Emily, Vastille, and Anastasia invited Nancy Naluz out for lunch to learn about her experience with the Ladies Learning Code:
Nancy, how long have you been with Ladies Learning Code? How did you get involved in this organization?
I’ve been leading the Montréal Chapter of Ladies Learning Code since January of this year. But, for me, it all started with my first workshop with them in Toronto last September. I had heard about them from a professor at Concordia University when I was doing my Graduate Diploma in Communication Studies and I started to get really interested in digital literacy and tech accessibility. At the workshop it was my first real experience in programming and we made a social network for cats using Drupal! I really fell in love with the learning environment that was both fun and inclusive. I knew, right then and there, that there was a place for it in Montréal.
Our chapter is growing and it’s truly exciting. When I started, we were doing one workshop a month and now we’ll be offering two a month. In Toronto, they’ve grown so much with youth camps and after school programs with even a permanent space to host all of their workshops. I hope to see the chapter grow like that here. Cassie Rhéaume, another front-end developer, has joined me in leading the Chapter here and I’m really excited about offering more youth programs and making our content more bilingual.
What is your background in? How did it influence your current role in the organization?
It’s funny because most people are confused when they stumble upon my LinkedIn profile. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music from York University in Toronto and for the most part of my life, I’ve taught and played music so I’ve always been passionate about creativity and education. My father is actually a computer engineer and my brother is a software developer however I never really thought about going into tech until last year.
After my BFA, I took a Graduate Diploma in Communication Studies at Concordia University because I was under the impression that I would work in media to support the arts community and stay within the music field. It’s there where I got very interested in digital literacy, accessibility and education and that’s what brought me to the workshop in the first place.
Ladies Learning Code gave me the confidence to enter the tech scene and demystified a lot of what I thought about programming. While I was organizing and promoting our events in Montréal, I started to get more involved in the tech and startup community. I started to teach myself how to code (mostly front-end web development and Ruby on Rails) and I would go to meet-ups a couple times a week to meet people and learn more about the industry. This past summer, I took part in HackerYou, a coding bootcamp in Toronto and founded by the same team of Ladies Learning Code, and now I’m happy to say that I’m a front-end web developer. The field is really exciting because you’re constantly learning and keeping yourself up-to-date.
What was the inspiration for the name of the program and how did Ladies Learning Code come about?
Some of us have to admit that some women are often too shy to seek help in the traditional classroom setting for the fear of being judged as somehow less intelligent… And with the pressure of grades and diplomas at stake, we tend to ask our male counterparts instead of our professors and T.A.s when we get stuck on a coding problem. Perhaps, some of us think private “failures” are less traumatic than public ones even though they inevitably result in the lack of ownership and authority and the profound feeling of inadequacy…
This is why our workshops are geared towards creating a safe alternative: a social and collaborative environment for learning, focused on skill development and practice, and with volunteer mentors who understand what you’re going through.
It can be really intimidating to be in a classroom with one teacher and a hundred people in a lecture room. At our workshops, we promise to have a 4-to-1 ratio of students to mentors to make sure everyone is looked after during the event and you aren’t afraid to ask questions.
I think people have this impression that learning to code is a really isolating experience and when you’re doing it on your own, it can be. We want to create a really collaborative experience as well as build a community of developers excited about sharing their knowledge.
How inclusive is Ladies Learning Code?
Our workshops are welcome to everyone! Everyone and anyone is welcome to attend our events. The name of organization is Ladies Learning Code so we do tend to attract more of a female audience and it is meant to encourage women to participate however we do tend to get some men attending our events. We also encourage the male participants to bring a female friend to the workshop. Generally, our workshops are around 95% women.
How do you ensure the continuous engagement of women in your community?
We’ve had mentors give their emails and keep in touch with the learners after the workshops. I’ve gotten emails from women asking how they can get more involved in the startup and tech scene and I’ve been happy to introduce them to people and let them know about upcoming events. It’s been really great seeing repeat learners at workshops and seeing them pursue web development more and more.
What are some of the challenges Ladies Learning Code is facing today? What are your primary concerns?
Right now, Montréal doesn’t have a permanent space to host our events so we look to local sponsorship from organizations, companies and startups to host us. The community has been very supportive and it has never really been too difficult finding a venue. We’ve been sponsored by Microsoft, Sid Lee, Shopify, Busbud… It’s been amazing.
We also have to ask all of our participants to bring their own laptops. On a positive note, we’re organizing a laptop drive so we can make it more accessible and everyone can participate. We’ve definitely had some of our mentors been happy to lend their laptop for the workshop so it hasn’t been a problem yet.
I’m super happy now that there are two of us in Montréal leading the chapter. For a while it’s been just me corresponding with the Toronto team and I’m so happy to see that it’s growing. I’m looking forward to finally leading an entire workshop myself since I wasn’t able to in the past because I was busy organizing.
Oh, we’ve got to check your events and workshops out! How can we get the latest updates? Where can we find the information about these events?
You can follow us on Twitter and check out the Ladies Learning Code Montréal Facebook page.
We also have a mailing list and you can definitely check out our blog and Learning Labs website for more updates on our organization.
If you have any questions about the interview, do not hesitate to contact
Anastasia Prozorova: firstname.lastname@example.org.