Teaching women to code at Trainline with Code First: Girls

6 December 2018

This post was originally published on the Trainline Engineering blog.

At Trainline we’ve partnered with Code First: Girls, an organisation aiming to teach 20,000 women to code by the end of 2020. We want to help them make sure that women will have the same opportunities as men when it comes to technology skills, by delivering their free Level 1 Beginners Course, as well as providing financial support.

Volunteering as one of the course coaches, myself and Eli Schütze Ramírez, have been taking a group of 18 women who are complete beginners through the process of building their first websites from scratch.

Over seven weeks, we’ve covered everything from the basics of how the internet works, through HTML and CSS, using Atom, GitHub and Bootstrap, all the way to JavaScript and jQuery.

The students, who had never done any programming before, all now have real websites live on the internet, built using the same real tools that programmers use every day.

Judging the end-of-course showcase, we were super impressed at all of the websites the students have developed. We saw eye-catching designs, responsive layouts, and even interactive elements. Everybody had come such a long way!

One of the strengths of the Code First: Girls approach is because it’s using real software, it shows the reality of life as a software developer. The challenges that the students faced when building their websites were similar to the kind of challenges that I and other programmers face daily. How to work effectively with other developers, understanding documentation and code on the internet, working out why sometimes things work on your own machine but not on the website, how to handle an upcoming deadline…

I always think the best way of learning programming is to throw yourself in and start building something, and Code First: Girls provides that, in a safe and supportive environment, without over-simplifying things. Everything the students learnt will be useful whether they want to build sites as a hobby or even develop it as a career.

We ran in-person sessions and provided support via Slack as students built their websites in their own time. That meant there was always someone they could turn to as problems came up.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and will definitely be signing up to teach another course. If you’re a developer and thinking of signing up to teach, you should. All the course materials are provided and they’re well written. You just need to talk through the slides and help out the students when they get stuck.

And if you’re interested in learning to code and identify as female/non-binary, you should give it a go and sign up. No prior knowledge is needed, we start from the absolute basics, you just need to have the interest and a little bit of time and we’ll teach you enough to build your very own first live website.