Girls Coding

“The atmosphere was sincere and friendly, easy-going and cheerful,” says Velichko Stoev, Ruby Developer at Melon who was a mentor at the 5th edition of Rails Girls in Sofia. “It’s nothing like a course or lecture.”

The two-day workshop was held in October and was attended by the record number of 100 girls. Rails Girls was born in Finland, but is nowadays a global, non-profit volunteer community.

Its goal is to make technology more approachable for girls and to defy their stereotypes on coding.  

It gives girls that have never ever learned a programming language the chance to build a web application from concept to code. It provides them not only with the tools and vocabulary, but also with a community to start understanding technology and reinvent the web.

“True, the atmosphere is informal, which is a great way to learn,” says Maria Halacheva who is also a Ruby Developer at Melon and was selected as a mentor at Rails Girls for second year in a row.

As a mentor you have to explain coding in a very simple way so that anyone with no experience at all can figure it out. “It’s hard,” Maria says. “The most difficult thing is to explain what the console is because it’s super abstract – you know – the black window that looks like the Matrix. A mentor should be very patient and invite questions all of the time. Another important thing is to succeed in making the two girls work as a team.” “Yes, because always one of them is learning faster and she can explain to the other girl in her own words,” Velichko agrees. 

Each mentor instructs two girls. The girls are not paired randomly but based on their interests, experience or job occupations. Maria’s students this year both had very little experience with HTML and CSS. One of them was 25 and the other one – 49. Nevertheless the age difference, the two did really well, Mariya says. “Yes, at the end of the training, when we were crafting the website, it seemed like the older woman was overwhelmed with information and it was more difficult for her than for the younger one. But she did well. And I really liked her because my mom would never start coding at that age.” 

Velichko’s students were aged 22 and 21, both work as PRs. “We didn’t follow the guidelines by the book. When I saw that they both enjoyed ornamenting the site, we spent more time doing that than adding extra functionalities and we wrote small programs on the side. Both of them did great.”   

The guidelines consist of an introduction, basic programming, experimenting with HTML, CSS and Ruby and creating a web application. In between, there are games and lightning talks by instructors or girls who’ve been previously to Rails Girls. 

The follow-up is study groups in smaller numbers who meet with mentors regularly since March 2014. 

Next edition is in Burgas, 13-14 November, 2015. Again two girls who have already registered will have the pleasure of being mentored by Velichko. Together with the rest of the attendees, they will start seeing the web as a platform for their ideas. And eventually one day they will overturn the trend of the male mentors being double the number of female ones at Rails Girls Sofia.

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