An email landed in our inbox in the spring of 2020. Johanna and Charlotte, two students at IT-Högskolan, wanted to teach beginners’ courses in programming geared towards women in the summer. But they lacked the network and knowledge on how to reach their target group, and asked if we wanted to pair up with them.
Johanna and Charlotte from IT Högskolan. Photo credit left: IT HögskolanFoto © Nicklas Elmrin 2018
Programming camps for women and non-binary are at the core of our business. However, the Corona spring had caused us a lot of worry — we decided that we had no other choice than to cancel our traditional summer camps. During the spring we had very successfully converted our Pink Programming Sundays to a digital format, and now we started to brainstorm about doing the same thing with the camps.
Inspiration speakers Fatima Djoudjou and Andrea Klintelius.
Initially it sounded like a daft idea. Who would want to attend a digital camp? But the more we discussed, the more exciting it started to sound. In the summer of 2020 there is a drive to learn more and invent new solutions, and when would we ever be able to launch a digital camp if not now?
The foundation in Pink’s camps is always programming, but the camp teams are free to add their personal touch to the program and activities. There is often yoga, some kind of sport, dance, board games, swimming, hiking and so on, all based on the capabilities and interests of the camp team and participants. All activities are always voluntary, even the coding.
The Pink Programming Digital Camp pilots started at the end of June, in collaboration with IT-Högskolan and sponsored by Sigma IT. We had landed in a model with two different part-time beginner’s courses that were executed in parallel throughout two weeks. Johanna taught Java in the morning with Charlotte as code mentor, and in the afternoon they switched roles so that Charlotte taught C# with Johanna as code mentor. Both groups gathered around a common program during the lunch hour.
Some days we were given inspirational talks by female developers at Sigma, got advice from Sigma Recruit, and generally were given an overview of Sigma as a company, and other days we arranged cook-alongs. For example, our volunteer Sara visited and made Vietnamese summer rolls while we discussed how she had come to combine her degree in Political Science with IT studies, and how somebody who sees herself as “non-technical” can convince herself otherwise and go for a career in IT. One day we got a visit by our prior colleague Tshepiso and her team in Hej Afrika! who taught us how to cook Chakalaka, or Soweto Chilli.
Emily Worsnop guided six classes of the traditional camp yoga, and PT Nena taught four classes of living room workout. And what summer camp is complete without the viewing of “Hidden Figures”? A movie that is more relevant than ever, so if you haven’t seen it, do so!
Pair programming, or solving challenges together in small groups of at least two people, was a fundamental part of the program. Many people find it a little daunting to share their screen and their code before they are comfortable with the coding. The paradox is though, that the earlier you talk about your code with somebody at the same level as you, the quicker you learn, which helps you get rid of the discomfort faster. So, by applying mild force we hoped to get the participants out of their comfort zone and share screens early, and thereby generate a safe and trusting environment to counteract the physical distance.
So how did it go? Did we have fun? Did we learn anything new?
It seems like it! 85% of the participants felt comfortable showing their code and sharing their screens at the end of the camp. 95% of the participants plan to continue coding. All of the participants expressed pride at signing up and participating.
When asking our participants about what they thought of the camps, we got very positive responses:
“It has been great and educational! I appreciated that it was an online course since I wouldn’t have had the time to go to a physical camp due to my job.”
“The best thing about the camp was the community, learning to code together was efficient and nice. The social aspect of getting to know new people, but also the learning process itself, to bounce ideas off of each other and to learn from each other helped me a lot.”
We also received a positive response from Sigma:
“Equality and inclusion are important for Sigma IT. We want more girls to see the opportunities in IT/Tech. We think Pink Programming is doing a great job and are really glad and proud to be part of it.
Special thanks to Johanna and Charlotte, to Sigma for their sponsorship, all volunteers and attendants for a fantastic experience!
(Translated from Swedish)