Q&A: Girl Develop It teaches women who want to learn more about technology

A lack of diversity in the tech world made headlines recently with the release of workplace figures from giants like Facebook and Google. It’s no secret that women are a fraction of the workforce in potentially lucrative tech jobs that include web, software and mobile app development.

The Cincinnati chapter of Girl Develop It  is working to change that. The international organization provides programs for women who want to learn code through hands-on instruction and mentoring programs.

9 Questions for Girl Develop It Leader Becky Singson.

1. How did Girl Develop It get started?
Girl Develop It was started in NYC by Sara Chipps and Vanessa Hurst in 2010. It was originally a single class about HTML with the intention of getting more women into technology and has grown quickly from there.

2. What type of support does GDI provide to women in the tech field?
We not only provide affordable development training in a comfortable environment, but also a community of women to learn with and from. It’s important to note that we try to reach out to the women who are not yet involved in the tech field – we’re trying to get them in. We get women from a wide variety of backgrounds: designers, college students, teachers, advertising professionals, HR professionals, and a number of women who are interested in starting their own business.

3. What are some of your most well-attended classes?
In Cincinnati, the majority of our demand is for entry-level, never-coded-a-day-in-my-life courses. The class we teach the most is Intro to HTML and CSS.

4. Why is Cincinnati seen as a good place for the organization? 
GDI is currently active in about 30 cities around the country and growing rapidly. The Cincinnati chapter was founded two-and-a-half years ago. Cincinnati was an obvious choice for a Girl Develop It chapter. We’ve proven ourselves as a stomping ground for technologists and especially for tech startups, so putting a lens on women and getting more of them into the fold seemed like a natural extension of the progress this city has been making.
Most of volunteers come through word-of-mouth, or they were students of past classes who latched onto our mission and were interested in staying involved beyond just taking classes.

5. What steps should an interested person take to get involved?
People interested in volunteering with or partnering with us, we recommend either reaching out to us via email (cincinnati@girldevelopit.com) or coming to one of our free community events, such as our Code & Coffee events or our quarterly happy hour.

6. Tell me about some of the events GDI has hosted? Do you find it helps with recruiting?
In addition to classes, we host a Code & Coffee event, usually bimonthly, for current and prospective students. It's for folks to come hang out, ask questions about code if they’re working on a project, or to meet our team and learn more about what we do.
We have also recently started doing Drinkups, or happy hours. We’re targeting doing this quarterly – our next one is coming up on August 6. This is intended to be a very informal opportunity to meet our staff and teachers and get some familiarity with our mission and organization before jumping in.
We have indeed found that these types of events lead to awareness of our organization, give women an opportunity to put faces to our names, and get comfortable with us informally before they register for a course. We have seen quite a bit of conversion from these events to enrolled students, so we consider them a success.

7. Can you define partners, participants and sponsors that you target?
We get a lot of requests from education-based groups that want to start instructing their student base in code. One thing we are starting to investigate more seriously is a partner to teach to minors. We currently only accept adult students, but there is quite a demand for teaching youth as well, so we would like to pursue that in the future.
We obviously target women participants, but more specifically, we target women who have a desire to learn, are willing to reach outside their comfort zones, and are interested in being part of a larger community.
We would love more sponsors, although we are fairly self-sustaining for the time being. We accept both monetary sponsorships, as well as in-kind donations. We are a non-profit entity so all proceeds from our classes just go back into running the organization and spreading our message.

8. What impact have you seen GDI make in participant’s lives?
We feel like our students come to us wanting to learn and walk away with a tangible skill. Some of our students come to us because they want to start a business and create a website for it – they leave equipped to do that. We’ve run into some of our students after they’ve taken a class and they have since enrolled in a formal certificate or degree program to continue their coding career. We’d love to see everyone walk out of our class and pursue a future as a technologist, but we’re realistic - if they’ve written active working code and understand how they got it, then we feel we’ve done our job.

9. Where do you want to see GDI in the next 5 years?
The Cincinnati chapter has two major goals ongoing: expand our curriculum and foster a strong community of female technologists. We’d love to start expanding the variety of programming languages in our repertoire – perhaps some Android or iOS development, perhaps expanding into other Open Source technologies. We’d also like to start focusing on some soft skill training, as well as non-code aspects of technology, such as user experience or search engine optimization. And we’d love to start hosting or participating in more women-centric and tech-centric community events to really get our name out there as not just an education organization, but as an entity that women can align themselves with.

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