First DjangoGirls Rome wrap-up & afterthoughts

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13th December 2015 in Coding Tags: django, djangogirls, python

Last saturday I participated as a coach in DjangoGirls Rome, the first DjangoGirls event in Italy.

DjangoGirls is an international non-profit organization which helps to organize free programming workshops aimed at bringing women into the IT community.

The event was organized by Nephila with the help of PyRoma, the local python user group.

It was supported financially by enthusiastic local companies and organizations like Codemotion, Axant, TwentyTab and Thunder Systems as well as important pillars of the tech community like Github, the Python Software Foundation and the Django Software Foundation.

I am proud to have actively participated as a coach and contributed to the organization and promotion of the event: we also managed to get an interview on IlFattoQuotidiano and a mention on Repubblica, two of the most important Italian newspapers.

It turned out to be a fantastic experience which has triggered quite a few thoughts, questions and ideas inside my head, here I want to try to explain these ideas and share them with the rest of the community in the hope of finding opportunities for discussion in the near future.

The experience

The atmosphere was fun and relaxed, I felt I was in company of people who really had noble intentions: to teach, to learn, to share and to grow as human beings.

The DjangoGirls tutorial is great, it manages to condense a lot of information in a small space, it's easy to read and follow even by people who have no experience in programming at all.

Impressive commitment

I was impressed by the commitment of the participants and how they managed to deal with so many concepts: python, django, git, github, deploy, html, css, authentication and so on!

Doing this it's not easy at all, quite the opposite indeed! I am not lying if I tell you that it took me years to discover and then learn all these concepts, I don't really know how I would have reacted if I had to deal with everything at once in a single day.

But the participants handled it pretty well: they managed to understand how all those concepts fit together and why it is essential to study and master them.

Promising women programmers

Me and a some other coaches were impressed to see some participants learning incredibly rapidly.

We are pretty sure they could reach our level of expertise in a much shorter time compared to the years of trial and error that were necessary for us.

I remember a coach/friend telling us how one of the participants of his group had started out by asking him: "how do I create a file?" and then she was the first of the group to complete the tutorial successfully. We all found that quite impressive.

I hope this will help to bust the stupid sexist myth that "women are just not good at programming".

I hope this will help to bust the stupid sexist myth that "women are just not good at programming".

So many women programming!

When I go to tech events which involve programming, I am used to seeing almost only men; this time I found a big room full of women coding in python and django.

This brings up in me a few important questions, let me explain: I help to organize tech meetings in my free time but we usually have a very low amount of women participating; why was it different this time?
Are we doing something that is scaring women away? Or is it mainly because this event encourages people with zero experience?

I asked these questions to some participants and I got a few interesting insights, but I would really love to have more in-depth discussions about these issues in the near future.

Simple language is the key

I know it is important to use simple language instead of technical jargon, but most of the time I do not realize how I am infected with this bad habit.

This time I was really forced to rephrase my words in order to speak in a way that was understandable by anyone. I believe this to be an extremely healthy exercise.

Talking vs Action

We read and hear so much about the issue of gender gap in tech, it's time to stop talking and do something about it.

Actively contributing made me feel like I can have an impact on such an important issue, even if there is still a lot of work to do, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Coaching is great

I discovered that "coaching" is great! It allows students to proceed at their own pace without the usual drawbacks of self-education like getting stuck, panicking from complexity, misunderstanding concepts and so on.

Improving the tutorial over time won't be easy

I noticed how different participants at different tables often make the same mistakes while following the tutorial; the case I remember most clearly was to paste HTML in a CSS file.

This shows that there are areas of improvements in the tutorial, but it's here that a wider issue became evident: the whole content of the tutorial, code examples and text, is duplicated for every language.

Now imagine having to change the structure of a long section in order to solve an issue like the one I described previously; both words and code examples will need to be changed, but it won't be like updating translation strings as we usually do in django apps, it will require a rewrite of the entire changed section for all the supported languages.

Think also about the differences between django versions, for example, there are a few important differences between django 1.6 and django 1.7.

I see an important technical issue here which can potentially slow down the improvement and the evolution of the tutorial over time.

Hopefully this issue can be solved with the help of documentation masters like the organizers of writethedocs; I haven't had the pleasure to participate in such meetings or conferences yet, but I really want to do it as soon as possible.

Ideas for the future

I'd love to contribute to similar initiatives in the future and I have a few ideas I'd like to get out there:

  • it might be a good experiment to try to run the workshop in 2 days, maybe something like 6 hours each day
  • kids are the future! let's bring more of them!
  • even for workshops dedicated to women, it would be nice to allow a small percentage of men who really want to learn and are sensitive to the cause of bringing more women in tech, they might become involved and help out in future events too!
  • in tech we also don't see many people from disadvantaged minorities like migrants or people with physical disabilities; perhaps events like DjangoGirls could inspire similar events aimed at helping them?

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Comments

  1. 1.

    Aymará said:

    ( on 6th of November 2016 at 04:03 )

    Hi!! I'm a Django Girls coach too. Here, in Argentina, made just what you suggested, splited the workshop in two days. The experiment went just great! Most of the girls achieved to publish the blog from ground 0.
    It feels great to be helpfull and watch those girls challenge themselves and win!

  2. 2.

    Federico Capoano said:

    ( on 7th of November 2016 at 12:46 )

    Great news Aymará! Very happy to know this post has inspired you to experiment :-)

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  1. Great news Aymará! Very happy to know this post has inspired you to experiment :-)

    By Federico Capoano in First DjangoGirls Rome wrap-up & afterthoughts

  2. Hi!! I'm a Django Girls coach too. Here, in Argentina, made just what you suggested, splited the workshop in two days. The experiment went just great! Most of the girls achieved to publish the blog from ground 0. It feels great to be helpfull ...

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