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!
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!
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?