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Meet Min – TechLadies Bootcamp organizer, Coffee-lover, TechLady

The TechLadies Bootcamp is a 12-week part-time accelerated learning program designed to help women with some basic programming background become programmers. Participants are guided by industry experts, creating products for non-profit organizations. 6 ladies were chosen for the TechLadies Bootcamp #3. In this blog series, we will be sharing more about their backgrounds and learning journeys. Hopefully that'll inspire you to start learning how to code!

Meet Min - TechLadies Bootcamp organizer, Coffee-lover, TechLady

Editor’s Note: Min is a graduate of the TechLadies Bootcamp #3. Despite her modest experience in tech, she has courageously picked up the baton to organize TechLadies Bootcamp #4 with Shirlaine, helping to train a new generation of female engineers. This is her story.

 

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

I like coffee and slow mornings. I like to ask ‘why’ and am drawn to things that are created with intention.

I was born in Singapore, raised in Brunei and completed college in the US. I studied Economics and Philosophy and graduated with a liberal arts degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI.

 

What do you currently do for a living? 

In my previous role, I was a Portfolio Management Analyst with Jardine Lloyd Thompson in Singapore. This was my first job post-college, in a country and with people that felt familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. Looking back, this allowed me to bring a different approach and perspective to my workplace. In my 4 years with the firm, I learned how to apply critical and logical thinking in strategising, conceptualising, executing and evaluating projects.

Outside of work, my main interest is coffee and used to spend Sunday mornings working at Nylon Coffee Roasters. I see a good cup of coffee as the result of the combined efforts of the entire supply chain i.e. from the farmer to the roaster and finally, the barista having successfully brought out the best of the coffee, all playing a part and all equally important. I am currently in the process of setting up a cart service that aims to highlight this, keep checking in this page!

I enjoy problem-solving. To me, coding is a creative pursuit. Just as an artist expresses herself through colors, a programmer uses code. I love the dichotomy of code; logical and systematic yet creative and fluid at the same time.

What sparked your interest in learning how to code?

I first picked up coding in college as an elective course. Wanting to challenge myself and pick something that was completely off my vocation I decided to try introductory programming. Contrary to my expectations I thoroughly enjoyed it and have been trying to build competency since!

I enjoy problem-solving. To me, coding is a creative pursuit. Just as an artist expresses herself through colors, a programmer uses code. I love the dichotomy of code; logical and systematic yet creative and fluid at the same time. While math and logic set the framework, creativity gives me the freedom to build solutions that are designed well and fit for purpose. This is exciting because there are multiple solutions to a problem. It is also empowering because we all have creative freedom to build anything we want, in any way we want (within the define structures, of course).

In many ways, my studies in philosophy have complemented my thought process and approach to a coding problem. 

 

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

An excellent initiative to support women who are in or are exploring tech by offering tech talks, workshops and study groups. TechLadies is an amazing community of learners and teachers who encourage and challenge one another to think, share ideas and learn alongside each other.

I believe communities like TechLadies will be instrumental in bringing back some parity to the programming field.

 

Why did you apply for the TechLadies Bootcamp?

Over the past 2 years I had been trying to build competency through online courses and workshops, but was always aware that building an application involved much more than just knowing how to write code – equally important are the design process, working in a team, and project management element that simply cannot be taught online.

I wanted to work on an app for an actual company with a real problem, and saw that the bootcamp had:

  • Practical experience working on an actual app
  • A structured program with clear objectives and an achievable goal
  • Solid coaches who go above and beyond to mentor and support us
  • Good cause – the NGO gets an app, we learn a new language. Win/win situation!

Despite the abundance of resources out there, it was difficult to figure out how to solve problems when one has to figure out how to fit all the pieces together to get the code to look and behave the way you expect it to.

What are some of the challenges you faced while learning how to code?

My biggest personal challenge was not knowing how to find the best solution to problems. Despite the abundance of resources out there, it was difficult to figure out how to solve problems when one has to figure out how to fit all the pieces together to get the code to look and behave the way you expect it to.

As part of my experience at the TechLadies Bootcamp, I learned the value of asking for help. There are so many people who are more than happy to lend a helping hand!

I also understood the importance of proper documentation, both in reading and writing it. Good documentation helps me be self-reliant in getting around the code and troubleshoot errors more efficiently. Having worked on the project as a team, it also meant that I could quickly pick up and build on a fellow teammate’s code and vice versa.

 

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on and why you selected this project.

We revamped the TechLadies app! TechLadies needs no introduction; to date, Elisha and her team had been sorting and ranking bootcamp applications manually with Excel and Google Sheets, which had been extremely time-consuming.

We added code to integrate and automate what can be automated in the bootcamp application process i.e. remove incomplete applications, sort applications to the respective NGOs and coaches as well as sending out acceptance and rejection emails. Now, Elisha and the coaches will also be able to view, review and assess every application, all on the same platform!

Min presenting at TechLadies Bootcamp #3

After graduating from the TechLadies Bootcamp #3, you have stepped up to organize the TechLadies Bootcamp #4! Tell us more about it.

I wanted to give back because I’ve benefited so much from the bootcamp! My primary motivation comes from the desire to give more ladies that opportunity to become empowered – both commercially and emotionally.

So with sheer determination and zero experience in program management, Shirlaine and I decided to take on the challenge of organising TechLadies Bootcamp #4. This was not easy, I had to constantly step out of my comfort zone – from learning time management, resourcefulness, and adaptability to marketing the bootcamp. It’s definitely a learning experience for me, but I think the ultimate value it brings to the community make the hours spent worth it.

We also get to put the app we built for TechLadies to use! As admins, we got to enjoy the efficiency and time savings the app brought. To see the hours spent and snippets of code we put in in Bootcamp #3 manifest into a functional app is really a big encouragement for me to continue to pursue programming.

 

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

Ultimately, my goal is to be able to design, build and maintain more complex applications on my own. I see myself empowering people and communities around me. I want to bring value by building applications to help people work more efficiently and effectively. By minimizing ‘clutter’ and creating products that work and function well, people can focus their energies on doing and creating things that impact. I am currently looking for opportunities where I can build products and gain competence. I am still navigating my way around the spectrum but am keen on picking up the full stack.

Finally, just as I had been ‘accidentally’ introduced to programming and benefited immensely from it, I hope to share what I have learned with others.

 

What is one advice you will give to a lady who is thinking about learning how to code?

If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it – because what’s holding you back?

Meet Shirlaine – Jill-of-all-trades, TechLady

The TechLadies Bootcamp is a 12-week part-time accelerated learning program designed to help women with some basic programming background become programmers. Participants are guided by industry experts, creating products for non-profit organizations. 6 ladies were chosen for the TechLadies Bootcamp #3. In this blog series, we will be sharing more about their backgrounds and learning journeys. Hopefully that’ll inspire you to start learning how to code!

Meet Shirlaine - Jill-of-all-trades, TechLady

Editor’s Note: Shirlaine has taken a very interesting path to discover her passion for technology. She struck me as someone who gives her all to pursue her goals and she proves it by enrolling herself into a full time bootcamp on top of her involvement in the TechLadies Bootcamp. I’m excited at where she’ll go next in the industry. This is her story.

 

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

I would describe myself as an introverted but friendly, Jill-of-all-trades. I go where my passion calls and take deep dives, head first, into acquiring the knowledge needed to do well.

What are you currently working as?

I am currently running a small pet grooming business that I founded 4 years ago. Despite loving animals, joining the pets industry came as a surprise since I have a degree in sports science. I’ve worked in the property, health, and finance industries and I had no prior experience in the pets industry!

Wow, sports science to pets and now tech! Tell us more about your journey getting here.

Sports play a huge part of my life since I was a child so I thought sports science was something I could pursue in college. I also took up a property license and moonlighted as a property agent while in college since I had quite a bit of time at hand. It was when I met my mentor who was working in a health startup.

He wanted to create an IoT device much like FitBit before FitBit existed and roped me in to help bring that idea to fruition. Although the project failed, it gave me a glimpse of the tech world as it was the first time I’ve worked with software and hardware developers.

However, this experience was not enough for me to make the switch. After I left the company, I started devouring everything I can find on trading. I could make a living out of trading but it staying up to 3 am and waking up at 5:45 am to meet the trading open times was incredibly stressful. That’s why a friend and I hired a developer to create an app that trades on our behalves using our trading formulas.

We tested the app with mock data and were elated when the numbers were moving in the right direction but we lost thousands within hours when we roll it out into the wild! I didn’t understand how this could happen – the codebase was like a mysterious black box to me. I couldn’t tell if our formulas were wrong or if the code was wrong.

I felt quite burned out after that and took a sabbatical to figure out my next steps, and that’s how I decided to pursue my passion for animals and take up a pet-grooming license. This business and the industry was a huge change for me but I could acquire a new life skill and business management skills. It was tough as a one-person-do-all job but I am glad I did it!

I thoroughly enjoyed this process and through this, I learned that programming knowledge serves a purpose to a businessperson as well. (Without it,) I would not be able to comprehend the limits of my website without a background in coding.

What eventually sparked your interest in learning how to code?

Despite my previous experiences working with developers, my interest in coding was only piqued after I’ve set up my business. I engaged a web development company to create a website for me but I was entirely hands-on with the process – from crafting the logo using Adobe Illustrator to choosing all the photos going onto the website. I wanted everything to be perfect!

I thoroughly enjoyed this process and through this, I learned that programming knowledge serves a purpose to a businessperson as well. Communication between a developer and a client could be challenging at times. The client (a.k.a. me) would want a feature that a developer might not think could be done based on the existing infrastructure. I would not be able to comprehend the limits of my website without a background in coding.

This, coupled with my two previous experiences with developers, was finally enough to tip the scales for me to pick up coding.

Why did you want to apply for the TechLadies Bootcamp?

Having attended several events by TechLadies, I have always been very impressed by the way these events were organized. From venue to workshop materials, it was hard to miss the passion and quality that the volunteers for TechLadies’ cause.

I was looking to attend a part-time bootcamp to further my knowledge on Ruby by building real-world apps and to have a dedicated group of like-minded peers and mentors to share this journey with. With an almost 1:1 student to teacher ratio, TechLadies made my choice easy and everything just kind of fell into place. Zero regrets!

You had to create an app before you could apply to the bootcamp. Tell us more about the app you made!

We were required to build an app with a specific list of basic features using Ruby on Rails, with brownie points given for added features. For my app, it was a no-brainer for me to build a website for my grooming business. For those interested, the site can be found here.

Building the app was tougher than I thought it would be. I faced different roadblocks at different stages of the process and many of them took hours to solve. It also really helped that there were code clinics held to help us with any problems we encountered. Shout out to Michael and Daniel, thanks for the help!

What are some of the challenges you faced while learning how to code?

One of the major challenges I faced was the inability to identify problems. Problems in coding can come in various forms. To illustrate an example, we could get an internal 500 error but that gives one little hint of what exactly went wrong (especially when we’re still new). A trip to Google or stack overflow may or may not help to solve the problem and many times we had to trash the project to start coding again.

Another challenge faced was to apply the right syntax to problems. This was particularly frustrating at first because logically, the problems are usually not difficult to solve. But solving them through the use of a programming language felt a bit like trying to sing “baa baa black sheep” in French!

I’m happy to say that these days, it is definitely getting much better. At the bootcamp, we are taught how to recognize types of errors and deduce clues on what to look for to solve them. Fluency with the programming language, particularly Ruby, gets better with more practice 🙂

A mentor once mentioned that the skills we picked up from coding are similar to various tools in the toolbox. Each tool has its best use in specific situations. In the context of software development, these tools can potentially be used to solve various problems in the community and even in the world!

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

A mentor once mentioned that the skills we picked up from coding are similar to various tools in the toolbox. Each tool has its best use in specific situations. In the context of software development, these tools can potentially be used to solve various problems in the community and even in the world!

I hope to continue sharpening my tools and acquiring new tools to tackle these problems, above all, I seek to gain more experience in deploying the best-fitted tool for the right situations.

Hereinafter, I hope to be able to know enough to contribute to more open source projects, preferably for more NGO’s. Being around other programmers has also inspired me to want to better my code, and constantly challenges my way of thinking in solving problems. I also hope to seek out the opportunity to learn more in an internship programme, and eventually, work my way towards becoming a developer to tackle more complex projects.

What is one advice you will give to a lady who is thinking about learning how to code?

If you are already thinking about learning how to code, just do it and start somewhere!

When it comes to choosing programming languages to learn, my humble advice is to think of something you want to build first, like a private tweet site/ blog site/photo album site for just your loved ones, for example. Building something with an aim in mind always helps to keep the momentum going. Once you’ve decided on what to build, it’s easy to figure out the tools you need through YouTube videos and online resources etc.

Don’t worry too much about which programming language to learn first, the key is to get started!

Meet Maggie – Introvert, Learner, TechLady

The TechLadies Bootcamp is a 12-week part-time accelerated learning program designed to help women with some basic programming background become programmers. Participants are guided by industry experts, creating products for non-profit organizations. 6 ladies were chosen for the TechLadies Bootcamp #3. In this blog series, we will be sharing more about their backgrounds and learning journeys. Hopefully that'll inspire you to start learning how to code!

Meet Maggie - Introvert, Learner, TechLady

Editor’s Note: Maggie has struck me as a shy lady who probably gives herself less credit than she deserves. I sat down with her for this interview and learned that despite being keenly self-aware, she also exuded a sense of quiet confidence. This is her story.

 

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

I’m an introvert who discovered technology through my introversion.

I’m intrigued, tell us more! What sparked your interest in technology?

When I was in my teens, I knew that I’m not as outgoing as my peers. I struggled with low self-confidence and have difficulties expressing myself eloquently. So while other kids were joining CCAs such as uniformed groups or sports that rely heavily on interacting with others, I picked a CCA that required the least amount of human interaction. *laughs*

Under the recommendation of my teacher, I joined the computer club in secondary school where I discovered and fell in love with technology. I love how technology makes things efficient – a document can be easily shared with multiple people which cannot be done with paper.

Why do you love technology?

I believe that technology is a blessing to solving problems and streamlining processes. Moreover, solving problems with technology goes beyond writing code, it’s also about getting people to work with technology. This enabled me to look at problems and solutions from different perspectives.

I find dabbling in technology to be deeply comforting and that’s where I feel most at ease. After secondary school, I pursued a diploma in Multimedia Infocomm System and a degree in Information Technology.

Are you currently working in the tech industry?

I’m currently working as a Digital Project Manager at a retail company under the Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP) offered by Workforce Singapore. I signed up for this program as I’m craving for a new challenge and at my age, there aren’t plenty of programs to help me transit into a new industry. I’ve transited into the retail industry from the entertainment industry where I’ve worked for 5 years on improving internal processes with technology.

Actually, I got my new job thanks to the TechLadies Bootcamp! My employer was looking for someone with Ruby on Rails skills and found my experiences gained from the bootcamp vital.

Before I found out about this community, I felt really alone – all my female peers from school have left the industry.

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

Before I found out about this community, I felt really alone – all my female peers from school have left the industry. I didn’t know where to go to further develop my technical skills or bounce ideas with. So I was delighted when I came across a TechLadies ad on Facebook! It’s amazing to see that there is a community of women, people just like me, who are in the tech industry and are open to learning new technologies.

Why did you want to apply to the TechLadies Bootcamp?

I knew that I wanted to be in an environment to upskill myself, and I knew that the best way to learn is through a hands-on process of working on a project. The TechLadies Bootcamp provided just that and more! In the bootcamp, I get to work in a team under the guidance of industry practitioners and this provides a chance for me to interact with people like me while gaining some real-world experiences.

Tell us more about the project you’re working on for the TechLadies Bootcamp #3!

My team is building an application process for the TechLadies Bootcamp, which allows the TechLadies team to streamline the process of selecting participants for future bootcamps. It is a blessing to have a community like TechLadies for ladies who are interested in tech, and more so to be able to work on this project that contributes back to our community.

The TechLadies Bootcamp #3 has started quite some time ago, how are your experiences so far?

I’ve really enjoyed my time in the bootcamp! My experience in the bootcamp resembles that of the real world – I have to work in a team to create an app that will be used publicly. Being in a team, we need to communicate the features we are working on and how we think about solving technical problems. This allowed me to practice my communication skills and has helped me in building confidence!

The lessons I’ve learned at the TechLadies Bootcamp have also benefitted my current job – I could now better communicate with and understand programmers.

Before the bootcamp, I don’t know about Github, Trello or Slack (important tools used by developers). I used these tools at the bootcamp and that has helped me to be a better project manager. Moreover, I now have a better understanding of code and could decipher what my teammates are writing!

All in all, I feel confident about my future with the learnings I’ve gained via this bootcamp. Plenty of friends have been asking me when the next batch will be!

Since technology is used everywhere. I can use this skill no matter what industry I am in. With my new coding skills and newfound confidence, I’ll love to be a product manager who creates tools that improve productivity and streamline processes.

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

Since technology is used everywhere. I can use this skill no matter what industry I am in. With my new coding skills and newfound confidence, I’ll love to be a product manager who creates tools that improve productivity and streamline processes. I want to share my love for technology to more people, getting more people to adopt better technologies.

Not just for a career, I’ll like to continue learning by creating tools to solve my problems. I love traveling and I face a pain-point where photos, maps, and itineraries are on different tools and it’s a mess. I’ll like to create an app where I could pull all of these data into one place and I think I’m poised for this challenge.

Thanks for taking time out to share your story with us. Last question to end this interview, what is one advice you will give to ladies who are thinking about learning how to code?

Be bold and courageous! Just step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to learn how to code. Coding is just logic thinking, it is only 1 or 0 (binary) and it’s not intimidating!