I won something! Can you even imagine? Geek Girl Meetup tweeted asking “If you could code, what would you build?” and I idly replied that I’d build my own copy analysis browser extension. And it won me a ticket to their full weekend crash course in coding at Twitter HQ. Nice one.
I picked up what I know about code from years of looking over developers’ shoulders, then a bit of Codecademy. When I started working at ingenie, I suddenly had to code all my writing within WordPress. Now I code even when I don’t have to, like my blogs for Yell. Hardly super challenging, but coding posts every day has got me pretty comfortable with the basics.
As I’m a complete sucker for learning stuff that’s not really any of my business, I was delighted to nosy in on a whole weekend of it. Plus, Honor The Feminist says grool to any opportunity to wear the trousers and accessorise them with a fancy belt.
So, I turned up at Air Street-ish and met a nice girl who asked if I was going to the coding event (huge laptop bag and confused facial expression – what gave it away?). We chatted some in the nondescript lobby, then were led up and down the floors until we found Twitter. Also huge pastries and lovely coffee, which gave me palpitations. Obviously.
Oh, you actually don’t care about my breakfast and want to hear about the coding? I loved it. I’ve always liked the puzzle element of coding, the breaking and fixing, the maybe I’ll just try this, the oh God damn it I hate this shit, the oh wait I fixed it. Same as a jigsaw: you can force that piece into the wrong place but it ain’t right and you know it. Take a step back, think logically. I guess I do this with working out language translations, dissecting new words with etymology. With coding, you have the entire internet to consult. It’s the best game ever because you can cheat with pride.
The first day was largely stuff I’ve done but I’d been feeling guilty about my inline styling for ages because I write in WordPress to someone else’s stylesheet – cardinal sin. I also never indent because it had never really occurred to me that someone would have to replace me if I died. So fucking selfish. Where those kinds of amateur hour situations have been occurring, it was great to fill the gaps in my knowledge. Going “Ahhhhh, riiiiight” when CSS clunked into place in my brain was ACE. I’d done it in Codecademy but I really GOT it this time, properly.
Winna Bridgewater, our teacher, was just fab. I could feel a bit of panic in the room (oh, how I’ve felt that – Year 4 maths sticks out) but I thought she was great at explaining. Maybe having a basic idea of tags was important to get the most from the session.
Lunch – of course I will talk about lunch, who is it that you think I am? – was a lovely affair. Pulled pork with cashew nuts and Asian vegetables if I recall. Lunch was also important because we had a panel, which I found rather inspiring. Some ladies who started out doing a thing and ended up doing another thing entirely, talking about being cool and making money. W00t!
“Go to all the events. Being the only woman in the room can be intimidating but the door is open for you to be in that room – you don’t need permission to be in that room.”
~ Adizah Tejani
I also got to talk to Winna after the session and fangirl a bit. I feel like she’s my spirit animal.
Best bit had to be applying hover states. It was so cool to see my ordinarily placid <li> tags jiggling about. I even made it into a GIF because I had to share the sheer beauty. You may weep, I apologise in advance.
(No, the irony of girls being taught to code recipes is not lost on me.)
Lunch: spicy chicken salad with pomegranate seeds and chickpeas. Yum!
Panel: scarily (but not actually) clever software engineers, two of whom did three-month web development courses at General Assembly, then jumped straight into jobs; another got fired from Facebook and jumped for joy. Familiar pattern: completely unrelated degrees and some massive balls.
I was interested by something Kate Montgomery said: “People hire people who remind them of themselves.” Problematic when everyone hiring has a penis and you have a vagina. It’s not that they don’t want women (I’m sure HR is begging them to find some women); it’s that their subconscious is telling them to pick the guy with the WoW t-shirt over the girly in the Next skirt suit and sensible heels.
Something else that clicked with me was from Jodi Humphreys: “I wish people understood refactoring.” (The need to reassess code to make it better.) I have this same issue: people often react badly to a first draft – DUDE, IT’S THE FIRST DRAFT. Why are you yelling at me and questioning my understanding? The first draft is what we jump from – it’s the baseline for us to chuck ideas at. It will change. Chill plz.
I’ll be going to Codebar (it’s how it sounds: you go hang out with people and code) with a few of the girls I met today plus hopefully my sister. I’ll also be getting back into Codecademy and enforcing my quiet time each week to practise.
Now I’m going to throw up all the cookies and cupcakes I ate. And pack for the holiday I’m embarking on tomorrow – my prep kind of got swept aside by this awesome curveball of a weekend. Worth it.
Best thing said about developers all weekend:
Kate Montgomery: “They play a lot of card games I don’t understand. But that’s cool.”
Best thing said, period:
A lady with lovely hair: “GIFs have made work so much better.”