Category Archives: Meetup

Girl Develop It: Helping Women Learn To Code

This morning 20 women woke up early on a Saturday to learn how to code and create websites using HTML and CSS.  Pamela Fox, an experienced programmer who used to work for Google, is their instructor today.

These women are from a variety of backgrounds and by a show of hands, most are new to programming but are ready to add new skills to their toolbox.  Today’s workshop is part of a growing movement called Girl Develop It which provides educational opportunities for women who want to learn how to code.

After grabbing coffee, the students sit down benches, three to a table facing the instructor and a big screen.  Training content before lunch includes an essential introduction to the web: Tim Berners-Lee, browsers, text editors and the basics of HTML tags like headers, text formatting, lists, tables, form and button elements.

Pamela is explaining things progressively, connecting the technical content to real-live examples that students can relate to.  The students are responding well – they’re fully engaged, asking questions and completing the hands-on exercises.

After lunch attendees will be creating layouts in CSS,  iframes, working with the Chrome inspector and customizing the sites even more.

What can the students expect after completing this workshop?

They will have the basic skills to build a website plus and understanding of how the web infrastructure works when it comes to servers, files, server side scripts, the internet, domain names and browsers.  They can then continue to improve their skills once they leave the workshop through working in study groups, working on side projects and taking on tasks at work that call for these new skills.

Have you always wanted to learn how to program?

Are you interested in becoming a front end designer using HTML, CSS and Javascript to makes amazing websites?

Or maybe you want to become a programmer and develop in languages like Ruby and Python plus master new frameworks like Rails and Django.  Love the thought of creating useful apps but on a smaller scale?

Smartphone application development is a mix of both design and development and you can build on the two most popular mobile platforms using Objective-C to create iOS apps or Java for Android development.  Sounding good so far?

If you answered “yes” reading the last paragraph, I have two more questions for you –

  • What if there were affordable classes and workshops, focused on beginner to intermediate levels for these topics?
  • Have you felt intimidated, overwhelmed or unsure of your next steps in learning to code?

Let me introduce to Girl Develop It.

The program was started by Sarah J Chipps and Vanessa Hurst, two women developers who saw the need to help other women gain development skills.  The first chapter in NYC has done over 70 workshops and classes on popular programming topics like Ruby on Rails, Php and mySQL, iPhone and Android development, Javascript and more.

There are currently six locations in the United States including New York City, San Francisco, Austin, Columbus and Cincinnati plus two international chapters in Australia and Ottawa.  Pamela Fox, today’s instructor, started the chapter’s in Australia and San Francisco.

The company I work for, SendGrid, is sponsoring this event for the second time this year.  Woohoo!  We sponsored the first event back in April shortly after I had joined the company.  I had been following the Girl Develop It Meetup group in NYC for several months and saw that there would be a new chapter in San Francisco.  I asked SendGrid if they’d be interested in sponsoring the event and got a yes!  I contacted Pamela and discussed sponsorship opportunities.  Disqus hosted the space and SendGrid sponsored lunch that time.  Today Twilio is sponsoring the space and we’re  covering lunch.

I really like working for a company that supports professional development and skill building both internally and in the developer community.

Best Programming Language To Learn?

If you’re not sure where to start or what you want to end up doing yet around programming, code and development, start with HTML, CSS and Javascript.

Try different types of learning tools including books, videos, hands-one exercises on the web and meeting with others who are also learning.  This will help to clarify your learning style and what type of technology interests you.

40 years ago it was unimaginable that you would leave your job and change careers but these days it’s common.

We’re all in a constant state of learning.  As I write this, I am learning Ruby on Rails and made a Youtube video this week about my thoughts on why it’s important, especially at a startup, for all employees to understand how to code:

Video Link: Why Every Startup Employee Should Learn To Code

If you’ve decided this is the right step for you to take, give yourself a pat on the back for being brave!  I know what it’s like to step outside your comfort zone.  I know what it’s like to be unsure of your future.  The flip side of the unknown is that yes, it could be awful but it could also be really awesome.

It’s up to you to take that first step.  The reward is knowing what it’s like to solve problems that stump others.  It’s also a great feeling when you receive praise for your solutions!

How To Get Involved

After tweeting today about the workshop, several people replied asking how they could be a part of the next event so I’m listing a few ways you can make a difference:

Join your local chapter and take classes – Head over to the main Girl Develop It website.  Even if there isn’t a chapter in your area, join the main NYC meetup group and get familiar with the classes being offered, who’s teaching, who’s attending and what other meetup groups they belong to plus announcements for new chapters.

Sponsor your local chapter – Join SendGrid, Twilio, Disqus, Mozilla, O’Reilly and others in showing your support for technology and learning initiatives.  There’s a huge shortage of developers.  We can help turn that around by supporting initiatives like these.

Start a new chapter – Would you like to see workshops like this held in your city?  First thing you’ll want to do is contact the founders of GirlDevelopIt and discuss your interest.  Then talk to people in the community to see if there is a demand, find instructors and a place to hold your event.

Promote events like these – While I hope you join the newsletter, follow them on Twitter @girldevelopit, friend them up on Facebook and share their events, remember as well there are women + technology focused events all over!  A few good ones out here in San Francisco include Women Who Code, Code Chix, PyLadies and many more.  Women Who Tech is a yearly virtual conference and were responsible for me joining Twitter in 2008.  A great starting place is to go to and search your zipcode for those keywords.

As you read this, remember to think of people who you know who would benefit from attending a workshop and send them a link when you see something awesome.  It may just be the spark they need to get going on their dream.

nyc times square

Headed To NYC For BlogHer, Ecommerce Hack Day and Meetups

Last week I attended my first DEF CON.  It was epic and you should add it to your list of annual conferences to attend. I’ll post more about my DefCon experience in a later on.  As I continue my travels as a Developer Evangelist for SendGrid meeting customers, attending hackathons and speaking at conferences, my next stop is New York City!

I have full schedule during my New York trip which includes a hacknight and BlogHer events.

Here’s a list of events I will be attending, speaking at and participating in while in NYC for the week —

BlogHer -It’s time again for this great conference and I’m speaking!  The panel is  title is: Streamline Your Technical Toolkit: How to Do More with Less and you can see it Friday, August 3rd at 2:45pm – It’s moderated by Carley Knobloch and Lara Galloway will also be on the panel.  We will share concepts, workflows and tools to be more productive and improve your focus on what’s important.  BlogHer is now in their 8th year and last year’s attendees surpassing 3,000.  This is my 4th year attending and 3rd year speaking so I look forward to seeing all of you

Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) Accelerator – This event is Wednesday evening (sold out) and will have several speakers including Kass Lazerow, co-founder & COO of Buddy Media and the founders of BlogHer.  Food is being provided by Katie Workman, author of The Mom 100 Cookbook.

Girls In Tech + Coffee Night Hack – This event is Wednesday night (sold out) and will host 60 women programmers to come together and work on their code, network and enjoy caffine.

eCommerce Hack Day – This weekend long hackathon, organized by Dwolla and Etsy will bring together developers to leverage commerce, communication and platform API’s, including SendGrid, to compete for prizes.  I’ll be joining Swift from SendGrid at the event.

While in New York I’m also looking forward to meeting my future SXSW panelist Sasha Laundy from Codecademy. SXSW Panel Voting  August 13. Expect to see a few SXSW post around then and reach out if you’re attending one of these events or live in NYC.

Photo Credit: DoctorWho


Tech In SF: Screening Of CNN’s Black In America “The Changing Face of Silicon Valley” & Women 2.0 Startup Weekend


It’s been an exciting month this October with speaking at the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Expo and networking in New York City.

I’m back in San Francisco for the rest of the year (fingers crossed) and want to let you know about upcoming events here that you should check out!

You can always find out what I’m up to by checking on Plancast. Continue reading