From Student to Teacher: Growing with Girl Develop It
  March 21, 2018

There was always something about technology that I found innovative and all-encompassing. When I was younger, I would scour the web for all of the platforms that hosted details about the latest features of devices, both popular and completely unknown.

My passion was rooted in the ability to bring a design to life in a way that respectfully merged one's left and right brain inclinations. I was the artistic student who also administered pragmatic, logical approaches to design concepts. Thus, technology was the perfect bridge for me.

Learning to Code

In comparison to most Computer Science majors and graduates, I didn't begin exploring how to code until I was halfway through college.

For me, diving into code was about how empowered I felt absorbing all of the knowledge of the web -- being able to understand how to bring concepts into reality through languages that could communicate with each other within our machines.

Learning the languages of computers in order to communicate with them meant that I could leverage technology to create as instinctually as I allowed myself to.

I hit the ground running by logging on to Code Academy and beginning the HTML & CSS courses. I also used Code Academy to learn Python, a readable, market-relevant scripting language that taught me how to build small-scale inventory systems, develop games, and begin to understand basic programming concepts.

Python's open source community seemed to be very resourceful, and I felt confident that so long as there was support for Python in open source, I would be able to optimize how I utilized it as people contributed to building out modules and packages that simplified more complex applications/programs in Python.

From there, I was pointed in the direction of Common Sensing, a biotech start-up in Cambridge that focused on engineering a medical device that could log insulin data for diabetes patients and provide the visualizations for that via a web application and mobile app (iOS and Android)! After, I attended the coding bootcamp, Resilient Coders, here in Boston.

These opportunities shaped the way I engaged with people in tech-driven work spaces helped me acquire real-world technical skills that prepared me for my current role as a Software Developer.

Starting a Conversation About Women in Tech

While I was passionate about the software industry and excited to be learning skills that would offer me endless possibilities in my career, I noticed early on that there were not many people that looked like me forging the same path.

One primary reason that we find a gap in demographic statistics within the tech industry is because of the economic disparities that are present in modern day society.

The accessibility of technology to people of every socioeconomic caliber, gender, and race is a metric for the advancement standpoints of that society.

So long as active stereotyping, unconscious biases, and discrimination persist within the minds of people who possess the power to spearhead positive demographic shifts within the tech industry (via hiring more women and minorities), there will continue to be inaccessibility for many of us.

As someone who believes that representation affects the present and future generations of our society, I hope to be one of many catalysts for demographic shifts in the tech industry.

Being a woman in tech is, more than anything, a commentary on accessibility, opportunity, and social issues in society many would rather overlook.

Girl Develop It, the national nonprofit organization with a growing presence in Boston, aims to provide accessibility for women in technology.

This happens through more women gaining exposure to the programming languages that power the pioneering technologies we interact with daily. GDI also creates event opportunities to network with other women who are interested in tech.

Getting Involved With GDI

I began attending Code & Coffee events that Girl Develop It hosts, which is what exposed me to women in the tech community of Boston.

From there, I gained the courage to volunteer as a TA for a JavaScript class they were offering. The positive learning experience encouraged me to then explore becoming a TA for the 4-series Python class when GDI announced it.

I knew that if I could learn while helping others during a JavaScript class, I could certainly use the knowledge that I was gaining from coding in Python daily at work in order to facilitate others in their learning process.

I felt as though I was both a teacher and a student, as being in such a collaborative environment allowed rbrtupmr to exchange ideas about different ways to approach the code.

It was amazing being able to sit down with the students and go over programmatic concepts and then apply that knowledge gained in order to build out programs. I also felt so appreciative that I could assist students who were quite new to programming to be able to digest Python syntax and usability as a popular scripting language.

There is a large terminology barrier that exists between people with technical skills and their non-technical counterparts.

One way to bridge the gap between women and minorities interested in technology and the people who are already immersed in the field is to familiarize people with how to speak about the technical skills they gain in correspondence with the gradual acquisition of coding abilities.

The students seemed primarily drawn to the programming concepts that shape how applications are able to function.

Building out conditional statements led to more complex concepts, and this information allowed the students to connect if-then conditionals, loops, methods, and functions in order to build programs like calculators and an inventory management system that allowed them to update their database with objects of grocery-referencing input values.

With space and time, students conceptualized their coding experiences beyond the scope and limited expectations that an online coding platform would be able to provide them.

The communication between the students and I allowed all of us to perceive coding as less of an ambiguous, abstract thing and more of an empowering tool that is at our grasp to learn and challenge ourselves with.

I hope to continue volunteering for Girl Develop It in order to experience being in a collaborative environment full of students, teachers, and TA’s of varying skill sets. There is always something to learn and grow from and coding alongside women interested in tech has felt like a uniquely rewarding experience.

About the Author: Nnenna is Software Developer for Bison, a private equity financial software company, and an active member of Girl Develop It. She interacts with the global dev community on Twitter via @nnennahacks, and you can learn more her on her website, Medium, or on Linkedin! Stay updated with Girl Develop It Boston for future classes being offered year-round and Code & Coffee Meetup events occurring the third Thursday of every month!