COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: FIONA HAMMOND’S CREATIVE CODING JOURNEY AND ADVOCACY FOR INCLUSION IN TECH.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: FIONA HAMMOND’S CREATIVE CODING JOURNEY AND ADVOCACY FOR INCLUSION IN TECH.

FIONA HAMMOND’S CREATIVE CODING JOURNEY AND ADVOCACY FOR INCLUSION IN TECH.
10 min read

Fiona Hammond has been a member of the Code First Girls community since 2021, offering valuable insights into neurodiversity and its beneficial impact within the tech industry. She has also authored a comprehensive guide, drawing from her own experience as a neurodivergent woman, providing essential tips for embarking on your coding journey.

“By seeing my neurodiversity as a strength, I learned to use my unique traits to overcome challenges and keep learning. With a positive attitude and some help, I’ve shown that having a different way of thinking, a growth mindset, can actually be a good thing on the learning journey. ”

“By seeing my neurodiversity as a strength, I learned to use my unique traits to overcome challenges and keep learning. With a positive attitude and some help, I’ve shown that having a different way of thinking, a growth mindset, can actually be a good thing on the learning journey. ”

WELCOME FIONA! INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO OUR CFG COMMUNITY

Hi, I’m Fiona Hammond 👋 I’m a Digital Project Manager and Neurodiversity Champion at Make Agency, a London-based full-service agency. My role consists of managing the lifecycle of our web projects here at Make, utilising agile processes and my knowledge of web development and UX to foster the production of efficient and high-quality web builds.

I’ve been studying with Code First Girls since 2021! Saying that sounds wild! We were encouraged to enrol as part of our web development module each year, which stuck with me. If I’m not taking part in a Kickstarter course, I’m often attending MOOCs and chewing at least one person’s ear off about Code First Girls’ offers and values! I’m really passionate about this community and what it can provide to disadvantaged groups.

After my ASC diagnosis in 2023, I have been super passionate about advocating for neuro inclusivity in the tech space, putting myself forward in the agency to promote a welcoming space and work towards improving our processes.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT CODING THAT YOU KEEP COMING BACK TO?

Despite not necessarily jumping straight into a coding-based role, I always find myself returning to it in my free time so I don’t lose touch with my skills. I’m set up in our agency to be able to stage and push code to our client sites, and I aim to begin training slowly in the frameworks we use here. I also often have a coding course that I return to on my evenings/weekends… usually a CFG course!

For context, the type of coding I enjoy is front-end. I aspire to be full stack one day due to the number of opportunities available with this skill set, but for now, HTML, CSS, JS and their frameworks do the trick for me! HTML and CSS are super friendly for anyone new to coding and I picked these up at university, but I was also fortunate enough to gain an internship at a local agency during my degree that taught me various coding frameworks such as SASS and Nuxt.js.

YOU’RE AN ADVOCATE FOR LEARNING! WE’D LOVE TO HEAR MORE ABOUT HOW YOU’RE ENCOURAGING OTHERS TO JOIN YOU!

I love sharing my knowledge with others! I can’t help but empathise with undergrads who feel a little lost and don’t know what they want to do or where they can find out information so I make a point of sharing far and wide. 

I regularly return to my university to speak at open days and I’m also a mentor. I support undergraduates entering the industry through advice with CVs, LinkedIn, networking and creating their portfolios. Mentoring is super rewarding as I find myself thinking back to how I felt during those years and how desperate I was for direction. Now that I’ve started to feel a little more confident about my expertise and experiences, all I want to do is inspire and tell everyone it’s going to be okay!

Recently, I’ve been invited back to my university as a guest speaker to share my experiences as a neurodivergent working in tech – I’m really excited to sink my teeth into this and it’s gratifying to know that I’m being taken seriously as a professional and that my university is aware of my journey.

Contrastingly, I am an absolute sponge for information. If I’m not sharing it, I’m attending networking events, such as Reframe Women in Tech, to learn more about disparate groups’ experiences within the industry. I find these events extremely inspiring – if I’m lacking productivity I find attending something like this kickstarts my motivation and reminds me why I’m so passionate about equality in tech. If you want to find out which events are worth attending, feel free to keep an eye on my LinkedIn!

DO YOU THINK CODING CAN BE A CREATIVE OUTLET TOO?

As an autistic person, I very much thrive when working on logical tasks with clear answers. I’m also super creative and love to see the code I write create visuals on the front end – when I began learning web development at university, I honestly couldn’t believe something so fitting existed! I produced three brochure sites during my studies, one of which was part of my dissertation. I hosted the findings of my research depicted through multimedia assets on a website that I built from scratch! This was by far the most gratifying part of my degree and I still refer back to it now during networking and interviews.

Ultimately, the reason I always return to coding is simply due to how rewarding it is for something so technical to produce something so aesthetically pleasing and interactive. 

B2C BLOG GRAPHICS, FLEXIBLE WORKING, JMG

“ I want to continue advocating for equality in this space and encouraging more people to make the jump. ”

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR WOMEN JOINING OR RETURNING TO CODING?

If I could go back in time and give any advice to my younger self, it would be the encouragement to enrol into that class that looked like it was just for boys. I often look back with frustration that I never studied Computer Science at GCSE as it would have been a fast track to finding out my interests and what I was good at! I remember there being one girl in that class and none of us were encouraged to take it. But hey, no point holding any grudges! I’m just glad I’m here now.

🧇 Enough waffling, here’s some advice if there’s any part of you considering jumping into (or returning to coding):

  • Just do it! You fail 100% of the risks you don’t take!

  • Join an online course – the information is so readily available, often free (including receiving certification) so don’t get scared off by that £1000 course you’ve found!

  • Nailing the basics of HTML, CSS and JS will set you up so well! It does get trickier, but these languages are so user-friendly that having them under your belt is always a good idea.

  • Don’t dive head-first into complicated frameworks, it’s overwhelming and will make you feel like you’re never going to be able to code. Slow and steady wins the race!

  • Make sure to keep active with your learning – it’s like any language, you have to keep exercising it to make sure you don’t forget! I’d say it’s not like riding a bike…

  • Create a portfolio of personal projects, or professional ones if you have the rights to do so. It’s so important to make sure you don’t lose any code and for interviewers to view proof of your capabilities. A portfolio could be the difference between winning or losing a job opportunity! GitHub is so simple to set up and host your code or collaborate with others and it’s free! You can also use Netlify to faux-host your actual websites.

  • Join online communities on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Stack Overflow – we’re your friends, we want to share our knowledge, help find solutions to tricky coding situations and even support each other in finding employment opportunities.

  • Be. Loud. While the community is becoming much more diverse and inclusive, we must continue to advocate for ourselves. It is still true that it can be who you know, not what you know that lands you in fortunate positions. So be that person for someone else, share your resources, share that job that you think would suit that person you know perfectly, and call people in privileged positions up on it if they’re not creating an inclusive space.

🧇 Enough waffling, here’s some advice if there’s any part of you considering jumping into (or returning to coding):

  • Just do it! You fail 100% of the risks you don’t take!

  • Join an online course – the information is so readily available, often free (including receiving certification) so don’t get scared off by that £1000 course you’ve found!

  • Nailing the basics of HTML, CSS and JS will set you up so well! It does get trickier, but these languages are so user-friendly that having them under your belt is always a good idea.

  • Don’t dive head-first into complicated frameworks, it’s overwhelming and will make you feel like you’re never going to be able to code. Slow and steady wins the race!

  • Make sure to keep active with your learning – it’s like any language, you have to keep exercising it to make sure you don’t forget! I’d say it’s not like riding a bike…

  • Create a portfolio of personal projects, or professional ones if you have the rights to do so. It’s so important to make sure you don’t lose any code and for interviewers to view proof of your capabilities. A portfolio could be the difference between winning or losing a job opportunity! GitHub is so simple to set up and host your code or collaborate with others and it’s free! You can also use Netlify to faux-host your actual websites.

  • Join online communities on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Stack Overflow – we’re your friends, we want to share our knowledge, help find solutions to tricky coding situations and even support each other in finding employment opportunities.

  • Be. Loud. While the community is becoming much more diverse and inclusive, we must continue to advocate for ourselves. It is still true that it can be who you know, not what you know that lands you in fortunate positions. So be that person for someone else, share your resources, share that job that you think would suit that person you know perfectly, and call people in privileged positions up on it if they’re not creating an inclusive space.

Thank you Fiona for sharing this really great piece of advice! 

Stay tuned for part 2 of Fiona’s blog where she will be sharing more about her experience as a neurodivergent woman in tech and what is next on her coding journey.

In the meantime, you can connect with Fiona via LinkedIn

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