Calling all women: 2016 is your year to code


Too many non-developers see coding as a daunting skill to learn. It’s sad, but I don’t question why.

As someone who was once looking for career guidance, coding was a skill that was never widely encouraged. Nor was it seen as something a girl growing up in Canada should do.

After going to college to pursue a business degree, I noticed that the rise in technology was part of the discussion in all my classes, but there was no support or urgency to learn one of the fastest growing, in-demand skills in the world.

Fast forward to today, and computing continues to grow in importance across many industries and non-technical roles. It’s clear that there’s is value in candidates who have basic technical skills.

After six years of wanting to learn code, in January 2015, I finally felt that I had what I needed to learn on my own. I quickly realized that coding is not a crazy-complicated skill.

It can be when you assume your first project will be a multi-feature, social sharing, interactive app that tells your age by taking a selfie (or something else as complex).

Instead, I started by taking small steps and building small projects using tools that are now widely available and free. With those tools and determination I was able to build my first website in less than two months.

I believe that 2016 is the best year to learn code, too (especially for women!) Here’s why:

We have role models

Photo credit: Maeghan Smulders

Photo credit: Maeghan Smulders

I remember this as the biggest hurdle to overcome when I was first interested in coding. As a woman, I didn’t see any other women succeeding in the space, and I was intimidated trying to decide where I could start.

Today we have so many amazing women leaders in technology that you can’t help but get excited about. There’s the big deals, like Susan Wojcicki, Gwynne Shotwell or Marissa Mayer. But what’s even more stellar is it’s not so uncommon to have a coworker or friend in computer development.

These reachable contacts are great because you can ask questions, be curious and learn what it takes to build things that interest you.

If you’re looking for some interesting people in Montreal, be sure to check out Julia EvansDelia FernadezEstella Alvarez or Nancy Naluz.

There are tools to help

Photo credit: Maeghan Smulders

Photo credit: Maeghan Smulders

In recent years, several online tools and courses teaching the basics of coding have become widely available for free or for a small fee. This is a great way to learn at your own pace, build on your own schedule and most importantly, explore and build things that are relevant and meaningful to you. They include Coursera, Codecademy, Tree House and EdX.

However, I know that online learning isn’t for everyone. Other courses that have in-class sessions include Ladies Learning Code (and Girls Learning Code). Montreal opened a chapter within the past year, and those interested can spend a full day each month building webpages, apps and interacting with the teachers and mentors.

Other programs, for fees, include DecodeMTL  and Lighthouse Labs, for fundamental coding classes on a part-time or full-time basis.

Community Support

Photo credit: Maeghan Smulders

Photo credit: Maeghan Smulders

Montreal has grown so much in the last few years when it comes to women in technology and it’s exciting to see.

There are a handful of groups that encourage women to get out and learn, to network, and of course, hack on things they’re working on. These events can be the kick-in-the-butt you need. I met my best friend Monica in Montreal at an event. Today she works on Polymer in San Francisco, and she constantly inspires me to stay involved, and be hardcore in general.

Depending on your skill level and what you’re interested in, you can always find workshop events, organized talks or even hack nights.

Some of the great women’s groups in Montreal include PyLadies, Pixelles Montreal, All-Girl Hack Night and Montreal Girl Geeks.

Other coed groups that are great include JS Montreal, Startup Drinks, Montreal NewTech or Startup Weekend.

With all this information, you can make 2016 the year you learn code. After all, I did it myself one year ago.

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