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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.

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.