This week’s inspiring individual is Melissa Sariffodeen from Ladies Learning Codes.
Ladies Learning Code is a Canada-wide not-for-profit organization that runs workshops for women and youth who want to learn beginner-friendly computer programming and other technical skills in a social and collaborative way. Today they have 22 chapters (and counting) across Canada, a thriving girls’ program called Girls Learning Code and co-ed kids program called Kids Learning Code and a big goal to teach 200,000 Canadian women and youth to code by 2020. With sponsors and community partners that include TELUS, Microsoft, Facebook, Autodesk, Google and many more, Ladies Learning Code has become synonymous with technology education in Canada.
How did you get involved with the work you currently do?
Ladies Learning Code happened largely out of self-interest. The four founders (myself, Heather Payne, Laura Plant and Breanna Hughes) all wanted to learn more code but there weren’t any good (or any at all in Toronto) options to learn in-person. Inspired by another group in LA, we started running beginner-friendly programming workshops in August of 2011 and we’ve never looked back!
What is your WHY?
Seeing technology ‘click’ for women and girls – those ‘a-ha’ moments make me get up day after day excited to do what I do. Showing women and girls that building with technology isn’t so intimidating or scary, after all and that it can actually give you super powers is just the best.
What are the biggest challenges/setbacks you’ve had to face?
There’s something every day – from funding to constantly trying to innovate and figure out what is next – but we know that education is a long term game and that changing the ratio of women in technology isn’t going to happen overnight. With this mindset, we just take everything as it comes and try our best to build something our community wants and values.
What are some of the successes (big or small) you’ve had?
We’ve taught 25,000 women and youth to code across Canada since late 2011. That’s pretty awesome! And now we’re seeing our learners come back as mentors or lead instructors and teach others.
What’s a piece of advice would you give to someone trying to do what you do, or trying to follow their own dreams?
In the world of computer programming, you can’t break anything and there’s this real satisfaction in building something that didn’t exist but to get there you need to start. So, just start.
If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?
Ladies Learning Code! Also consider some of our partner organizations like YWCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters or Girl Guides.