“Awwww, I want to learn how to code too!”
Those were my 6-year-old daughter’s words as I left the house yesterday morning on my way to a Ladies Learning Code meetup here in Victoria. I was going to an event just for women and she was disappointed that she couldn’t come. I couldn’t blame her. I mean learning how to code, who wouldn’t want to do that? I told her that when she is 8 and is old enough to go to Girls Learning Code then I would take her. But this time, it was just for me.
I headed downtown to find the Fort Tectoria building and get my geek on at the meetup. There was no sign over the door at 777 Fort, but when I walked in and saw its “industrial tech” decor I knew I was in the right place. It’s a new space and when I got to the conference room I fell in serious like with the green glass “whiteboard” wall and the futuristic glow ball lights above the board room table.
Only the organizer was there ahead of me – why am I always so perpetually early? – and when the other women started to arrive, so did their Macs. I felt in place with my MacBook Pro in tow. There were women of all ages, women of various current tech-related careers, and even a woman with a baby in tow. It was both a funky space and a welcoming place, and I felt good that in all my “newbieness” around knowing code I wasn’t alone. That’s exactly what this group is all about! Some know a little, some a lot. We’re all there to help each other.
We spent a lot of time at the meetup generally chatting and introducing ourselves to each other in turn and then just seeing what we wanted to work on. With my daughter’s earlier declaration ringing in my ears, I asked the others if they knew of coding programs for young girls and they gave me some ideas. One of them was Scratch, an easy, web-based building block sort of coding program that features a little cat “sprite” (and others) that you can make do things by putting blocks of code instructions together. Trying this out and following the tutorial, in minutes I had that little cat moving back and forth, meowing, playing a drum and changing its colours rapidly. So fun! It’s something I will play around with with my daughter, especially because she’s still learning to read and will need a little help.
Halfway though the meetup we got a surprise when Bren from Silicon Sisters in Vancouver showed up at the conference room door and gave us an impromptu talk. She had been speaking at a video game conference down below on the first floor and I suppose heard that we were upstairs and came to check us out! It was inspiring meeting one of the owners of the first female-owned and run video game studios in Canada and hearing what she had to say about the importance of women and girls getting involved in tech. Yeah!
Overall I was so glad that I attended this meetup and have already signed up for an Intro to HTML and CSS workshop there again this coming Saturday. It’s fascinating meeting women who work in various tech-related jobs in Victoria who want to both dive in deeper and also help others do the same. And learning code! I feel there is this parallel world opening up to me that I’ve just started to peek in on…but I like what I see so far and hope to visit often.