MaureenmcelaneyConsuming content on digital devices has gotten easier and easier over the years, but creating it is still pretty tricky. If you don't understand how the web works, it's difficult to make it work for you — and it's downright impossible to get one of the high-paying jobs popping up in the rapidly expanding programming and web-development fields.

Problem is, if you're not a full-time student, face-to-face instruction can be hard to find. 

Enter Girl Develop It, an educational nonprofit founded in New York City in 2010. GDI runs classes in several cities across the country aimed at helping women learn HTML, CSS, Javascript, JQuery and Ruby on Rails. Now GDI is expanding to the Green Mountain State. Its new Burlington chapter is holding a launch party at the Monkey House in Winooski on Thursday, March 28; its first class begins in April.

GDI Burlington chapter founder Maureen McElaney (pictured) explains that the low-cost, accessible sessions will be geared toward helping women break into the male-dominated IT industry. The target audience, she says, is “professional women who are working full time who want to gain more technical skills so they can either advance in their company or find a new job.” 

McElaney, who works as an account manager at, is part of that demographic. The 30-year-old Pennsylvania native is not a full-time developer. "It's something that I'd like to do," she says. "Part of my interest in starting the chapter is to be able to take the classes."

McElaney first came into contact with GDI while living in Philadelphia, where she took classes through the local chapter. But in September, her husband started a job at Burton, and the couple relocated to Vermont. She was bemoaning the lack of educational opportunities here when the GDI organizer in Philly suggested she start a local chapter.

Within a few months, she attracted a group of more than 70 participants interested in taking classes — or teaching them. And she assembled a group of sponsors that includes, Green Mountain Antibodies and C2, a Colchester-based, women-owned technology company; they're kicking in financial support and scholarship money.

McElaney explains that there are lots of online resources and tutorials that people can use to learn these skills, but GDI classes are about more than just the curriculum. “This community sort of reaches out to people who want that mentorship, want that community, want that space where they can ask a question," she explains.

GDI classes create "a no-judgment zone," she says. "No question is dumb, no question should go unanswered.” And she notes that, though the classes are geared toward women, men are welcome, too. "I don't want it to be totally gender specific," she says.

GDI Burlington's first class, "Introduction to HTML/CSS," will take place at Burlington co-working space Office Squared. It's spread over two Saturdays — April 13 and April 20 — and costs $72 per person. Students must bring their own laptops, but they don't need any specific training to participate. "You really just need to know how to use a computer," she explains, "and we'll take it from there."

C2 marketing and communications manager Jennifer Graham says her company is "thrilled" to learn about the new local GDI chapter. "The core of what GDI represents is something we are very passionate about — providing networking, outreach and learning opportunities for women interested in software development," she says. "We already have several 'geekettes' from C2 who have joined, and we'll be hosting GDI's second class series at our offices in May/June. We hope to have some of our staff lined up to assist with teaching."

McElaney hopes to expand the chapter to include programs for high school students, women behind bars, and new Americans. "I just need the funding," she says.