coding, future is female, networking, women in technology

My first-ever panel! Welcome to CodeFest 2021

CodeFest is a huge, annual conference hosted by Code First Girls, which provides women with tech talks, career booster sessions and networking. I won an award at CodeFest 2020 last year, but this year, we were back in person!

I was invited to speak at Day 2 about my experience interning at Rolls-Royce’s AI Innovation Hub (R2 Data Labs), and how women can kickstart their careers in the technology industry.

This was my first-ever tech panel, so I thought I’d write up what my day looked like.

Welcome to my day at CodeFest 2021!

7.00am: Wake up, have a coffee, and re-read the panel brief from CFG. Mentally gear up for the trek to Canary Wharf from South London.

8.45am: The Jubilee line is magic, isn’t it? I check in to the awesome Level39 – a collaboration space for leading tech startups and talent. I’d love to meet more people in the startup world, so I’m pretty excited to be here.

9.00am: Set up for a morning of calls with my startup team at Ocula Technologies, including our daily stand up and a meeting with our engineering team to discuss our backlog. I nab a seat next to the window, and have maybe the best Zoom background of my career to date (see below).

Not too shabby…

12.00am: Time to meet my co-panelists! I had an amazing time interning at Rolls-Royce earlier this year, and worked with the brilliant Caroline, Manisha and Rebecca. Even though we worked together for 5 months, this will actually be my first time meeting my ex-colleagues in person. Off Zoom, Rebecca & I realise that we are both… tall. We catch up over lunch and get ready to take the stage.

12:40pm: We join the CEO of Code First Girls, Anna Brailsford, on stage. We’re live-streaming the conversation, but I hadn’t realised that we also had a live audience of over 100 women from the community. I also haven’t used a hand-held mic before! We had a great time talking about our careers and experiences, and enjoy a Q&A with the audience.

1.20pm: Just like that, my first panel is done! This was so fun, and I’d love to do more tech events in future. I catch up with a couple of attendees and make a note to watch back some of the earlier talks on catch-up.

1.30pm: There are some great talks lined up for the afternoon for the community, but for me, it’s back to work. Rebecca & I co-work and enjoy the awesome views over the city. I put on the CFG Day 2 livestream in the background.

We both were knackered after!

3pm: Whilst I’m 5-tabs-deep trying to figure something out in Jira, a CFG community member comes over and says she was one of my Python class students back in February, and now works in tech! Awesome. I drop my co-instructors a text to let them know.

5pm: After working through my board, it’s time to call it a day – I thank the CFG team for a great day and head to central for a celebratory drink with the panel.

So, that was my day! Here were 3 things I learned:

  1. Building communities exists online and offline. I ran into at least 5 people in-person during CodeFest that I knew through CFG, GirlCode, or other volunteering initiatives that I’m involved in.
  2. We are all working towards the same vision. The variety of talks and speakers all centred around the question of how we build for the future in a way that includes everyone – awesome.
  3. In speaking up, you affect more people than you realise! I didn’t expect such a great reaction to our panel, and it made me realise the importance of speaking up and sharing our experiences.

I had no idea what to expect from the day, but now I can safely say that I’m looking forward to my next community event already.

You can watch Code Fest Day 2: Career Booster here. I’ll also be doing a write up of some of my favourite parts of our panel!

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coding, personal development, women in technology

My CFG SQL Project: LinkedIn Side Hustle

Let me tell you, studying an 8-week coding course alongside full-time work hasn’t been easy!

I do a lot of volunteering with Code First Girls, but this time, I was back to being a student. Over the past few months, I’ve been learning all about the world of SQL.

SQL is a programming language used for relational database management. I was interested in learning the basics because I’d often seen SQL understanding as a prerequisite for several tech jobs, so wondered what it was all about!

I got great feedback from my project overview when I studied Python last year, so thought I’d do the same for this SQL course!

My project: A database for a fictional “LinkedIn improvement” side hustle

I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, so when I had to think of an example use of a database, decided to mock up running a mini-business where I helped others to resdesign their content.

My project included tables on:

  • Clients
  • Email addresses and social media links
  • Phone numbers
  • Orders
  • Tracked messages

I built these tables from scratch, then, worked through mandatory and extension tasks to demonstrate some of the skills that we had been taught during the course, including joins, functions, procedures, queries and views.

I enjoyed the opportunity to practice what I’d learned about creating and maintaining databases, and think creatively about how what we’d learned could be applied to an independent project.

I also got to run some queries and analysis on my stored data, which helped me to see how this could be useful in a business context.

For example, I built a query with subquery which would identify all orders which my “clients” made for help other than a written feedback review:

This project gave me exposure to how we can build databases that work intelligently to support key business functions.

Reflections

So, that was my project!

Overall, I’m just getting started with SQL, and enjoyed getting to grips with it.

We covered a lot of content in this course, and I think it’ll take a while to sink in. I learned a lot of new tech concepts, as well as uses for SQL, and I’m proud of myself for committing the extra time alongside deadlines to challenge myself.

In terms of next steps, I was really impressed by some of my peers’ projects, and look forward to seeing more advanced code! Thank you to my instructors for giving the time to support us on this learning journey.

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coding, personal development, women in technology

8 Obstacles I Overcame as a Python Instructor

8 weeks ago, I knew that there were some challenging times ahead.

I’d received the great news that I’d been chosen to receive a Fellowship from social enterprise Code First Girls. This is an opportunity usually offered to women from a STEM degree background, so I was both excited and nervous about what was in store!

Part of this competitive leadership accelerator was teaching an Introduction to Python Programming course to 20+ women interested in learning to code.

This was going to be tough because:

  1. I only learned to code last June.
  2. All the classes were entirely remote.
  3. This was my first time teaching a coding curriculum.
  4. My co-instructors and I had never met.
  5. I was starting a new internship at the same time.
  6. We needed to provide support to students in class and throughout the week.
  7. Most of our students had never touched code before.
  8. We’re in a national lockdown!

2 months later, so I’m so proud of what my group has managed to achieve.

Here’s what I learned from those original challenges:

  1. Being new to something can be a superpower – you understand how to make concepts accessible to others.
  2. Building community online requires work, but is worth every second!
  3. Engage, adapt and improve set frameworks to the needs of your audience.
  4. Our weekly instructor pre-session meet ups and post-session debriefs helped us to quickly build a team identity, and continually improve.
  5. Sometimes, commiting to your passions is difficult (looking at you, my 8am-8.45pm Tuesdays!) but this is part of the journey.
  6. Creating clear structures for teams can help manage workload and expectations.
  7. Give students the opportunity to be self-led learners, and you’ll be astounded with what they produce.
  8. Some days, it can be easy to forget the continual pressure we’re under – be proud of yourself and your achievements.

Next, I’m looking forward to presenting the outcomes of the educational research project that I have been building with other Fellows.

I have loved my Fellowship journey, and look forward to using this experience to further my work to improve gender diversity in technology.

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