LEARNING TO CODE IN LONDON
by fiona mitchell
WHERE TO BEGIN?
For a long time, coding seemed like an unachievable and incredibly daunting task. Not to mention, my path to becoming a fashion designer didn’t exactly align with computer science. It was only until 2019, I started to reflect on how many things I have managed to ’self-teach’ throughout my life. I learned to ski at the age of 6 after my Dad accidentally skied off too fast… And I learned to sew at age 7 because I wanted my dolls to wear prettier clothes…? And so I picked up coding at age 23 because I didn’t like listening to fear, and deep down I believed I could do it.
Once you start googling… You’ll realise there are a million and one ways to learn how to code. Whilst searching ‘coding for beginners’ I came across Code First Girls in January of 2019, and was just in time to apply for one of their beginner courses. One advantage: I had just moved to London!
The course started early February 2019, a pretty quick turn around. But when something has really sparked your interest, why not go for it? For the next 8 weeks, every Wednesday evening after work I went along to the Introduction to Web Development course. The first class? Well it may as well have been written in hieroglyphs…. And I found myself repeatedly wondering – what does it mean again?
But the course was incredibly welcoming and patient. It’s designed specifically for women entering into tech. It focuses on giving women a fair advantage, an encouraging community and the building blocks to discover a new career. When I applied, I was a recent graduate from a Fashion Design degree. How much more farfetched can you get? I felt that as soon as I graduated my university turned around and said, that’s it. You’re out. And you’re on your own. What I loved about Code First Girls, was that they offered these classes for all women. You didn’t have to be a student. Or have coding experience. They provided scholarships for women of any background or ability who were proactive, and self-motivated. I was incredibly delighted and relieved when I saw this. This meant that there were people out there, willing to give me a chance, and so I grabbed it with both hands.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
In the Introduction to Web Development course, each class has three tutors on hand to help you, even if it meant guiding you through the same part again and again. And again. By the third week I went from being too scared, to building my first simple web page. Once we grasped the basics, we split into teams of 4-5 for the remainder of the course. I love teamwork and was thrilled to partner up with Lauren, Aleksandra and Beth. We kept each other on track and had a lot of laughs along the way. My favourite memory from the course and us working together has to be our final pitch right at the end. We’d built (to our fresh and naive eyes) a pretty cool travel website. And we were really proud of it. About 10 minutes before our pitch, we clicked something… and the whole website broke!
A few seconds before we had to speak, we clicked another thing… and boom it worked again. Looking back, With the knowledge I have now, I can understand how we broke it and how we fixed it, but at the time it was simply just magic! Eight weeks of Code First Girls was enough to get us all hooked, and before the course ended, we all applied for the next course: Advanced Python. Another eight weeks of confusion, learning, team work and a lot of fun.
After the course, we continued to meet up and work on our projects. It was a great way to set aside a minimum of two hours per week dedicated purely to learning and practising.
Reflecting a year and a half later, one of us has a professional developer job, another has brought her coding knowledge into her current role and another is a freelancing web developer! I proud of our little team and all the determined girls I shared both courses with.
My advice to anyone out there – make that first step! Don’t worry about how long the road lasts, because it will get you there eventually.