Meet a National Coding Week Ambassador – Claire’s Story

As featured by National Coding Week, June 2016

My name is Claire Dodd, and I’m originally from West Yorkshire, but now residing in Manchester. I come from a background of working in credit control and debt collection, but I’ve always been a geek at heart.

I was introduced to the North West tech scene through attending BarCamp Blackpool, and after moving to Manchester in 2013, and being ignited by the passion of the grassroots tech community, I was part of a team who resurrected BarCamp Manchester, of which I am currently planning the third year.

After being welcomed to the community with open arms, I was inspired to develop my own skills and knowledge, and decided to learn how to code using Python. After completing a number of online courses, I decided to step out and write my first independent program. I typed out a hundred lines or so using Notepad++, and then for the life in me couldn’t work out where the ‘run’ button was.

The problem with online learning environments is that they’re not representative of coding in the real world, and as good as the courses are at helping you learn basic coding concepts, they never seem to get you fully ready for what comes next.

I spent time looking for somewhere I could go for help, and while there are code clubs galore for children, no one seemed to be catering for those of us who were coming late to the party, at least not without a charge. It was out of this need that CodeUp Manchester was born. First devised in November 2014, the concept was locked down and our first volunteer mentors were signed up. Our first meetup in February 2015 had 27 attendees, and by March 2016, we’re up to 81. We’re also about to launch two more branches of CodeUp in Stockport and Sheffield!

Due to my involvement in the Manchester tech community, I’ve also now changed careers. Instead of working in a boring finance office, I work for MadLab, a community innovation organisation in the Northern Quarter. Now I spend my days developing and delivering workshops to children and adults in order to help them improve their digital skills.

This also allowed me to bring together the resources of both CodeUp and MadLab to put on a whole day of workshops for National Coding Week 2015!

My top three tips for new people getting into the digital sector are:

  1. 1. Online learning is a great way to get start, but don’t get stuck in an online learning environment, it’s not reflective of coding in the real world.
  2. 2. Check out your local meet-up groups for help. There might not be a CodeUp near you, but you may find local user groups with similar interests where you can find support.
  3. 3. Never give up, get involved, and don’t be afraid to try something new!

Advice for people staging an event for National Coding Week:

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