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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 in a few sentences, what would it be?

Hi, my name is Vina! I lead a life filled with spontaneity, with a belief that there is always something new and meaningful for me to learn.

Currently, I freelance as a WordPress developer. But that’s not all I do. I’m quite musically inclined and can play by ear! The keyboard and the guitar are my favourite instruments to work with.

What is your current day job?

I’m a freelance WordPress developer so that I could make time for myself to learn and pick up a new skill. Recently, I’ve been trying out a few gigs as a music facilitator and I’ve enjoyed it very much.

Prior to being a freelancer, I worked in an advertising agency as their last-standing developer. It’s a long story to how I ended up in that position. I graduated from the University of Wollongong with a degree in Computer Science and I received a full scholarship from S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research to pursue an MBA. That’s why I came to Singapore (from Indonesia), completed my MBA, and realised that while I have a foundation in business and computer science, I don’t have a specialized skill.

To hone in on my technical skills, I joined in this advertising agency as the 3rd developer on the team. After my team members left the company, I became the only person to help the entire team transit smoothly from being a traditional print-based agency to a full-fledged digital marketing agency. It was SO hectic! Because we were short on time and resources, I had to focus on using WordPress to build websites for our clients since it was the fastest way to do so. This went on for five full years before I realised that while WordPress is a fantastic tool, expertise in WordPress isn’t the skill that I wanted. I want to learn how to build an application from scratch, but the heavy workload at my job means that I wouldn’t have the time to do that.

An opportunity came when my professor from S.P. Jain approached me to help him create a website for a soup kitchen he’s helping at. That was my first freelancing gig and gave me the confidence to leave my job to make time for learning the skills I wanted.

What made you interested in coding?

When I was a kid back in the 90s, I used to watch my dad used word processors like WordStar, Lotus 123, and MS-DOS, despite not having a background in computer science or engineering. Watching him work away during the evenings fascinated the little 8-year-old me – he would type something on the keyboard and the computer will magically display something! While I couldn’t comprehend the mechanics behind it at that point in time, it was etched into my memory. Soon after, computing became a subject taught in my school. I got to learn and understand the same programs my dad used, MS-DOS!

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

I got to know of the TechLadies program during a Ruby meetup in Singapore where I spoke to Elisha, the TechLadies founder. The idea of making a coding program which focuses on building a real, scalable project available to women (for free!), was so appealing!

I had my reservations, though. Based on my experience, completion of a project would usually take much longer where the number of hours spent working on it is concerned. What’s more, the course covers a mix of both theory and hands-on work. I wasn’t quite sure if what that entailed – and was unsure if we would get to do much of the project ourselves.

When the announcement of the flagship 8-week coding program was made, I was pumped to hear that this was actually happening, and went ahead with the application, fervently hoping that mine would be chosen!

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

After I’ve left my job, I started looking out for languages to learn and avenues to learn them. I’ve attended community-led workshops and meetups for Ruby on Rails and Objective-C but found that those languages didn’t resonate with me, and while the workshops were good, they don’t provide enough knowledge for me to understand what I’m doing.

Then I found out about PyLadies, a series of workshops to teach women how to code with Python. I attended a few and realised that Python “clicked” with me. That’s why when I’ve heard that one of the projects for the TechLadies Coding Program will be done with Python, it was a no-brainer for me to jump at the chance!

What do you hope to gain out of TechLadies?

Initially, my goal was to learn enough to build something from nothing, and gain new friends who shared similar passions. Now, and increasingly so, I want to become a full-stack Python and Django developer!

Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on!

We are working for Asian Film Archive to develop a web application that accepts film submissions. Think of it as the IMDB for Asian films, it’s a very interesting idea!

The best part of the project is to work with our mentor, Martin. Martin is a fantastic developer that never ceases to amaze us. He’s someone who breathes, walks, and sleeps Python and Django; it’s crazy! Through the process so far, he’s given us great guidance and advice on Python, Django, Ansible, Mkdocs and more. Learning directly from his thought-process was super helpful when we’re building new things from scratch. I think this is the best value of joining the TechLadies Coding Programme.

Right now, we are working on implementing the Django models for our app. My task is to create the Event model, which basically defines how the database table looks like. We need this to eventually build a timeline of events so that the administrators can see how a film submissions’ status has changed over time.

What do you see yourself using your coding skills for?

I would like to build a portfolio with a large selection of applications that people can benefit from and enjoy using, with an unlimited budget and fair deadlines proposed. Perhaps, if I can indulge in this thought, I would set up a company that provides healthy food for my team and work with a bunch of adventurous, exciting and forward-looking people.

Since technology is always changing, I will let myself adapt and keep up with it. I’m thankful for the large programming community in Singapore that looks to give so much to anyone who’s hungry to learn. This naturally makes me want to reach out to those who want to learn and help them out, too, regardless of their background!