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Meet Erika – Consultant, Polymath, TechLady

The TechLadies Bootcamp is a 10-week part-time accelerated learning program designed to help women with some basic programming background become professional programmers. Participants are guided by industry experts, creating products for non-profit organizations. 9 ladies were chosen for the first batch of the TechLadies Bootcamp. In this blog series, we will be sharing more about the background and learning journey of these ladies. Hopefully that’ll inspire you to start learning how to code too!

If you could tell a story about yourself in a few sentences, what would it be?

My short story about myself would have to be that I am admittedly a nerd, with an insatiable appetite for learning new things.

What are you currently working on?

I work as an independent strategy consultant in the mining and resources industry. I previously worked at Rio Tinto for five years, managing sales agreements and working on strategy projects for the iron ore marketing division.

After that, I joined The Boston Consulting Group and worked there for 2.5 years. I went into consulting because I was interested in developing strong commercial skills set that would be transferable across several industries, this stems from my strong belief that a skill learnt, one that is meant for a specific field, doesn’t mean it can only be used in that particular field.

After leaving the firm, I found that combining my specialised industry knowledge within the consulting toolkit would be the best way for me to add value to my work as a consultant. I mainly work with clients in the mining industry as I am deeply familiar with the industry and its history. After having worked in mining for several years, I find my clients directly through my own network. I work with my clients to develop and implement strategic initiatives to best position themselves over a 5-10 year timeframe.

At times I also delve into a few other industries because I believe that learning about developments in other industries provides me with a fresher, broader perspective, expanding my view on the strategies, capabilities, and ability to execute work with far greater insight for current projects, and the projects looking forward. There are a number of companies that help to connect ex-management consultants to freelance projects so they have made it possible for me to engage in tech-related projects.

What made you interested in coding?

What first attracted me to coding was the love I have for solving logical problems. I found that learning a coding language required me to tap into this part of my brain, and hence, learning how to code drew my attention. I felt that it would give me greater analytical skills and enhance my problem-solving skills.

I am really excited by how technology is rapidly changing the world we live in. It’s amazing to think about how intertwined our daily lives us with technology. We now rely on applications and smartphones to shop, connect, research, eat, exercise – the list goes on. However, a lot of us don’t understand anything about what goes on “behind the scenes”. I wanted a glimpse into this world, to feed my curiosity, and to benefit from it in every way possible.

Also, I often work with website developers, and sometimes found it hard to understand the jargon – it feels like a whole new language. This experience with learning how to code has really made me better appreciate what goes into developing a website, and the costs and time required to complete tasks.

There are a lot of industries women don’t consider simply because they are not traditionally considered “feminine” and it is a great shame because this thinking can close a lot of potentially promising and enjoyable paths.

What was your first thought or reaction when you heard of TechLadies?

I think it is an excellent initiative to encourage people like myself to take the leap forward with courage. I hold a lot of respect for everyone who has given their time and energy to make this happen. Looking forward, I hope that TechLadies would be engaging in dialogues and collaborate with other initiatives to encourage women to explore non-traditional paths.

I work in mining & resources and management consulting – two areas I have thoroughly enjoyed. However, like coding, both areas are very male dominated. I ended up working in mining because I was in the right place at the right time. I was returning to Perth in 2006 at the beginning of the largest mining boom in history and my background in law and Chinese placed me in a strong position to manage the sales agreements for Rio Tinto. If it hadn’t been for this fortunate set of events I wouldn’t have considered entering the industry. There are a lot of industries girls don’t consider simply because they are not traditionally considered “feminine” and it is a great shame because this thinking can close a lot of potentially promising and enjoyable paths. After my time at Rio Tinto I spent a bit of time working in retail, thinking that as a female I would enjoy it more. What I found was that the retail space was very reactive and fast paced and that my personality was unexpectedly more suited to mining. At the end, perceptions of which industries were more feminine and masculine had absolutely nothing to do with what suited me better – and I’m sure that women who give programming a chance would be able to resonate with this.

Every industry offers boundless of knowledge and experience for both men and women to gain and benefit from. I just know that when all industries leave themselves more open being inclusive and diverse, the perspectives, discussions and solutions made would benefit everyone.

Why did you want to apply to the TechLadies Coding Programme?

I love learning new things. I think we should never stop learning. The tech scene is such a vibrant and exciting one and everyone is so welcoming and friendly so it was also a great chance to meet new and inspiring people who are doing great things.

I also strongly believe that learning how to program would not only open more doors of opportunity for me, but it would also improve my abilities in both my career and life. This fed my drive to applying for the TechLadies’ flagship 8-week coding program that I was fortunately accepted into. I’ve never regretted it since.

What do you hope to gain out of the TechLadies Coding Programme?

I started learning python in my spare time and want to understand what else it could be used for. I feel somewhat like somebody who’s just learnt a new language, who’s looking out for someone to practice it with so that we will both benefit from it.

After working with TechLadies, I found myself spending more time understanding Django, a Python framework, and I’m proud to admit that I can now see how Python can be used to create a website.

This process and discovery have opened my eyes to understand that the applicability of coding languages is exceptionally broad. Python can be used to develop websites, games, and conduct predictive data analytics. The possibilities are seemingly endless, and that’s what excites me and I believe, excites other programmers as well.

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on and what parts you’re building on now.

We’re developing an online platform for people in the Asian Film Archives (AFA) to submit to have their films archived. I’ve been working on the contact form, which will allow people to contact Asian Film Archives directly with the queries they may have.

How do you see yourself using your coding skills?

With this new set of skills, I can not only develop basic web applications, but I may also use it to better communicate with web developers, which is a huge bonus for me, seeing as I am required to speak with them fairly often.

Looking forward, I’d love to work on creating platforms to help teams work more efficiently and effectively in the workplaces of different industries and fields.

Meet Vina – WordPress Developer, Musician, TechLady

The TechLadies Bootcamp is a 10-week part-time accelerated learning program designed to help women with some basic programming background become professional programmers. Participants are guided by industry experts, creating products for non-profit organizations. 9 ladies were chosen for the first batch of the TechLadies Bootcamp. In this blog series, we will be sharing more about the background and learning journey of these ladies. Hopefully that'll inspire you to start learning how to code too!

If you could tell a story about yourself in a few sentences, what would it be?

Hi, my name is Vina! I lead a life filled with spontaneity, with a belief that there is always something new and meaningful for me to learn.

Currently, I freelance as a WordPress developer. But that’s not all I do. I’m quite musically inclined and can play by ear! The keyboard and the guitar are my favourite instruments to work with.

What is your current day job?

I’m a freelance WordPress developer so that I could make time for myself to learn and pick up a new skill. Recently, I’ve been trying out a few gigs as a music facilitator and I’ve enjoyed it very much.

Prior to being a freelancer, I worked in an advertising agency as their last-standing developer. It’s a long story to how I ended up in that position. I graduated from the University of Wollongong with a degree in Computer Science and I received a full scholarship from S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research to pursue an MBA. That’s why I came to Singapore (from Indonesia), completed my MBA, and realised that while I have a foundation in business and computer science, I don’t have a specialized skill.

To hone in on my technical skills, I joined in this advertising agency as the 3rd developer on the team. After my team members left the company, I became the only person to help the entire team transit smoothly from being a traditional print-based agency to a full-fledged digital marketing agency. It was SO hectic! Because we were short on time and resources, I had to focus on using WordPress to build websites for our clients since it was the fastest way to do so. This went on for five full years before I realised that while WordPress is a fantastic tool, expertise in WordPress isn’t the skill that I wanted. I want to learn how to build an application from scratch, but the heavy workload at my job means that I wouldn’t have the time to do that.

An opportunity came when my professor from S.P. Jain approached me to help him create a website for a soup kitchen he’s helping at. That was my first freelancing gig and gave me the confidence to leave my job to make time for learning the skills I wanted.

What made you interested in coding?

When I was a kid back in the 90s, I used to watch my dad used word processors like WordStar, Lotus 123, and MS-DOS, despite not having a background in computer science or engineering. Watching him work away during the evenings fascinated the little 8-year-old me – he would type something on the keyboard and the computer will magically display something! While I couldn’t comprehend the mechanics behind it at that point in time, it was etched into my memory. Soon after, computing became a subject taught in my school. I got to learn and understand the same programs my dad used, MS-DOS!

What was your first thought or reaction when you heard of TechLadies?

I got to know of the TechLadies program during a Ruby meetup in Singapore where I spoke to Elisha, the TechLadies founder. The idea of making a coding program which focuses on building a real, scalable project available to women (for free!), was so appealing!

I had my reservations, though. Based on my experience, completion of a project would usually take much longer where the number of hours spent working on it is concerned. What’s more, the course covers a mix of both theory and hands-on work. I wasn’t quite sure if what that entailed – and was unsure if we would get to do much of the project ourselves.

When the announcement of the flagship 8-week coding program was made, I was pumped to hear that this was actually happening, and went ahead with the application, fervently hoping that mine would be chosen!

Why did you want to apply to the TechLadies Coding Program?

After I’ve left my job, I started looking out for languages to learn and avenues to learn them. I’ve attended community-led workshops and meetups for Ruby on Rails and Objective-C but found that those languages didn’t resonate with me, and while the workshops were good, they don’t provide enough knowledge for me to understand what I’m doing.

Then I found out about PyLadies, a series of workshops to teach women how to code with Python. I attended a few and realised that Python “clicked” with me. That’s why when I’ve heard that one of the projects for the TechLadies Coding Program will be done with Python, it was a no-brainer for me to jump at the chance!

What do you hope to gain out of TechLadies?

Initially, my goal was to learn enough to build something from nothing, and gain new friends who shared similar passions. Now, and increasingly so, I want to become a full-stack Python and Django developer!

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on!

We are working for Asian Film Archive to develop a web application that accepts film submissions. Think of it as the IMDB for Asian films, it’s a very interesting idea!

The best part of the project is to work with our mentor, Martin. Martin is a fantastic developer that never ceases to amaze us. He’s someone who breathes, walks, and sleeps Python and Django; it’s crazy! Through the process so far, he’s given us great guidance and advice on Python, Django, Ansible, Mkdocs and more. Learning directly from his thought-process was super helpful when we’re building new things from scratch. I think this is the best value of joining the TechLadies Coding Programme.

Right now, we are working on implementing the Django models for our app. My task is to create the Event model, which basically defines how the database table looks like. We need this to eventually build a timeline of events so that the administrators can see how a film submissions’ status has changed over time.

What do you see yourself using your coding skills for?

I would like to build a portfolio with a large selection of applications that people can benefit from and enjoy using, with an unlimited budget and fair deadlines proposed. Perhaps, if I can indulge in this thought, I would set up a company that provides healthy food for my team and work with a bunch of adventurous, exciting and forward-looking people.

Since technology is always changing, I will let myself adapt and keep up with it. I’m thankful for the large programming community in Singapore that looks to give so much to anyone who’s hungry to learn. This naturally makes me want to reach out to those who want to learn and help them out, too, regardless of their background!

Meet Yiting – Polyglot, Volunteer, TechLady

The TechLadies Bootcamp is a 10-week part-time accelerated learning program designed to help women with some basic programming background become professional programmers. Participants are guided by industry experts, creating products for non-profit organizations. 9 ladies were chosen for the first batch of the TechLadies Bootcamp. In this blog series, we will be sharing more about the background and learning journey of these ladies. Hopefully that’ll inspire you to start learning how to code too!

If you could tell a story about yourself in one sentence, what would it be?

Yi is the giraffe that every city needs because of her super ability to continually evolve from acquiring new tongues; she will soon speak computer too.

What is your currently working as?

I’m a final year student at the National University of Singapore majoring in English Linguistics. In addition to school, I am learning three foreign languages (French, Spanish, and German). On Saturdays, I help out at Blk 2 Furever Canines – a shelter with some of the sweetest dogs around. At Blk 2, I bathe, walk, and break up fights between the dogs. Since they are short of volunteers, I also design fundraising posters!

What made you interested in coding?

I’ve always been interested in HTML and CSS since the glorious days of Blogskins.com. I learnt to create my own blog templates through copying from the grandmasters of blog templates, and then editing parts of the HTML and CSS to my liking. It is always fun to make your own layouts and to see the code come alive.

But my passion for programming really started when I took the class CS3216 “Software Development on  Evolving Platforms” in NUS. I was lucky enough to take on the role as a designer during that class; I met the best of the coding talents in the university. It’s incredible to watch an idea turn from something on the drawing board into reality. To watch the coding talents live in action was like watching magic.

What was your thought or reaction when you first heard of TechLadies?

I don’t want to be that person, but… “Oh my god, it’s free!”

Why did you want to apply to the TechLadies Coding Programme?

The main hook was the mentorship that came with the programme. I’m a big fan of self­-directed learning but I’m also a believer in getting help where needed. Mentorship is a great way to kickstart my new learning journey especially so when code looks undecipherable, like an arbitrary combination of letters and numbers, to a beginner like myself.

I want to graduate from this programme with enough skills to inspire other girls to try coding too!

What do you hope to gain out of the TechLadies Coding Programme?

I want to graduate from this programme with enough skills to inspire other girls to try coding too! I know this goal sounds a bit of a stretch considering I’m just only starting out. But I know of many girls who are put off by how scary coding appears. These are girls who excel in Maths and Sciences, but somehow find programming as something unapproachable.

When I’m confident enough in my coding skills, I hope I can teach my female friends programming; many of them are interested in coding, but like me, they find it difficult to get started.

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on!

I’m working on Asian Film Archive’s (AFA) Emergency Reel Project. We are trying to improve upon the existing process that filmmakers undergo when they upload their films onto AFA. Currently, our team is building more subsections to make the site complete, such as the FAQ and the Event sections.

What do you see yourself using coding skills in the future?

I really want to create my own website from scratch! I would also love to use my skills to create a site for Blk 2 – it would be wickedly helpful in our fundraising efforts and in getting the world to meet our dogs. I’ve not finalised my idea, but it will be an app that drives donations for the shelter and promotes our dogs for adoption.

My ultimate goal would be to create a project related to travelling. I want to marry my love for exploring and visual storytelling with technology!