fortunately, there is a vocal (and active) contingent working to correct the gender imbalance, resulting in great resources to help women become expert programmers. This article discusses organizations whose goal is to bring more women into tech, specifically looking at groups that meet in the Boston area. However, several also have a national presence with web resources that you can access regardless of your location. Of course, these are by no means the only ones. If you have any great tips or suggestions, please add them in the comments!
RailsBridge helps traditionally underserved populations learn how to code. It started as a way for female developers in San Francisco to learn Ruby after one of RailsBridge’s founders observed that the San Francisco Ruby group was approximately 97% male. RailsBridge workshops are offered in the United States and around the world, and are most often exclusively for women. These weekend events include topics such as HTML, CSS, Ruby, and Ruby on Rails. RailsBridge is a great opportunity to learn more about coding and get direct help from teaching assistants, who are volunteers that work in the local tech industry.
A RailsBridge event is a great starting place if you are wondering whether you want to pursue a career in tech or if you want to gain the skills to achieve this goal. Julissa Jansen is an alumna of both RailsBridge and Launch Academy, and she feels that she benefited greatly from her RailsBridge experience. Julissa had no coding background when she revamped the website of the non-profit organization where she worked, but she quickly discovered how much she enjoyed HTML and CSS. For Julissa, RailsBridge provided a solid foundation for her tech career. She attended RailsBridge after she was accepted to Launch Academy, which she found to be ‘the perfect transition to ease me into the bootcamp.’ Julissa was drawn to RailsBridge because it ‘foster[s] a welcome environment to women.’ In fact, at RailsBridge Julissa made several close friends who have provided crucial support for her. Julissa describes these women as ‘a support system of people who are on similar paths as you or have completed those paths. I still have that support system.’ Today, Julissa assists others at RailsBridge in Boston by volunteering as a teaching assistant.
Boston Ruby Women is a group that meets once a month to connect women in the Ruby community. The meetings are typically informal and provide a great opportunity to talk about a broad range of issues, whether they are about code or career. Most often, there are around 10-15 women in attendance and meetings take place at various tech companies around downtown Boston. All Ruby enthusiasts are welcome, from total beginner to professional. BRW is a great event to attend if you have questions about RailsBridge as several of the organizers are usually in attendance; alternatively, if you have recently completed RailsBridge and are wondering what direction to take next, BRW gives you the opportunity to get suggestions. Typically several women at the meetings have attended local Boston coding bootcamps, so you will be able to ask graduates questions if you are wondering whether a bootcamp is the right career move for you.
Melissa Xie is the founder of Boston Ruby Women and remains actively involved in the organization. She values the informal nature of the events: ‘There’s a lot of room for bonding and forming great personal and professional relationships with other women in the Boston Ruby and really just the general tech community. Everything about this group is pretty low pressure and I think that’s what makes it work.’ If you have questions about tech generally or Ruby specifically, BRW is a great place to get help with them.
With such a wide range of activities, GDI provides an opportunity for virtually anyone interested in tech to interact. Attendees at events include experienced and novice coders, women who are interested in starting to build a web site, and even those who work full-time in tech but don’t code. GDI also offers the chance to hone leadership skills within the tech community through the numerous roles that are available with the organization, such as the community chair, events chair, and social media chair. There is no prohibition on men attending events, although the target audience is primarily women.
Stephanie Viccari became involved with GDI’s Boston chapter when she was attending Launch Academy. For her, one of the most rewarding experiences has been improving her coding skills by presenting workshops. Stephanie discovered that teaching allowed her to ‘practice your own skills and improve your skills,’ one of the primary benefits that she has enjoyed from participating at GDI events. She also appreciates the opportunity to meet ‘engaging and interesting’ people. For Stephanie, GDI ‘plays a vital role in creating a nurturing, informative culture that helps others achieve their potential.
Even if you are not taking a course, you can sign up for free to be a member of WCC. You will then have access to articles about careers in tech, coding, and other topics of interest (such as how to blog about tech issues). Also, you will be kept up to date about new courses that are starting if you want to sign up.
Find your own way
There is no one way to learn how to code, so feel free to take the route that is most comfortable for you. Just be sure to seek assistance if you get stuck instead of giving up. Everyone who codes encounters stumbling blocks, but with the help of the organizations on this list, you can move past those problems to build whatever projects you can imagine!