Code First Girls Featured Members




At Code First Girls we love celebrating the achievements of women in our community and showcasing the amazing talents, skills and experience that each woman has built for herself. With International Women’s Day next week and this whole month dedicated to Women’s History, we are pushing forward with our ambitious task of doubling our community this year, in the hope that we can, in fact, create history for women by increasing the number of women in tech. It is critical that we continue to raise awareness of the gender and diversity challenges in tech and mark a call to action for individuals and organisations to enact change.

It is therefore really fitting that this year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. Not only do we have some amazing examples of women in our CFG community below who have done just that and created great opportunities and careers for themselves (and continue to contribute to the CFG community), we also have 14 companies (and growing!) who are partnering with us in 2021 to offer more opportunities to women wanting to pursue a career in tech. The women below provide inspiration to those thinking about a career in tech, highlighting the array of pathways, roles, and learning opportunities available. 

Isabel Scavetta, 23, Agile Enabler, Rolls-Royce

Code First Girls Python Course & Two Hackathon Challenges & Code First Girls Fellow

Code First Girls have been fundamental in my journey as a young leader for diversity in technology. I finished university with my degree in European Social and Political Studies, but like many others, I was impacted by the pandemic, so I decided to radically change my career direction. I started out by completing an Introduction to Python course with CFG, and from there, I built experiential learning through leading two teams on CFG Hackathons, making it all the way to the Vodafone Diversity Hackathon finals. After winning the CFG Team Player Award for my management and facilitation skills, I was offered a place on the CFG competitive leadership accelerator Fellowship programme, where I am currently teaching 20+ women to code in Python, an amazing way to pay-it-forward!

When the CFG/Rolls-Royce opportunity came up to join R2 Data Labs, I was ready for my next big challenge! After presenting about my interest in transformational change, I’m really excited to have joined Rolls-Royce as an Agile Enabler, where I embed Agile practices across three major projects in the AI & Data Innovation Hub. The entire trajectory of my career looks completely different from what I would have thought a year ago.

Rehana Soltane, 25, Creative Director, OpenUK

Code First Girls Web Development Course & Code First Girls Fellow

My name is Rehana and I am a creative and educational technologist. It all started with Code First Girls, when I wrote the legendary “Hello world!” for the first time during the Web Development course a few years ago. Coming from a non-tech background, I was amazed by my newly-acquired and creative superpowers and decided that I wanted to learn more. So I did: in my free time I taught myself C++ with Arduino, and took on CFG’s Python course to learn some more coding. 

I hadn’t considered a career in tech before, especially since I was studying for a BSc in Psychology at the time, but with all the skills I had recently acquired, I decided to combine them into a career. I am now teaching (creative) coding, robotics, (sewable) electronics, musical technology, and physical computing. I also work together with school teachers to design and create innovative computer science lessons and resources. 

To give back to the wonderful CFG community, who helped me gain the tech skills and support I needed, I decided to become a CFG instructor and teach Python to women who come from non-traditional and non-tech backgrounds, just like myself a few years ago, and I am currently completing the Fellowship programme.

Sarah MacNeill, 23, Full Stack Software Engineer, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Code First Girls Coding Kickstarter & Career Switcher Instructor and Code First Girls Fellowship Mentor

I have followed the more ‘traditional path’ into tech as my journey started with a Computer Science degree leading to a graduate job as a Software Engineer in Glasgow. My CFG journey started when I attended the CFG North Conference in Edinburgh which I really enjoyed. There was then a CFG Introduction to Web Dev course starting in my office and they were looking for volunteer instructors, so I was excited at the opportunity to get more involved.

What I really like about Code First Girls is the relaxed and friendly learning environment. Learning to code can be intimidating – that was definitely my experience at Uni – but in CFG courses the environment is really positive, and students are engaged and comfortable asking questions. I’ve also met some fantastic people through CFG who I stay in touch with to this day: both instructors and students who keep me updated on their coding journeys. One of my former students recently got a graduate technology job which was definitely a proud teacher moment!

So far I’ve taught six CFG courses and am signed up for a seventh! I’ve been an instructor on Web Development, SQL and Python courses, and recently taught my first MOOC: An Introduction to React JS to an audience of over 500 people. Outside of teaching, CFG has also given me opportunities to develop content and mentor other instructors.

In my day job, I work as a Full Stack Software Engineer. Being a CFG instructor has helped me to develop my confidence and deepen my own understanding of technical concepts I use every day – they say the best way to learn is to teach! Technology is constantly evolving so I’m always learning too. I’m currently focusing on public cloud and recently gained my AWS Developer Associate certification.

Learning to code was definitely one of the best decisions I made and I love being able to share this skill with other people. It’s a great feeling when one of your students has a “lightbulb” moment when they understand a new concept or get their code to do something exciting!  

Mary Adenola,  22, Data Analyst, Aptiv

Code First Girls Coding Kickstarter Instructor & Code First Girls Fellowship Mentor

Before I started instructing with CFG, I was in my last semester of University studying Mathematics and Statistics. With the need to get more women into STEM, I decided to teach the Introduction to Python Programming course. 

Whether I’d be giving private grinds, or being a teaching assistant in University, I’ve always been drawn to teaching others, I can honestly say it’s my number one passion, sharing knowledge and experiences with other people, and the added opportunity to network. Through it all, it gives me the opportunity to inspire others, especially young girls of differing ethnicity, to see someone like me and be motivated to follow a similar path. I’m a strong believer that representation matters and I’m hoping my presence motivates others. 

I’ve now finished my bachelor’s degree and I’m working as a Data Analyst. I work primarily with python and so I’m always learning and looking for new ways to write code. On the side, I’m learning SQL and other software tools. I’m grateful to be back teaching with CFG in this cohort and the opportunity to be a mentor this year. 

Sjoukje Ijlstra ,  22, Freelance Software Engineer

Code First Girls Career Switcher Instructor & Instructor Trainer

My name is Sjoukje and I’ve collaborated with the Code First Girls community since 2015. I started teaching at the University of St Andrews at the start of my second-year Mathematics degree and loved the community’s energy and creativity so much that I have stayed on to teach for over five years, enabling over 350 women so far to learn web development or python through the CFG introduction courses. 

I have made many great memories in representing CFG with coding workshops, panels, and a presentation to Scottish higher education ministers and chancellors, being featured on CFG’s Ones to Watch list and organising the CFG Northern Conference in Edinburgh in 2017. I am fortunate that my work has also led me to receive numerous awards including Women in Software Power List Winner 2020 and TechWomen100 Winner 2019.

The community that I have enjoyed being part of with CFG is what drives me to reach higher and dream bigger as both a software engineer and a coding instructor. I can’t wait to see what we can do next. Happy International Women’s Day 2021.