Earlier this spring, I reported on a new chapter of Girl Develop It that launched in the Burlington area. The national nonprofit aims to build coding skills among professional women — both because women are underrepresented in technology fields, and because coding skills are in demand in the marketplace. Women who can not just use but program computers increase their earning potential substantially.
Burlington chapter founder Maureen McElaney is part of GDI's intended audience. She works in sales at Dealer.com, but is interested in learning how to build the products she's selling. McElaney was involved with GDI in Philedelphia before relocating to Vermont with her husband last September; she started the chapter here so she and others like her could take low-cost coding classes.
The first GDI Intro to HTML and CSS sold out; a second is planned for June. Last night's "Code & Coffee" event was a more informal gathering. About 20 people filled a conference room at Logic Supply in South Burlington and chatted over laptop screens while tinkering with projects. Attendence was split between people who came to teach and those who came to learn.
The teachers came from Dealer.com, EatingWell, Ringmaster Software, Brandthropology and Logic Supply. The learners included a graphic designer, a business consultant and a retired programmer who wanted to build a website for her business.
One woman, who asked that I not use her name, admitted, "I just got a smartphone. I'm super lame." She came to the coding session, she said, because she wants to create an intranet for her nonprofit organization so that their far-flung statewide offices can share resources online. She hopes to learn the skills she needs to build it — or at least to manage its creation.
The relaxed atmosphere at the GDI gathering appealed to her. "There's no pressure to be really good at anything," she said. "We're all here to learn."
Kathy Magill was another willing pupil. The former IBMer has a master's degree in computer science, and worked as a programmer using C++, Fortran and Assembler; she retired early years ago following a car accident. Since then, she said, "everything has changed."
Magill was looking for help developing a website to rent her lakefront vacation home. She recently registered for VermontProperty.com, but wanted to make her own website, as well. She took GDI's introductory HTML/CSS class, and said it was helpful. But she was still struggling to figure out an online hosting solution for her photos that would let her display them on a personalized site for free.
One of the Dealer.com programmers tried to help her out. He and others recommended WordPress, but Magill didn't have much luck with it initially. "It says I have to wait half an hour to log in," she explained as she packed up at the end of the night.
Unlike GDI's classes, the coffee and coding meetup was free, courtesy of Logic Supply. The South Burlington-based maker of industrial and embedded computers is co-owned by a woman — Lisa Groeneveld, who started the company with her husband, Roland.
Logic Supply marketing and recruitment specialist Lauren Lavallee helped run the event, and made cupcakes for attendees. Logic Supply is one of several local businesses that have embraced GDI and its mission of building much-needed tech skills in the local workforce. Others will host GDI events in the coming months.
Lavallee noted that Logic Supply isn't currently hiring programmers, but the company has several open positions, including system engineer, junior systems engineer, sales, computer production and technical internships.
"We want to encourage GDI," she said. "We're excited to see more women get involved in coding and tech."