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Maybe Not the Programmers They Deserved, but the Programmers They Needed

Monday 5:30pm, Ballrooms B and C
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About This Talk

Introduction: We read to know we are not alone

Is there something you would change in the world if you were a wizard?

  • Make vulnerability your cloak
  • Make determination your hat
  • Make code your wand

What do you care about?

  • We care about girls and women being enabled to choose their future
  • We care about increasing diversity in the trade we love
  • We care about arming children with the confidence that they can do anything

Why are we here?

We’re trying to use our programming skills to make that a reality. It’s a journey, one we invite you to join for whatever you feel strongly about. We were not the first, we were definitely not the best, and we won’t be the last. But sometimes, inspiring people to help is just as hard (or harder) than helping. We wanted to give this talk to show others that it CAN be done and YOU can make a difference - regardless of your skill level or experience.

Our Story

1. The Use Case

  • Listening: “I’ve been wanting to teach Python for a while but we don’t have anyone.” - Girl Scout Leader
  • Acting: “I can do that!” - [Presenter 1] (even though she was pretty sure the ideal person was way more experienced than her)
  • Deliverable: The Hackathon - A Python challenge for both beginner and advanced coders. Two classes, 25 girls each, ages 10-18 years old.

2. A Master Plan

  • Check out our options: We reviewed existing resources, but didn’t find anything to meet our needs (list some of the good resources we found and were inspired by)
  • Make a decision: “Let’s write our own!” - [Presenters] (because nothing that’s out there fits in two hours…)
  • Have a Cool Learning Experience: Coding the game and taking our first stabs at writing the tutorial were great learning opportunities for us!

3. The Dream Team (AKA: Help!)

  • The Pair Programmers: Gaining perspective and tripling productivity, Megan and Jessica start figuring out what to teach and begin making the tutorial come to life
  • The Project Manager: Added for some very necessary skills - making things looking professional, doing a code freeze, checking our spelling, and making sure the presentation is consistent
  • The Coaching Team: With a common goal and united front, an all female team of software developers, engineers and IT managers unite to form a coaching group!

4. Go Live

  • Hot Fixes: The girls begin the tutorial and questions come rolling in. Confusion abounds. They don’t know what a Start button is! Nothing shows them their opinion matters like change, so we began live editing the tutorial! Being vulnerable, admitting imperfection, and not taking it personally evolved the tutorial in real time to fit our audience. It also gave the girls a sense of inclusion that was priceless; even though they weren’t writing the code to make the edits, their voice was heard and their suggestions were implemented in real time - a powerful way to build confidence!
  • Unexpected Popularity: The girls were engaged! Among raised and waving hands and the din of voices, we kept our cool and took each issue one step at a time. Frankly, we were all a little in shock.
  • Better than we imagined: We might have expected too little of ourselves, but when all was said and done - the girls felt successful, they were all engaged, and their parents were inspired to learn for themselves or keep their girls involved with code going forward!

5. Refactoring

  • Simplification: It was late and everyone was tired - make things simpler, have more milestones, include more affirmations
  • Organization: Planning pre- and post- tutorial huddles to get to know each other and set expectations, figuring out how to guide/redirect parents who were doing the tutorial for their child, investigate letting the girls try pair programming
  • Keep Building: We are still working to evolve our tutorial, make it more accessible, make it friendlier for our target age group, make it packaged to shared, and shopping it around to other tutorials as an expansion (we’re looking at you DjangoGirls ;) )

6. An Ever Expanding Universe

  • Sharing is caring: We did it and so can you! Expanding the number of contributors as well as the project scope will only make things better! So, we will share our code, share out tutorial, share our experiences, and share our enthusiasm with anyone who wants to make a change!

The Takeaways

  • You have a lot of power, in the you code help create, in the people you mentor
  • Don’t wait for someone else, endowed with imaginary super coding/people skills, to help create the change you want -do what needs to be done
  • Don’t try to be a panacea, focus on a single thing and do it well
  • Contact us! Let us know if you’re interested in building something or want to do something similar to what we did
  • Act.
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Jessica Deaton

I’m a Senior Software Developer at the University of Texas at Austin’s International Office. I work with Python/Django to build web applications to do a host of things for international students, study abroad students, international scholars/employees and my in house users. I’ve been using Django for a little over three years, and I’m still learning new things all the time. Recently, I partnered with a friend and fellow Software Engineer here at UT to create a small text-based adventure tutorial in Python for the Austin chapter of Girl Scouts. We just completed our first Girl Scouts Hackathon using the tutorial in March 2017, and are are continuing to refactor to make it more engaging and helpful. In my free time, I help organize DjangoCon US by participating on the Program Committee, and I help organize and coach DjangoGirls workshops here in Austin. I also enjoy going for long walks with my pupper, picking a new craft every 3-6 months to investigate it (lately: knitting, cross-stitching, sewing, bullet journaling), reading fiction, binge watching TV, cooking, and traveling.

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Megan Will

Megan is a Software Engineer at the University of Texas where she gets to use Python, django, ansible and other fun toys to support developer tools. She likes urban farming, writing terrible sci-fi and is an active hunter in the quest for the perfect brownie recipe.