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Meet Xin Tian – Dropout, Customer Service Rep, 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?

I was extremely lost and my self-confidence fell tremendously after being kicked out from NUS Master programme two years ago. Today, I am here standing up again to pursue my new-found dream.

What is your current day job? 

I am currently working as a customer service officer in MyRepublic. I’m not sure if it is still considered a ‘startup’ company, but my role revolves around handling all sorts of issues that the customers of MyRepublic face, such as billing, order processing, and technical related support. My technical skills are geared more so towards hardware-related technical support, such as router or Internet-related troubleshooting.

Before this, I was enrolled in a chemical engineering masters program, but that only lasted for a while. It was funny how it happened, now that I think about it. I made my naive decision to join the chemical engineering masters program out of my passion for chemistry, and I enrolled myself in the course thinking I would have the freedom to choose my modules. It turns out that I couldn’t. What’s more, most of the modules resolved around physics, not chemistry. Of course, I was disappointed. Because I didn’t fair well, I was kicked out from the programme. I then began my career in MyRepublic as a customer service officer. I enjoy working in an environment so vibrant, where everyone had to hustle, be agile, and take up different roles and responsibilities. It is a very exciting and engaging experience!

During this period of time, a close friend of mine introduced me to the concepts of programming by showing me what could be created with code. It intrigued me, and eventually sparked an interest in me for all things tech and startup. I began researching almost obsessively, and with each new startup, each new tech-related service or product that I read up about, my passion and appetite for tech grew.

To me, the thing that attracted me to code is not coding itself, but the magic that coding can achieve.

What made you interested in programming?

To me, the thing that attracted me to code is not coding itself, but the magic that coding can achieve. The magic of being able to turn any idea into a real product amazes me, be it for business purpose or for the sake of helping people, was what drew my attention to coding and learning how to code.

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

Excited, like really excited! I’ve been keeping an eye out for coding bootcamps for a while, but time and financial constraints kept me from enrolling in them.

A couple of months ago, I joined in one of the workshops held at HackerSpace SG. Since then, I kept up with the news and posts on their Facebook page. During one of those days where I did my mindless scrolling through of my social media channels, I chanced upon a post from HackerSpace SG’s Facebook page that mentioned TechLadies. I decided to check it out, out of curiosity, and pleasantly surprised myself when I found out that it was exactly what I’m looking for all this while – something I don’t have to pay an expensive tuition fee for and don’t have to quit my full-time job to do.

Why did you want to apply to TechLadies?

I had been learning to programme by myself through all the online courses for the past one year during my free time after work. I did an HTML and CSS course with Treehouse and Code Academy, and bought a course off Udemy as well, in my attempt to learn how to code on my own.

However, I couldn’t really progress much without real life experiences. I would easily forget all the theories that I have learnt after a while since I have no chance to apply them. Moreover, I spent most of my days in a job that has nothing to do with what I really want to do, which was to code and create.

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

I hope that I would gain enough knowledge and experience that will enable me to get a backend developer job, which hopefully I will spend most of my time learning and improving my coding skills through hands-on experience. I decided that I wanted to work on backend development as I was genuinely more interested in the creation of the ‘skeletal’ structure of a working program. So far in my journey with TechLadies, things are going pretty well. With practice, I’m confident that I will achieve my goal!

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on now!

The project I’m working on right now focuses on revamping the Engineers.sg website, and currently we are working on the newsletter subscription module. I am in charge of the newsletter subscription form, which I mainly work on rendering the view, error message and link them to the controller.

How do you see yourself using your coding skills in the future?

One day in the future I would like to use my coding skills to build my own tech startup/social enterprise. I am also actively picking up some entrepreneurship skills, too. This passion ignited after participating in the UNited We Hack hackathon organised by UN Women. I joined that hackathon with two of my friends who were backend and frontend developers themselves.

I represented my group as a pitcher as I didn’t have prior programming experiences then. Our hackathon topic revolved around empowering women, and so my group went ahead in developing a mobile app named “Her Voice”, that uses voice recording to share women’s stories virtually. We open sourced our work and you can find the codes on Github.

The hackathon ended on a bright note for us, because we won first place! This experience triggered something in me. After the experience with the masters degree course, I was slowly and surely building up my confidence and hope for my future. Her Voice’s vision and mission left me with high hopes of building a community where one woman’s story inspires another, leaving women in the community with high hopes and courage to dream.

After TechLadies, I will be working towards building a sustainable social enterprise. How I will do this, I’m not so sure now. But I believe that every little step I make now will count!

Meet Sharon – Entrepreneur, Student, 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?
A 22-year-old believing in the possibilities and beauty of life.

What are you currently working as? 
I’m a final year student at SMU (Bachelor of Business Management) graduating this May. I’m also working on my own startup called Protégé that provides mentoring software for organization to better manage learning & development. Protégé helps organisations better develop the potential of their people and connect with their employees (especially the Gen Y millennials) through internal mentoring. It is a B2B mentoring software that matches mentors with mentees, track the relationship & mentoring sessions, as well as collect real-time feedback on learning value. This comes as a native mobile app for mentors and mentees and web portal for the mentoring programme administrators.

​As a student and an entrepreneur, I tried to stack more modules in the earlier years of university so I’d have increasingly more time for my start-up as I approach graduation. On the day-to-day basis, I focus most of my time on my start-up but just make sure my time is planned out so that I complete school deadlines in time.

(Psst, a note from the TechLadies team: Sharon didn’t want to brag, but we wanted to. For her work at Protégé, Sharon was awarded the Youth Entrepreneur Award 2015 by Small Medium Business Association (SMBA).)

What made you interested in coding?
I first encountered coding when we had to develop the MVP for our startup. That’s when I started exploring different courses and online tutorials, such as Codecademy. My first coding lessons were on Codecademy! Coming from a business background, going into the tech start-up space was a really steep learning curve. However, it was always fascinating and intriguing to see the infinite possibilities that coding could create. Having the ability to build what I could only previously imagine is a skill so powerful and life-changing!

What was your thought or reaction when you first heard of TechLadies?
“OMG This is so cool!”
*checks to see how much it is*
“OMG IT’S FREE! :O”
*immediately signs up*

Why did you want to apply to the TechLadies Coding Programme?
I’ve been wanting to attend an in-person coding course for the longest time ever. But all the courses I’ve come across so far have been way beyond my budget as a student. Hence, the substitute is online courses that I’ve done on Codecademy, Udemy and individual websites. However, I’ve always felt that I’d reach a certain point where I hit a wall and can’t continue forward without consulting a fellow coder who is more experienced. The learning always stagnates there. TechLadies is honestly a dream-come-true programme that offers the wonderful value proposition of the following core benefits:

  • In-person lessons with a high teacher-to-student ratio (2 coaches to 3 students on my project)
  • Actual practice by building something for a real-world “client”
  • A community of both coaches and fellow students you can learn from and together with — the help they extend throughout the week on Slack is mind-glowingly amazing. It’s like they are always “online” and will answer any questions you have almost immediately.
  • It’s FREE – what more can I ask for 🙂

What do you hope to gain out of the TechLadies Coding Programme?
​To be able to be sufficiently proficient in Ruby and Ruby on Rails to code something from scratch. I’d love to try building something just for fun to practice developing in Rub, maybe something useful that I can use — like a to-do list, or journalling tool of some sort? Otherwise, I’ll also love to contribute to coding the administrator portal of my startup as it is web-based (rather than the native mobile app).

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on!
Our team is building new features and functions for the Engineers.sg website. Currently, I’m working on building a Mailchimp integration with the existing website to for the purposes of a providing a newsletter subscription service where readers can leave their name and email addresses to receive updates.

What do you see yourself using your coding skills for in the future?
Definitely in my start-up or any other projects I’ll be working on in the future!

Meet Casie – Gymnast, Entrepreneur, 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?

Compassion meets curiosity standing on her hands.

Psst… I often do impromptu handstands, I do them everywhere!

What is your current day job? 

I’m currently the Program Director and Head Gymnastics Coach at the Singapore American School and have developed a curriculum on gymnastics that gives success to all ages and ability levels. I am a high performance coach and have coached many Singapore national champions.

I also consult for the Ministry of Education and travel to schools across Asia sharing my curriculum so that the schools can develop amazing programs for their communities.

What made you interested in programming?

I began blogging about gymnastics when I moved to Singapore from China in 2010. I learned basic HTML and CSS when my blog was on Blogger and then taught myself to customize it on WordPress.

Thereafter I started writing about my other passions like DJing and teaching other DJs how to get gigs on websites that I had coded. From that point on, I realised how much power there was in taking technology into my own hands and not only using it for changing the websites aesthetically.

I got really interested in the tech space last year and started Googling and asking lots of questions about tech to friends and on Twitter. I also started to read a lot of books and blogs, and did practice tutorials online. I wanted to learn a programming language so I picked the one that I thought had the cutest name – Ruby.

Deep down inside, I think it is because I’ve always wanted to be like my big sister who is a UX designer back home in Wisconsin. Some things never change.

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

YES! Finally, something I have been looking for! I had always been looking at different programs available specifically for females but could not find anything in Singapore that would fit into my schedule as a mother, wife and founder. I believe TechLadies will help create parity for women in the tech ecosystem here in Singapore.

When I went to the TechLadies launch party, I met many women who, like me, were not right out of school. Many of them are very successful in their current positions but are really interested in tech, they just do not know where to start. I see TechLadies as the bridge for these women to cross over and make an impact in the world through technology.

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

I am insanely curious about finding solutions to problems.

Mostly to problems that I have, like being a mother with 2 children under the age of 5 and not being able to find quality classes for them to participate.

Some parents, including myself, find classes or activities online that have high ratings reflected on their Facebook Fan pages and trust their credibility. We signed our child up, paid his/her fees and brought our child to the class. However, we feel cheated when the teachers are not knowledgeable, when the space used is not clean, or when there are too many kids in one class. What is worse is that we feel like we have somehow failed as parents too.

I tried to solve this problem on my own by trying to clone a Product Hunt with Ruby on Rails because I wanted a way for parents to rate child-activity businesses in Singapore. But I never launch this project because I did not feel confident that it would actually work. And to be honest, the resulting interface was quite ugly. That’s why I applied for TechLadies.

The Universe handed me loads of high-fives in February when I was accepted into the TechLadies Coding Program. My own project also evolved into LeelaPass. My startup, LeelaPass, is a web app to help parents discover and book unlimited classes and boutique workshops for their kids with one low monthly subscription fee. It is the GuavaPass for child activities. I started this because I believe that all children should be given the opportunity to explore and develop their interests at a young age so that they can become the pillars of a healthy, happy and fulfilled society.

Why?

Because it happened to me. My mother took me to a ‘mommy-and-me’ class (just like the ones I teach) when I was 2 years old and I was an elite gymnast by the age of 12 and continued to train when I went to college at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I have been coaching gymnastics for over 18 years in US, China, Bermuda and Singapore and this journey in life has been due to the opportunity my mother gave me, allowing me to discover my passion and develop my interest.

I was so filled with confidence and the belief that I can make LeelaPass a reality that I managed to code the landing page in a day and turned it into a revenue generating business in under 10 days.

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

I want to be a part of the change in the Singapore technology landscape.

According to Female Founders, Singapore has only 5% of women entrepreneurs in tech startups. That’s not even half of what it is in Silicon Valley!

I want to be able to help bring up that measly percentage by being one of the first participants in the TechLadies Coding Program. However, my true value is to give another woman, after she hears about my story, the confidence to follow her own light within.

I also want to be able to prototype LeelaPass with Rails. I really want my contributions to be more than the voice and vision of the company. I want to have my code inside the software we build for LeelaPass from the very start. This is extremely important to me. My aim is to have a full grasp of concepts to be able to communicate with my technical team, set realistic goals and when bringing our product to market, be able to execute the goals knowing that I have enough tech knowledge.

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on!

Our team is working on making a non-profit’s existing site better. The non-profit documents the Singapore tech and startup scene by recording videos of conferences, meetups and workshops, uploading them to YouTube as well as embedding them on their site – Engineers.sg. Right now we are adding code to allow visitors to sign up to a mailing list so that they can be notified when something awesome happens on the site. Like when a new video was uploaded of a workshop that they could not attend because they wanted to be home with their family for dinner.

What do you see yourself using your coding skills?

In the future, I will share what I learn. I believe harnessing knowledge solely for the sake of knowing is selfish, as doing that does not leave the world in a better state compared to before the knowledge was obtained. Therefore we must all teach what we have learnt. I know I will start to share what I have learnt by teaching my daughters how to build their own games and apps and perhaps I will also teach other children and other change-makers to code.