• Cracking the code – event summary

    Girls in Tech NL and Booking.com welcomed everyone to the top floor of the Booking.com HQ office; located in Rembrandtplein with amazing panoramic views of Amsterdam.

    The welcome reception was a sweet beginning to our event; it was a relaxed atmosphere with a few bites of delicious macaroon cookies and brownies. We gathered into the main meeting space shortly thereafter to tackle the main topic of this event: “Cracking the code: Why programming is essential for women in technology”.

    Solène Souquet, Co-Managing Director of Girls in Tech NL, explained why the organisation decided to team up with Booking.com and host this women encouraging event during the Europe Code Week.

    Lieke Boon, a Dutch Ambassador for the Europe Code Week highlighted the idea of the initiative. It’s about all of us and our future. We can make our dreams come true and realise our ideas by being a creator and developing things ourselves, not only by being the users and sharing or liking things online. Lieke shared her personal story how she started learning to program in Python and gave out a few tips to the beginner:

    1) Online learning: follow online courses on e.g. Coursera or Codeacademy

    2) Reading: read books e.g. Learn Python The Hard Way and Learn to Program

    3) Coaching: be a coach even if you are only a beginner. You will learn as you go by answering questions posed to you by others.

    4) Working: learning by doing (even if it means fixing bugs). Keep putting into practice all that you’ve learned.

    Lieke acknowledged the problem of most girls drop out of IT studies after secondary education. This can be attributed partly to lack of support from role models, persistent stereotyped views that the sector is better suited to men and a lack of understanding about what ICT means. She elaborated on the problem and encouraged girls to gain a better knowledge about what IT is, and reminded our audience about the freedom you have as an individual in choosing to enter IT realm.

    The next speakers Erin Weigel and Simona Lazarovici presented a bit of a history, touching on the first programmers – The Women of ENIAC – who created the first programmable computer. They raised the question as to why the image of programmers changed? The speakers shared their personal experience about how they got into coding and gave tips on how the audience could enter the field themselves:

    1) The attitude is the key: be tolerant. Be patient. Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect to know how to do things you don’t know how to do.

    2) The best way to learn things is by doing and breaking them: try again and again. Take your personal blog or website and just build and break, build and break, over and over again.

    3) Google everything: you know everything that Google knows because you have the collective knowledge of all people on the planet who dared to put something online.

    4) Get a mentor: find somebody that you trust and gain as much knowledge from them as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on forums if you don’t know anyone who knows how to code.

    5) Be a volunteer: practise and improve skills by doing un-paid programming work first and add it to your portfolio.

    6) Learn things online by reading tutorials or taking courses online: follow interesting people on Twitter and other social channels.

    At the end of the talk, Erin and Simona reiterated that it doesn’t matter what you studied or even if you studied at all, and it doesn’t matter what you do now; it only matters what you will decide to do in the future and your commitments to that goal.

    Abbey Waldron illustrated how she works with real-time data acquisition. As a self-taught coder, she showed her access to web experiment resources and gave advice on the things she wished she had known when she started coding:

    1) Define a goal. Having no goal is demoralising.

    2) Get social. You are not alone. There are so many people around you who want to learn how to code. Find friends or colleagues to help. Look at working code examples; you don’t need to write everything yourself from scratch. Ask questions on forums e.g. StackOverflow – there are no stupid questions.

    3) Choose a language. If you know someone who already knows one, then it may be worthwhile to try that language.

    Abbey’s final thought on the subject: remember it’s very unlikely you’ll break anything! What’s the worst thing that could happen?

    And finally, Juliette Reinders Folmer opened a discussion about gender equality and empowerment of women. What is the problem with women fitting into the tech industry? How does it feel when you enter a room full of men? Most guys are supportive of women in tech, but there are a few who makes our lives a bit more difficult. It’s important for people to see technologically savvy women on stage, and it will change the attitude of men in the industry. Women can make the projects more profitable, with less bugs, better usability, better code. Don’t be discoursed and keep doing what you love to do. If you love coding then just do it.

    After the intense discussion everyone was welcomed to continue it at the networking reception and enjoy the buffet.

    More photos of the events are available on our facebook gallery link.

    Thank you everyone for coming! See you at the next Girls in Tech NL events!


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