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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 #4. 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!

Vanessa Cassandra (CRF) - Curious Introvert, Engineer, TechLady

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

Born in Indonesia, I moved to Singapore 10 years ago for my studies. I spent most of my free time reading comic books, daydreaming, and trying out new activities.

2. What are you currently working as?

After graduation, I joined an industrial automation company as an application engineer. In my everyday work, I help people implementing control system in their industrial application, e.g. the control system in a semiconductor packaging machine.

3. What sparked your interest in learning how to code?

I started learning how to code in university. It was a compulsory module at that time, and they taught us programming in C. After that, I continued coding because I joined a robotics club and we had to program a microcontroller (again, in C). After that, I continued coding because my workplace requires us to do some coding for the automation system. So, I started learning how to code simply because it was needed in school and at the workplace.

The part about coding that I enjoyed the most is the “eureka” moment when you managed to solve a problem after spending hours of debugging. It feels like I could run around screaming “It works!! It works!!” and it can give you a morale boost.

The part about coding that I enjoyed the most is the “eureka” moment when you managed to solve a problem after spending hours of debugging.

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

I think it’s great that we have a community to help more ladies to learn about or get into the tech industries.

5. Why did you want to apply to the TechLadies Bootcamp?

So far, my programming experience has been hardware-related. I have been learning about website technology by myself, but am lacking the experience of working in a group.

I applied because I think it will be a very good experience to work with the coaches to find out about the best practices in the industry and consult them about things. These are the things that would be difficult if you’re learning on your own.

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

Website technologies change too fast, and tutorials you find online might be outdated in no time. When you’re debugging, the answers you find might not work because the engine behind has changed. There are hundreds of ways of using to achieve and at times it can be quite confusing.

Coming from C background, it was quite frustrating when I started learning Javascript because it does not behave as expected. My strategy is to google and use answers that are not outdated by more than a year :’) I’m actually still struggling with this, so if any of you out there have some tips, please let me know!

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

We’re building a quiz app for EarthFest Singapore to find out your current habits in relation to the environment, and to encourage you to pick up more green habits. We’re using Vue.js for the UI framework. We also use the interact.js library to make the action cards draggable. There is no back end involved (for now) as Data is populated from Google Sheets.

I selected this project because it’s heavy on the front-end, and I find front-end as a mysterious magic world where you need to know the magic tricks and the magic words (e.g. when to put “overflow: hidden”) to make things work. I believe I can learn a lot of things from this project.

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

I hope to be able to build educational and thought-provoking interactive apps that can educate people or trigger a social change. I’m a fan of Nicky Case’s works, especially this one titled “We Become What We Behold“.
He started Explorable Explanations, which is a wonderful initiative.

I’m particularly interested in data visualization e.g. data journalism because it’s in line with what I hope to achieve. At this moment, I’m still exploring the various industries and opportunities.

Everybody has their own way of learning, but I personally find it more helpful if I have a specific goal to work towards to…. All in all, everybody has their own preferred learning method, and you should find your own, too.

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

Everybody has their own way of learning, but I personally find it more helpful if I have a specific goal to work towards to.

When I learn how to code just for the sake of learning code, I easily get bored and most of the time I couldn’t finish the tutorials I found online (I spent more time filtering the tutorials than actually reading them). I had to set my mind on a goal, like a specific project, e.g. to make a personal website.

The process: Start doing -> Face a problem -> Google how to solve the problem -> End up in a tutorial article / website -> Apply the learned tricks -> Doesn’t work -> Google other solutions -> End up in another tutorial -> Repeat until it works -> I learn something new and I will actually remember it

This method may not work for some people. They may need the foundational knowledge before they can actually do anything. In that case, following basic tutorials is actually better than diving into a project.

Some people may prefer reading a reference book instead because not all tutorials on the internet are fantastic (at least online tutorials do not need an editor). I personally think that a lot of tutorials will teach you “how to make it work”, but books may teach you the underlying principle behind that may enhance your understanding of the topic.

All in all, everybody has their own preferred learning method, and you should find your own, too.