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Django Girls in a coach's point of view

Updated: Jul 5, 2021


Here at Spyhce we have a keen interest in contributing to the relatively small python community in Cluj, so when Sasha and Iulia reached out to us to help organize the first DjangoGirls event here in Cluj (and, to our knowledge, in Romania) we were thrilled to be able to join the team.

The gender gap is a serious and real issue in the IT industry worldwide and we feel this as well in Cluj, although we can’t think of any good reason for it to keep existing. It’s only natural that movements that aim to lessen this gender gap appeared and are actively working on this, and it feels right to us as a company and as individuals to contribute to this.

DjangoGirls is part of this movement. It’s an organization that encourages and empowers women to learn programming through one-day workshop-like events where they learn the basics of (web) programming with python and Django. One of our fellow coaches, Ariel Pontes, wrote a good article about why these events are needed and useful.

The DjangoGirls tutorial focuses on giving girls enough background information to be able to work on a project, but limits the avalanche of new information as much as possible. It essentially guides the participants through building a simple blog application and deploying it as a web app on pythonanywhere.

The level of interest in the workshop was well beyond our expectations. There were so many girls interested in this event (over 175 applications!) that the organizers decided to increase the participant limit from 30 to 45. The selection process wasn’t simple either, but in the end the 45 participants that were selected were the ones that would benefit most from the event - girls that didn’t know a lot (or anything) about programming, but who were eager to learn.

It also turned out that many python devs, our own but also our friends elsewhere were more than willing to sign up and help teach python to others, so “the Spyhce connection” eventually provided about half of the event’s coaches: Oana, Ema, Miță, Vlad, Gabi, Andrei and Andrei.

In order to get everything installed beforehand on the girls computers - so we didn’t waste time with weird python installation on Windows issues on that Saturday, we held two “install parties” the last Monday and last Tuesday at our headquarters - it was a fun, informal way to get to meet each other and answer any remaining questions on the event. They were also the only two moments in our company’s history when the number of Windows machines in the house outnumbered the Linux ones.

So when we met on Saturday at Impact Hub Cluj for the actual workshop every participant already knew their coach and everyone was friendly and eager to get started. The venue (which is brand new and just recently opened to the public) was ideal for this kind of event and, thanks to the wonderful organizing team, everything went without a hitch.

After 10 hours of hard work, with the help of the coaches, every one of the girls had their own colourful, working app running happily on the pythonanywhere servers, ready to be shared with the world. The target was to touch the participant’s keyboards as little as possible (or even not at all), so they get a sense of independence and gain trust in themselves to fix whatever problem they had. And it payed off: by the end of the day, ladies who didn’t know what a terminal before that day was were git push-ing and git pull-ing between their system, Github and pythonanywhere like pros.

At a follow-up discussion later on (at the after party, of course), all the coaches identified at least one moment during the workshop, be it the deployment to the web, applying css or something else when the girls’ faces lit up in excitement. It’s a feeling programmers are very familiar with: the moment something you’ve never done before in code starts working and your enthusiasm spikes - and it is the only reward coaches ever needed.

For most of the girls (and most of the coaches, too, to be honest!) it was a very interesting and intense journey in the wonderful world of telling computers what to do and seeing them listen to you (otherwise known as programming).

We believe we live in a world where, while professional programmers will always have their role, programming is not just for the professionals anymore. We hope that we were able to deliver this message to the participants and that they now feel more empowered to take up new challenges in this area, and expect great things from them.

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