Coding, yellow ducks and Google Campus

#listening Vivaldi – “Four Seasons” (Summer, it’s always Summer)
#reading GMAT it’s only GMAT these days
#watching TED – James Veitch – “This is what happens when you reply to spam email”

What it’s like to code at a Django Girls Event or Brave New World of programming: yellow ducks saving the day, the importance of being a spelling bee and how to stop missing out on IT-magic. 

I was coding. It happened on purpose during the Django Girls Event on December 5-6, 2015 at the Warsaw Google Campus. There I was, five minutes into the occurrence searching for a cup of coffee and a sugar bag from the Google Campus, open-minded about the probability of my coding success.

It all started with one of those annoying thought-provoking questions, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”. Well, my talent is asking those (it’s awfully irritating to the exceptional people I have the privilege of calling my friends as every coffee turns into one-day-I-shall-consider-becoming-a-life-coach-preparation-session). I ought to admit that my area of improvement is answering those with the use of Merriam-Webster approved vocabulary, cohesive sentences and fewer umm(s).

It was a laptop/healthy tea/X-mas lights type of an evening when Facebook flashed, “K… is interested in an event Django Girls Warsaw #3”. My limited sense of achievement produced something along the lines of, “Well, coding – that would be a first”. I filled out the application, made it to the back-up list and patiently waited for the future to unfold.

Then, there was the event. Dec 5th was the installation party aka hello other people in our group, this is really happening and I have no idea what all of these colourful new icons on my desktop are. It was getting exciting! Dec 6th was the big day – a full day of working towards our very own blog, a fully day of coding in Django!

So what’s Django? I did try to find a sensible explanation (trying Urban Dictionary was an anticipated mistake) and here’s what came up, “Django, a Web development framework that saves you time and makes Web development a joy” (source) or this one “…free and open-source web framework, written in Python” (Wiki). To name a few internet giants, Youtube, Instagram, Dropbox, Pinterest and Reddit are built using Django framework and Python programming language (source).

As for the event, there were about 50-60 individuals in total and we worked in groups of four (three newbie souls and a coach). We learned how the internet works and how it finds the pages we are after. We learnt how to bring up the command screen and why it’s important. Then we started following this open source free tutorial and building our web-site line by line (of code). With enough tenacity, you are absolutely welcome to succeed at this in the comfort of your own home.

Then there were hours and hours of typing the lines of code. This was the time of lessons learnt, for example:

  • The code ought to be neat and clean;
  • If there is a beginning of a command, there has to be the end a few lines down;
  • Just as with writing a resume, spelling mistakes have no right to exist in coding. Turns out that “e”, “s” or “then” instead of “than” make all the difference in writing a code that works. One mishap and you’re out to the land of, “I did everything right, why is this not working”.

For the times when things were really not coming together, we each got a yellow rubber  ducky. The story goes that coders have a memento or a good-luck charm. When there is an issue with the code or a programmer is stuck, they would explain to (in this case) the ducky their code or what they are stuck on. It appears that saying things out loud to an inanimate object does have a positive effect of hearing yourself and tends to help with finding a much-needed solution.

The organisers did an impressive job ensuring the event logistics ran smoothly. In fact, here is a video glimpse at what these events are like.There were guest speeches including these aww-evoking young ladies sharing their first coding achievements in Scratch (in case you have/know of younglings who could benefit from an early start with coding, do reach out to Girls Code Fun). From the logistics POV, the event seemed pretty close to perfect! If anything, it would be great to have a facilitated get-to-know part of the evening and learn the stories of the coaches in-between the laptop time. Then again, getting up, walking across the room and reaching out with a, “Hi, how are you?” could work just as well 🙂

While I struggle to say I scratched the surface of what coding is about, I am now aware there is surface to be scratched. As a matter of fact (oh, the dramatic introductions), there is a reason for this digital message-in-the-bottle to be coming into existence at an approaching ungodly hour time of the day. Just a few weeks ago, I needed to get a massive amount of data from the internets onto my corporate-friend Excel. While the natural instincts directed me towards powering eternal engine of the universe with an endless sequence of Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V, a part of me screamed, “there is got be a better way”.

Only a few hours of Youtube tutorials later, there I was – stocked, sleep-deprived and overjoyed at the limited success of my first VBA macro (MS Excel speak, do forgive my corporate ways). This was when I realised that the Django Girls Event has absolutely succeed. It has dawned on me that maybe, my first coding experience was not about me embracing my unbeknown calling as a whizz-kid of cyberspace. Maybe, just maybe, it was about taking a different approach when faced with the daily and the usual. Maybe, it was about having that flash of common sense to look for a better way to complete a task, to find a solution that utilises the achievement of humankind’s potential (big words) rather than following a familiar path of time lost (effectively and sadly, piece of life lost). It just all came together nicely.

Now the lucky part, the Django Girls community is doing exceptionally well (here are their 2015 success numbers) and the events like the one I’ve had the pleasure of attending are taking place all around the world. One of those might be happening just around the corner from you (here’s the Django Girl event calendar)! Why miss out on IT-Magic and a chance at making your life just that little bit easier. Who knows where this FIRST could take you. However, if the spells of Django are a speak you’re fluent in, why not reach out to the Django Girls, bring the event to where you are or coach your own little team of future coders. This is both for men and women, by the way! Just think about it 🙂

Now, this is where we say good bye and have a pleasant rest of the weekend!

Yours sleeplessly yet happily,

Me

PS Looking forward to greeting you back here in a week!

 

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