I’m on a personal mission to encourage everyone to learn to code – because we need more diversity in the pool of people who have mastery over information technology.
I’m a great example of someone who has learned coding skills not so much through formal education, but through trial and error, pulling apart open source software, hacking video games, trawling forums for code snippets, using online tutorials, and pair programming.
Though today I work developing software at an enterprise level, I started my formal education learning music, before trying my hand at English, then marketing, and finally graduating with a catchall degree called ‘media communications’. In my final year I took an ‘intro to programming’ elective, which lit a fire in me – I loved that I could build something from nothing. When I finished my studies and was looking for a job, I discovered that there was a need for local businesses to have simple websites designed, developed and maintained. So, I started picking up freelance gigs, building websites and web applications for people in my network.
I wasn’t a very good technologist at the start, but gradually, through practice, I built up my skills and my portfolio. In my eight-year freelance career I worked with over 100 national and international clients, including a slew of small businesses and startups, local artists, tech conferences, fashion brands, restaurants and hotels, a not-for-profit cinema, an emergency services provider… the list goes on. This gave me great insight into many diverse, weird and wonderful industries, and those experiences taught me almost everything I know about how business operates.
I also work with an organisation called Code Like a Girl, which is a social enterprise dedicated to connecting girls and women with the skills and resources they need to enter the world of coding. We run events for women interested in tech careers, and teach workshops to give women and girls introductions to programming languages and coding concepts. This work is driven by the mission of helping girls and women be equal creators in building the future – because we believe that the population building technology should be representative of the population that the technology seeks to serve. And we know that there are implications for those not accounted for in the creation of technology, and if left unchecked, those implications can become self-perpetuating.