Women in tech - Django Girls, London 2019
Hi, I'm Rose, a member of the Project Management team at DabApps. My days are usually spent channelling the skills of my team in the creation of fantastic products that we can all be proud of. That said, another fulfilling aspect to my role is helping to manage our Corporate Social Responsibility strategy group - a collection of fellow DabAppers that seek to guide our corporate conscience.
One of our core CSR initiatives is to share as much knowledge as we can. We do that by trying to release and maintain various open source libraries and by hosting pizza-fuelled CodeBar sessions once a month. Some of our specialties include Python and Django and we’re really excited that there’s a global network trying to bring free learning to girls and women (trans-inclusive) that focus on these skills - DjangoGirls, an organisation set up by friends Ola Sitarska and Ola Sendecka, whose ambition is to inspire women to fall in love with programming. As an avid fan of networks like SheSays, it’s a brilliant premise I can truly get behind.
Since we would love to eventually host a Brighton chapter of DjangoGirls, it made sense to go and see what it was all about. It’s been a long time since I’ve written any code - I found it difficult to ask for help at university and leaned in to more of the digital media modules instead. Having dipped my toes in at CodeBar last year however, the itch to get back on that horse was very present. I submitted an application for the London event - hosted by Thought Machine - and eagerly awaited a response.
Success! The event would be all day on a Saturday with an optional drop-in session the night before to help set up everything I needed on my machine. Despite making a grand entrance by running and promptly falling up some steps (obviously far too eager to get registered) the overall vibe was friendly and relaxed. The mentors were eager to help and chatting to mentees put me at ease. Some were students looking to learn some new skills, others retraining, and some refreshing their tech stack. The thing that stood out the most was just how varied the attendees were; we had a common thread joining us but we all came from really diverse backgrounds. It’s easy to get stuck in a bubble, especially true for the Brighton tech scene, so being able to step outside and experience it differently was a refreshing experience, and one which echoes the Django Girls' ethos.
On the day of the event, we were welcomed with breakfast, introductions, unlimited caffeine and a well-defined tutorial on how to create and host our own blog. I won’t go into much detail, though the tutorial really did a fantastic job of outlining what needed doing and the mentors were always eager to jump in an answer any questions. Each successful step generated an addictive feeling that drove me on to the next task. Starting from nothing and then going through the entire pipeline - setting up a local environment, merging my changes, pushing to GitHub and then PythonAnywhere - I was stunned by how much I had achieved in just one day.
As everything clicked in to place, I found myself recognising practices that our developers undertake on a daily basis. It felt like finally seeing the film everyone had been quoting or following a conversation in a second language. I could see the Matrix!
Perhaps life didn't *completely* resemble a Wachowski sisters script (see earlier exemplary navigation of stairs), but I definitely came away with more experience and overall empathy with DabApps developers than I had had previously. Regardless as to whether I ever reach my potential as a full-stack project manager, for that reason alone the experience was incredibly valuable.
So what’s next? I was chatting to some of the mentors afterwards and it sounded as though that while setting up a DjangoGirls event is reasonably straightforward and well supported, it requires a lot of drive from a core group of people. Certainly setting up an event at DabApps or a nearby location could well be on the cards. Although I’m not sure I'm ready for a mentor role just yet, members of teams here are really keen to get involved with such a brilliant endeavour.