Learning how to code and why it is so important

Following the Rails Girls workshop in mid August, attendee ‘Female Disruptors’ wrote this insightful blog post….

It’s very early on a Saturday morning and a quiet street in Manchester looks a bit out of place. There is a crowd forming outside MadLab on Edge Street and they look like they mean business. Quietly checking their phones, nodding greetings to each other with a conspiratorial look knowing that they are all here for one thing — to learn how to code.

To most people getting up at the crack of dawn to learn how to code (Ruby on Rails in fact) would not register as their idea of a fun weekend — but as I sit in a room full of people I realise just how much demand there is for this kind of programme, and for good reason.

Run by volunteers and supported by a number of fantastic sponsors that include Co-Op and Sky this is code at lightening speed — a full day immersed in code with the aid of some very willing, and able, coaches who have also given up their time to tease out the latent skills that may exist within me. Did I miss my calling earlier on in life? Should coding have been something I embraced and most importantly am I more savvy about tech than I think?
I have spent many years on the other side of tech — working with agencies as a client, understanding what I want tech to do and the process of how to get there. However, I have never needed to build the tech myself — until today.

Today I am faced with two reasons for being here — firstly, I want to walk the talk. If I am going to encourage, motivate and up-skill girls and young women to be better able to choose a career in tech then I at least need to learn the basics of code. At least this is what a loud voice inside me has been telling me.
Secondly, as a new start-up I am around lots of other founders who have the fortune of having a ‘techy’ or CTO on their founding team. I am told that I am at a disadvantage without this. I am told that I may not get investment without one. I don’t like being told that I cannot do something or even that my chances of success rely on the expertise of another — so I decide to investigate further.

Why are we all here?

The ‘Why’ for everyone is so different but there does seem to be a common thread running through at least 50% of the room. Many of them are here to up-skill themselves so that they can make a significant career change — we are not just talking a shift sideways either — they have a complete pivot in mind and I find that extremely brave.
They talk about wishing that they had known earlier on in life about the different types of coding but more importantly what that skill could do for them, and how valuable it might have been at different times in their lives. All of them have had a false start in their relationship with tech — believing that it ‘wasn’t for them’ in their early teenage years. Confidence and self-belief (or lack of) played its part but now, as they enter their thirties or forties, they feel able to change career and finally seek a new relationship on their terms which they know will create a whole new range of flexible opportunities for them. That, for me, is the biggest opportunity that tech and learning to code can offer.

Tech democratises opportunity

Since the start of FDisruptors I have pondered on my ‘why’. Why, at this stage in my career do I want to start a business to mobilise more girls and women into tech. Am I just ready for a new challenge — probably. Do I want my own teenage daughters to recognise the opportunities that a career in tech offer — definitely. But my most important reason has to be that I want to ensure that everyone realises that tech has the ability to democratise opportunity.

  1. I love the fact that tech can be embraced at any age — young or old. The room today is filled with a broad age group who have arrived with a willingness to learn and find a room full of enthusiastic coaches who want to help them to progress — with that kind of energy age is irrelevant.
  2. Everyone is welcome — no matter what your starting point is. Ofcourse there will be others in the room who may have done some of this before or who are just a bit more savvy or further along in their personal development — who cares. The other thing I have noticed is that when you bring people together with a common purpose there is a real sense of collaboration and support — this alone can spur anyone on to greatness!

It is never too late to change or shift your career. No longer do you have to wait out your career unhappily wondering if you made the right decisions all those years ago — learning to code is much more than just learning a language. It tests your ability to learn new things and tap into your creativity — it is the willingness to learn that makes the difference.

There are many courses out there that allow you to dip your toe in the water and MadLab are doing it particularly well. If tech and coding can do one thing it has the ability to completely democratise opportunity. My computer doesn’t care if I am a woman, it doesn’t care about my background or my starting point in life, it actually doesn’t care how skilled I am today — it just waits patiently awaiting my instructions offering boundless opportunities for me to learn.

I might never want to sit developing code — but I do want to understand more about the possibilities it offers if I do because one day, when I hire my CTO, I want us to create great things and I have a feeling we need to be speaking the same language — the language of opportunity.

You can read the original article, and more by Female Disrupters, here.

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