Django Girls at Rackspace Austin
I discovered Django Girls Austin this past September when they ran a programming workshop for women in Austin. Django Girls is a non-profit organization that strives to get people excited and to fall in love with building things. The free, one-day workshop event teaches women and girls to build their first web application using HTML, CSS, Python and Django.
Thinking I was an ideal candidate, I immediately applied for a spot as a participant in their workshop but was unfortunately not selected. That left me wondering how I could possibly get involved with the program ... until I heard that Django Girls Austin was looking for a host for their second workshop of the year. I knew that with the right support, I could bring this event to Rackspace Austin.
I am a volunteer on the Rackspace Austin Tech Crew, a committee of talented Rackers who expand our company name and brand in our surrounding communities and sponsor local tech events, so naturally this event was a fit. Personally, it was important to me to bring this kind of a program to Rackspace to encourage other women in the community to hone their skills and take their spot in what is still a male-heavy industry.
Django Girls is all about creating a warm and welcoming environment for women and girls who are absolute tech novices but are interested in learning programming for their own knowledge or personal benefit. The format of our Austin workshop was an all-day self-paced tutorial with the goal of developing an online blog with guidance from a coach and other resources.
I was thrilled to provide support to a very diverse group of coaches, which included two Rackers, Dave Fecker and Carlos Marin. One of the coaches was a former workshop attendee who drove to Austin from Dallas to "pay it forward." Another coach was a Latin professor for about a decade before changing careers and pursuing technology, while yet another coach was a Computer Science student at the University of Texas, and coincidentally, applying to work at Rackspace.
All Walks Lead to Technology
The program participants came from all walks of life, including a registered nurse who wants to move from the medical field into technology. Another participant is a trilingual sales consultant who wanted to add another 'language' under her belt. Then we had a mother and daughter duo who were taking the time to bond over a fun challenge.
The participants and coaches coded side by side for eight hours to develop their own live web blog via Django. The tutorial led participants to become familiar with bugs and errors and to understand how to read and fix them, similar to what programmers experience each day. At the end of the session, the coaches answered questions from participants about other programming languages, how to further skills for finding a job as a developer, as well as 'a day in the life' queries.
Every woman walked away energized, with a new confidence in her own skills and appreciation of how programming touches her world. I have no doubt that this is the first crucial step for the participants in their exciting technology journey.
One of our core values at Rackspace is "Passion for Our Work." By bringing Django Girls to Rackspace, I found a way to layer passion for my work here, with my personal passion. This combination has resulted in one highly motivated Racker! I am so proud to have been involved with this event and grateful that we have a workplace that encourages and supports programs like Django Girls.
I invite other Rackers who have engaged in similar community programs to share your stories. And for those of you who haven't yet, I encourage you to seek out such opportunities. I promise you will find it to be a truly rewarding experience personally, and professionally.