Supporting the technology community - Codebar

Posted by George Sheppard

Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.

Malcolm Forbes

At Macmillan Science and Education we are working hard to try and help support the technology communities we are a part of. We like open source and have been busy open sourcing some of our internal tools to help people manage servers or drive website accessibility. Over the last few months some of our team have been helping to support Codebar, a non profit organisation with a mission to encourage diversity in the technology industry.

Codebar run weekly workshops that provide a safe space for under-represented groups in the technology industry to learn new skills. Topics include HTML, CSS and Javascript as well as the Ruby programming language. There is no set agenda to an evening workshop session although comprehensive tutorials are provided.

There are many benefits to building a more diverse community both for businesses and members of the community. A greater diversity of people leads to a wider set of a experiences to draw upon. This broad experience can lead to new ideas and new ways of solving problems. As a business, a diverse community increases the pool of talent for hiring as well as providing greater insight into potential markets which may be underserved by the status quo.

A typical evening at a Codebar weekly session sees roughly 30 students and 15 coachers meet at some space kindly donated for the evening by a sponsor. Codebar’s sponsors page lists some of the companies who have volunteered space in the past. The first thirty minutes or so of an evening session involves coaches and students chatting over some food, usually pizza provided by the host. After some food, participants split off into small groups usually formed of one coach and two students. Students discuss with their coach what they’d like to work on for the evening. Often this involves working through the tutorials created by Codebar but students are free to suggest topics they would like to work on. The session usually wraps up at 9pm or so and everyone heads home.

As a coach I’ve have found participating in these sessions very rewarding. Even when working through tutorials aimed at beginners I find I pick up new knowledge or realise gaps in my own learning. I’ve also found great satisfaction through the process of teaching new concepts to students. When you can see the penny drop as students understand a concept you’ve been working through, it’s a really great feeling.

We have hosted two weekly sessions so far and are looking forward to hosting more over the course of this year. If you have space to accommodate 50+ people with desks and chairs on a Wednesday evening, why not consider hosting a session? If you’re a programmer with knowledge of HTML, CSS, Javascript or Ruby why not volunteer to coach! By supporting initiatives such as Codebar, hopefully we can all help to make the technology industry more diverse and more welcoming place for people from all backgrounds.

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