Reflections from ”Tjejer kodar”, a coding camp for 100 women
In September I got the opportunity to be a part of ”Tjejer kodar”, an event which brings together 100 Swedish women who wants to learn to code in Barcelona, Spain. This year there were five courses running in parallel; Web development for beginners, Node.js for beginners, Frontend development with React.js, Build iOS apps in Swift and Game development for beginners.
The courses were all on a ”beginner level” but some of them had prerequisites of some programming knowledge or knowledge within a specific language. The main purpose was to teach the participants to code, or extend their coding knowledge to a new language or area, in just five days. Monday to Friday we were all on site at Valkyria Hub Space 9am - 4pm divided into five different classrooms for our respective courses. Each course had a responsible teacher from one of Tjejer kodar’s partner companies, and the hours spent on the course varied between lectures, exercises and individual work.
I decided to take the course ”Build iOS apps in Swift” led by Mattias Jähnke from iZettle, because of both personal interest but also to deepen my knowledge in the subject to be used in my daily work. I work with many different things at Jayway, but one of the tasks I’ve taken on in my role here that is quite new to me professionally is managing mobile app development projects. Therefore I felt that better knowledge in how you create, develop and publicize apps wouldn’t be too bad to have. My background includes a MSc in Engineering from Lunds Institute of Technology with a minor in Computer Science, so I’m not completely new to programming - although it was a good six or seven years since I actually coded.
For the Swift-course the prerequisite was to have some coding experience from before, but there was no need to know any Swift. Our course started with an introduction to the most basic variables, constants, functions and how to get everything together in Xcode. Then we spent the first two days putting all of this together in a Hello world-app, where we got the opportunity to play around with interface builder making it possible to adjust the layout, colors, functions and so on. It wasn’t until the third day we actually started with our ”real” projects (even though we would of course use the knowledge from the first two days when building it).
Mattias had decided on one type of app for us to build, or at least a set of features to include in the app, to make it easy to help guide 20 participants at the same time. The description of the app we were to build went like this:
”An app where the user can take pictures of X, write a comment/title and set a rating for X. The user can list the pictures and see the rating for each picture.”
Ironic enough this description fit one of my app ideas I have PERFECTLY. Time to build Recipe Rater!
During the next three days Mattias mixed lectures of new features with exercises and time to work on the app where he assisted when you needed help. I decided to create my app that I call ”Recipe Rater”, where you take pictures or screenshots of recipes that you want to save, name and rate them and then save them to your app. I also had time to implement a few extra features such as importing pictures from the camera roll, sorting the list of pictures after name or rating, a login setup with a single password, a close-up view of the picture as well as being able to edit the title or rating. It was a fun and interesting project that taught us the basics of Swift and app development.
Being a project manager leading mobile development projects, it was a great learning experience to get some insights into how mobile development works in a more practical sense. Actually going through all of the steps myself definitely enhanced my understanding of the process as well as gave me a deeper understanding of all the lingo the developers use on a daily basis. Of course, these five days only gave me a very limited knowledge in Swift - but surely enough to continue coding and learning on my own.
It was a great experience to see so many women interested in tech and eager to code. Working in software development I am very aware of the lack of females in this industry. It is both fun and puzzling to see so many women who wants to learn and get into the tech industry. Fun, because we need more women! Research has shown that workplaces and projects with mixed teams perform better and achieve greater results, and (almost) everyone I talk to agrees. For example, Morgan Stanley showed that over the same period, highly gender diverse companies in other sectors returned an average 1%-2% more on an annualized basis than their less diverse peers. At the same time it is puzzling, because if there are so many women who wants to get into this industry - why do we fail to get them there? Where do we fail?
There are many answers to this question, too many to go through in this blog post. Nonetheless, I truly believe that a mixed workplace and mixed teams achieve better results. I praise Tjejer kodar for their initiative to bring more women into tech, and there are many more like them. Only in Sweden we have many organizations making it easier for women (and everyone) to get started; Pink programming, Coder dojo, Makerspace and Kodcentrum just to mention a few. Let’s all do something whether it is teaching your daughter to code, bring more women to tech events, talk about the opportunities in this industry or something else.
Let’s bring more females to the tech industry!