Category Archives: Technology Mentoring

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.

Women 2.0 Startup Weekend Starts Friday! #w2sw

This weekend in San Francisco, Startup Weekend, an amazing event founded to help good technology ideas get traction, is being hosted by Women 2.0!

Registered attendees will gather tonight to meet, listen to speakers, pitch their ideas and form teams.  For the next two days they will work furiously to get their ideas into working prototypes getting insight and guidance from Startup Weekend staff and mentors with the opportunity to pitch and present on Sunday for recognition, prizes and bragging rights!

Event details


Twitter hashtag: #w2sw

Date: November 18th through 20th, 2011

Where: The Hatchery, 625 2nd Street, San Francisco, CA

Registration page:

Who can attend: Everyone!  Women, men, programmers, non-programmers, business minded people, graphic designers, front end designers, business development, project managers and anyone interested in learning what it takes to team up and build a successful app! Continue reading

NewME Accelerator To Mentor 13 Tech Startups In Silicon Valley This Summer

Coming to the Silicon Valley this week will be the NewMe Accelerator.  Featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New Me Accelerator is the brainchild of Angela Benton and Wayne Sutton with the goal being to identify, support and nurture promising new tech startups.

Tech startups that happen to be founded by Brown people!
(See my note at the bottom for alternative naming conventions)

Thirteen startups made it through the application and review process and will now begin to arrive in Mountain View for a fast-paced, intense and unique opportunity to turn their ideas into a working reality! Continue reading