• Stephanie O’Hanley

Ladies Learning Code teaches technical skills


MIMI ZHOU

Women tackle WordPress at a Ladies Learning Code Montreal chapter workshop last June.

It’s been about a year since Nancy Naluz launched the Montreal chapter of Ladies Learning Code.

The woman run, not-for-profit organization offers workshops for women and youth to learn programming in a social and cooperative environment. Since its start in Toronto in 2011, Ladies Learning Code (LLC) now boasts 20 chapters across Canada.

“Our main focus is accessibility,” said Naluz. “What we want to do is offer very beginner-friendly workshops so it’s not daunting and you don’t need any experience to attend these events.” Naluz, who has an undergraduate degree in music and now works as a front-end web developer, said Ladies Learning Code changed her life.

“I attended a Ladies Learning Code workshop (in Toronto) where we did a social network for cats.” Her reaction? “This is so cool,” she said. “I had no experience whatsoever and afterwards I took a year to learn it.

Eventually, Naluz said, “I really dove into front-end web development.” “I started to lead the chapter here because I thought it was so great I wanted to bring it to Montreal,” Naluz said. The chapter’s workshops for women and girls are offered in both English and French and include HTML and CSS, WordPress, Web design and programming languages such as Ruby.

With a ratio of at least four volunteer mentors for each learner, there’s plenty of one-on-one help. One way of closing the gender gap in the tech world is to open doors by teaching skills. “There’s a huge diversity issue,” said Naluz. “There’s not a lot of women in the tech industry, unfortunately.” Attendees are of all ages and backgrounds, include people from the tech industry and at least 40 per cent are complete beginners.

“There are people who have never seen a text editor before in their life or they don’t know what HTML stands for,” she said. “At the end of every workshop we come out with an actual project or actual website or app,” she said. “For us that’s really important in terms of being able to practise the skills.

Not being super theoretical but being able at the end of the six hours, not even having any experience in programming or development, if you come out with some sort of skills. “Of course at the end you’re not a developer but it could open those doors for you or it can give you confidence to enter into that field,” Naluz said.

She said she’s seen women completely change their careers after attending an LLC workshop. Ladies Learning Code workshops aimed at women (men are welcome to attend) cost $50, plus tax and include food and coffee and tea, while Girls Learning Code workshops for girls ages 8-13 could cost $30 but is usually offered free of charge, Naluz said.

Volunteer mentors are admitted free and Naluz has waived fees for people who can’t afford a workshop. For more information: Facebook: Ladies Learning Code – Montreal Chapter Twitter: @learningcode

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