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Meet Cornet – Intern, Go-Getter, 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?

If I were to sum it up in one sentence, it will be this: My life revolves around the love for matcha (green tea). You will never spot me without a matcha snack or drink at any point in time!

What are you currently working as?

My current day job? I’m currently interning at Tinkerbox, a design and software development company! I’m working on an app that helps with automating most of their company’s processes. My responsibilities are to assist the leading developers in developing small parts of the application and fix bugs during test runs. It’s been quite a challenge so far. Minor bugs tend to be found on a daily basis and I have to fix as many bugs as possible before they pile up. It can be an arduous task sometimes but I am enjoying it so far. No complaints!

What sparked your interest in programming?

To really understand my passion for programming, I’ll have to start my story from way back before college. I excelled in Science in high school so my family advised me to take up Chemistry Engineering in college because it has great employment opportunities in Malaysia where I’m from. I followed their advice and studied Chemistry Engineering at The Ohio State University in the United States of America.

I was good at what I was doing back in college but I’ve always thought that there’s something more out there – something I would feel passionate about doing my entire life. And I decided to take a break from school to search for that. I was recounting my story to my friend back in Malaysia when he suggested that I pursue programming. It didn’t make sense at first, but then it all clicked.

I remembered how much fun I had when I was taking some introductory programming classes at the university. You may have heard how satisfying the feeling is of being able to create something – anything – you imagine through programming, and that was the exact emotion that I felt back then. It was as if doors of opportunities suddenly presented themselves in front of me, each one leading me to some path towards creating the next big thing!

My friend also recommended me sites like Codecademy to learn to code from but it was not enough. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to intern at Tinkerbox when I met the founders through my friends, and now I’m here in Singapore finally learning how to code!

My experiences with programming, even though it is still in its infancy stage, has made me determined to pursue this as a career path. I’m taking a break from college and fully devote my time to becoming a junior developer.

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

I was elated, surprised, and thrilled! I said to myself, “Oh my gosh, how can such an excellent program exist without having to pay!”

This is the perfect program for me, and this is exactly what I needed and what I was looking for! Since I’ve decided to take a break from school, I knew that an internship alone is not enough to give me all the learning experience I need to reach my goal of becoming a developer.

I was also enthusiastic about being able to meet more women who share this same passion for technology, to be able to connect with and learn alongside them. As much as this was a fantastic opportunity for the women and myself for me to learn and better my programming skills, it was also something meaningful as I will be able to contribute and serve the community. I haven’t seen a single program that offered such a comprehensive syllabus with a greater purpose in mind.

With this knowledge, I know I can create a tool to make a difference, be it to a community or to change people’s lives and perhaps, livelihood. I would like to use this skill to help people in need.

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

Ultimately, I hope to gain enough out of the program to build something that will allow me to contribute to the community. With this knowledge, I know I can create a tool to make a difference, be it to a community or to change people’s lives and perhaps, livelihood. I would like to use this skill to help people in need.

Looking forward, I sincerely hope to start my career path as a junior web developer, and press on to progress on the career ladder, eventually becoming a skilled web developer who will create the next most empowering, life-changing tech product – like Facebook!

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on now!

The project we are working on in TechLadies is for the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME).

HOME is a non-profit organization that aims to give foreign workers the chance to be heard when they encounter an unfair situation or circumstance, such as unpaid salaries, excessive working hours, work injuries, physical, sexual, verbal and psychological abuse. HOME believes in the principles of equality, non-discrimination, and dignity for migrant workers.

Along with two other talented women in my team, and my programme coach Jaryl, we are helping HOME to create a system that helps their organization and clients to communicate more efficiently. We are currently building the active record model, which is part of the ruby on rails application that is responsible for representing business data and logic. In this project, we focus on a couple of main models such as the users, organization, cases and issues. We work with them to link up and make sense of data.

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

I have big dreams and goals, and I’ll reach them one at a time with the coding skills I’ve learned through my time in the programme!

First and foremost, I’d like to build an e-commerce platform for my sister’s online business. My sister runs a third-generation laksa shop, called Ah Gong Laksa in Johor Bahru, with the aim of modernising a traditional business by selling packaged laksa paste online. I would like to help her create a product to do that. Eventually, I want to work as a junior web developer at a tech company!

Meet Kate – Idealist, Problem Solver, 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, what would it be?

My big loves are travelling, the outdoors, hiking, people and good ideas that inspire the world to be a smarter, better place.

Someone who I look up to is Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund. Acumen’s mission is to change the way the world tackles poverty through patient capital – it is the marriage of the smart-headed businessman and good-hearted philanthropist. Over the last 15 years, they have helped to bring affordable water, light, food, healthcare, education and technology to the poor, through supporting and investing in businesses.

I hope to be able to bring positive value to someone else’s life through my work.

What are you currently working as?

I am currently looking for new work opportunities, preferably in a startup or technology.

After graduating from SMU, I was at a loss of what career path to pursue. I had a couple of internships but I don’t feel fulfilled in those industries. If I had to spend so much my time at a job, it had better be something I love. I joined Singapore Airlines to do what I love, travel. It paid well, I was excellent at it, I got to see a lot of the world and I learnt a lot. Amazing as it was, that life lost its shine eventually.

I left to join a pharmaceutical company as a sales representative. Hit the sales targets of course, but thankfully I was tasked to work with different stakeholders to help patients reduce their medical costs and educate the medical community. It paid well enough, I was good at it and I brought some value by making good medication available and slightly more affordable for patients who needed it.

Still, I wanted more.

A friend put it clearly into 2 words – “Finding Ikigai”. Work should have a purpose that is in line with the self.

Ikigai
Call it your love, passion, your belief system, whatever. In the words of Steve Jobs: “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”

Learning how to code has made me feel empowered to create something that can be of real value to others. I want to be part of the tech world that can bring real solutions that people need and empower them too.

Knowing how to code is empowerment. It puts the power to create in your hands!

What made you interested in programming?

We had this course in university, Computer as an Analysis Tool, and that was really my first taste of writing codes. We were doing a project with Excel VBA and knew nothing about it. I’m not even sure if you can really call it coding, but the 5am brain-cracking late nights and then finally getting an A+ got me feeling really ecstatic.

Alongside my job as a cabin crew, I’ve also dabbled in e-commerce selling coffee and branded goods on eBay, Instagram and WordPress. Learning how to create your own website and making that extra cash was another high.

There are so many apps out there that makes our lives better. But there are still many occasions that I wished there was another app. Here’s my wish list.

  • Please, someone do an online platform that can help a mentoring program like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America reach more people
  • Please, someone do an app for SQ cabin crew, so it wouldn’t be a pain every time we want to change flights with a colleague to be around for a class, exam, family event or wedding
  • Please, someone make an app so I could get my manuka honey for a reasonable price after I quit (cheers to AirFrov)

The final straw came when I heard stories from two of my close friends who took a year off their 9-to-5 jobs to set up a web and iOS app. They are both smart people with a great idea, but they are both non-technical. One of their developers disappeared and another charged $20,000 to create a prototype.

That was the point when I realised, that having some knowledge in coding will allow you to test ideas quickly without a huge initial investment (in either money or time). This will give you an idea of whether the idea is feasible or how it should be tweaked to satisfy users’ needs.

Knowing how to code is empowerment. It puts the power to create in your hands!

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

The TechLadies ad on Facebook I came across a few days after speaking to my friend, was really just serendipity.

I saw that there are so many other individuals who are interested in learning to code and being more involved in the tech community. I realised that I was not alone! Also, I’ve never been part of a for-ladies-only group, so this calls out to the little feminist in me.

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

A supportive community, like technology, is an enabler. The TechLadies Coding Program supports us in learning how to code while working on a project for an NGO. Having a shared vision, a goal, and deliverable that has real-life application is a huge motivational force.

Learning something together as a group is very different from learning on your own. This programme provides a community that can understand the challenges we face and learn from each other. The motivation and support from the coaches and community is invaluable to the learning journey!

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

Mastery of a programming language is an even longer journey than I first imagined – maybe deeper and more expansive than the ocean is.

My learning goal is to learn how to code in Ruby on Rails, in order to build an effective web app for HOME (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics). Creating a solution that solves a problem is the goal here. By working on a real-world application, this gives me a good knowledge base to further explore Ruby’s capabilities in the future.

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on!

HOME is a society and charity that serves to uphold the rights of migrant workers in Singapore. I chose to work on this project for 2 reasons:

  1. I have a very good relationship with my domestic helper who has been with my family for more than a decade. My parents have brought me up to treat her like family. She has sacrificed watching her children grow up and cared for my sisters and I as we grew up.
  2. There are bad people in the world who think that position power and money translates to a right to take advantage of others. It’s unbelievable.

We are currently building a web application to help HOME better manage and update their cases. What excites me about this project is how some features of the web app will help HOME to look through their database more efficiently. For instance, it can highlight which companies or individuals have a repeated history of abusing and violating the rights of migrant workers in Singapore. They can also better track what are the common issues migrant workers face and provide the press with requested data.

So, to the bad people: watch your backs if you don’t want to land on the front page.

What do you see yourself using your coding skills for?

Right now, I am working on ideation for a friend’s business idea and as practice for myself, hope to use Ruby to create a prototype to help her get funding.

At the same time, I am currently looking for new work opportunities and believe that my coding skills will complement roles in tech startups and companies. I’m looking for an opportunity in programming and am open to sales and marketing positions, as long as I’m in the tech industry.

Meet Sandy – Air Stewardess, Coder, 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?

I am a geeky air stewardess who is learning to code and believes that technology can democratise education in developing countries.

What is your current day job?

I am currently an air stewardess based in Singapore. Prior to that, I was working in the sales department at Asus in Taiwan. That was where I decided that I am going to realise my dream of travelling around the world and be paid while at it. This is why I relocated to Singapore to become an air stewardess.

What made you interested in coding?

I first became interested in coding after reading Marc Andreessen’s “Why software is eating the world?” article. I have been coding for three months now, and I feel the coding is like a superpower that allows me to solve problems around me!

Recently, I noticed that my passion for coding has superseded my desire to see the world. I stayed in my hotel room to study while my peers were out sight-seeing or shopping when we were overseas, sometimes even after going for 24 hours without sleep. Of course it’s a hard trade-off and it’s something I do feel a little sad about, but I know that programming is something I really resonate with. I really want to create something from scratch, I want be better at programming.

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

Initially, I thought it was a branch of Girls in Tech organisation, and then I realised it is a totally new organisation that is very energetic and growing fast.

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

I want to join TechLadies for three reasons. Firstly, despite learning how to code for some time, I have not found many opportunities to apply it, and I think TechLadies’ approach of learning by coding a real­-world project is a great approach. Secondly, learning to code by myself can get lonely, and I would like to find like-­minded friends to learn and improve together. Lastly, I agree with TechLadies’ mission of helping women get into programming, and would like to be part of the initiative.

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

I have been learning how to code over the last three months, and recently shipped my first rails app a simple blog (https://sandytseng.herokuapp.com/). Though it is extremely basic and needs a lot of improvement, the feeling of creating something is extremely satisfying. I believe that coding is like a superpower that can solve problems, and I hope that after the TechLadies course, I will have the skill set to solve more complex problems. My ultimate goal is to use software to provide education for children living in rural villages.

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on!

We are remodelling the website for an NGO in Singapore called HOME (Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics), which is focused on preventing the exploitation of foreign workers. I picked this project as I am a foreign worker myself. I remembered facing problems when I just arrived at Singapore so I could understand the pain faced by the migrant workers HOME is helping. To me, what HOME is doing is very meaningful and I am elated to be able to help in their mission!

I would like to use my skills to help provide educational opportunities to underprivileged kids in developing countries.

How would you use your coding skills in the future?

I would like to transition to the tech sector, and hope to join a software company or startup. In the long term, I would like to use my skills to help provide educational opportunities to underprivileged kids in developing countries. I envision a world where children can learn essential skills online, no matter where they are located.

Right now I’m helping out at my boyfriend’s education company, KidStartNow. KidStartNow teaches Chinese to children via a program that provides customised materials tailored for each child. Hopefully, we can bring this company to children living in rural villages all over the world!