How Ladies Learning Code is Improving the Internet in Canada [Interview]

Barry Coughlan
May 26, 2017

Recently, we became a proud sponsor of Ladies Learning Code, a great not-for-profit organization based out of Toronto, Canada, whose mission is to "be the leading resource for women and youth to become passionate builders - not just consumers - of technology by learning technical skills in a hands-on, social, and collaborative way." In other words, they are doing good work for the Internet!

One of the best things about being a sponsor of Ladies Learning Code is giving back to the online community by sponsoring one of their many workshops. As a registrar we naturally love domain names, so we thought it was an ideal fit to partner with our friends at RADIX to provide .TECH domains for the participants of our sponsored workshop. What better way to show off your great new site than with a great new name?

We also had the opportunity to talk to Yaa Otchere, Toronto Chapter and Programming Lead at Ladies Learning Code, who filled us in on how Ladies Learning Code came to be, how she became involved, and how the digital literacy landscape in Canada continues to change, for the better.

How did Ladies Learning Code get its start?Yaa Otchere

Ladies Learning Code got its start in 2011 when the four founders came together to host an inclusive and welcoming Introduction to JavaScript workshop that sold out in one day. Having this first workshop be such a success really validated the need for more programming and the organization grew. The organization has been able to respond to the needs of different age groups and now includes child and youth programming. Ladies Learning Code is a platform and language agnostic organization and we are so grateful to our supportive and essential community partners in all of our different chapters.

How did you become involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I first became involved with Ladies Learning Code as a volunteer mentor and instructor. My professional training is non-technical and I pivoted into tech by taking some web development courses. Enjoying the community and wanting to give back I shared my time and skills with our learner community and really liked it. A few months later an opportunity to become even more involved with the Toronto Ladies Learning Code community came up and I applied. Now, I am the Toronto Chapter Lead for adult programs and focus on keeping the Toronto adult learner and volunteer community connected.

A big aspect of Ladies Learning Code is the communal atmosphere throughout the organization as well as with its partners. What do you think it is about the work your organization does that attracts a strong network of volunteers and sponsors?

Our organization is able to thrive because of our dedicated and committed volunteer network. When people get involved with Ladies Learning Code we welcome them as part of a community that is dedicated to our mission. It is a sense of doing work that is important and impactful that brings people to our organization. Ladies Learning Code takes a ''by the community, for the community'' approach, and none of our work would be possible with the vision and hard work of local community leaders and volunteers.

Digital literacy is a hot topic issue within educational circles, especially in regards to how the federal government helps support digital literacy initiatives inside the classroom and out. What role do you think the government can play to empower and support the type of work LLC does? Is it currently doing enough?

Government has a huge role in supporting organizations like ours. The federal government made an unprecedented announcement in March to invest $50M over the next two years to teach kids coding and has increased investment for digital literacy and skills building for adults too. We've also had many government leaders (municipal, provincial and federal) attend our events and learn with our community. It's through investment, support and commitment to this work that we're able to work across sectors.

Beyond learning the tools needed to code, do you find that there are some coding/programming perception hurdles that your students need to jump over first when starting a workshop? If so why do you think coding/programming is mystified in our educational sector?

Some hurdles that students need to overcome as our workshop are being comfortable with their computers and also giving themselves permission to make mistakes. Sometimes people view coding as something mysterious and intimidating and having a beginner friendly environment really breaks that down. Coding has recently been in a boom and the educational system has been catching up.

What does LLC have coming up for the rest of the year?

We've made a lot of impact over the years and but there's still much work to be done to ensure Canadians are educated, equipped and empowered to succeed in our increasingly digital and global economy.

Post by Barry Coughlan