December 29, 2015

On software bootcamps for women

This past year has brought along so much change in my life, mindset, plans, and goals–to the point where I decided I would change my major. I made the decision to change my major from art to a science last year, and it was an incredibly bold and spontaneous one at that. I remember walking out of the advisor meeting like, What the hell did I just get myself into?

I decided I would become a computer programmer, software developer, web designer, etc. I want to be all of those things or, at least, one of them. My current state of mind as I’m suffering from this semester’s Java class (not Javascript mind you) is: Why would you I ever want to be a computer programmer? I’m so bad at math, and I’ve failed all those deductive reasoning puzzles in elementary school, my mind reminds me unabashedly.

I can’t help but recall the Myers-Briggs [Personality] Test and how I would always get some ‘F’ type instead of the ‘T’ type I desperately wanted. Why did I want to be a ‘Thinker’ instead of a ‘Feeler’ so bad? It’s drilled into you by society that ‘thinking’=Men and ‘feeling’=Women, and that ‘thinking’ is inherently superior to ‘feeling’ by way of decision-making. I recall this now because you assume people in STEM fields are all T types. That’s how you get far in this world. So why can’t I be a T type too?

So as of right now, my current plans for continuing my coding education are to apply for software bootcamps.

My criteria for software bootcamps (and I’m glad I can afford to be picky with them since there are so many out there) are that they prioritize a language I want to learn, teach you to become a full-stack developer and provide scholarships for women and minorities. The ultimate selling point is the camp being all women, because, from my experiences in coding classes (and life in general), it’s clear to me that this is the only method of creating a truly positive, uplifting environment in which women can learn best and not be scared to try new things. It’s also one of the reasons why if I do end up going to “real college” I would strongly prefer it to be a women’s college.

The only bootcamps I found that are specifically women-only are Hackbright Academy and Ada Development Academy. Judging from the curricula and overall program design (haha) of both, my first choice would be Ada–not only because it’s free (with the only expenditures being living costs), but also because I’m more interested in learning Ruby. Of course, the fact that it’s free makes it highly selective, just as any tuition-free college or educational program would be. The registration period for this year (for next year’s program) has already passed, but 2017 will be lit.

Just a quick thought here, but if you ask me, venturing outside your comfort zone is such a meaningless concept. It makes sense if you’re telling a six-year-old to try riding their bike without training wheels for the first time. For women in fields where they’re laughably underrepresented, just being present in the first place is already stepping outside your comfort zone. Signing up for a computer class knowing you’re going to be one of two or three women in the room is stepping outside your comfort zone. Choosing to go forward in a field knowing you must form the right, highly specialized connections in order to get anywhere is stepping outside your comfort zone. It’s the experience of being, say, a racial or religious minority in a society that devalues you on the basis of your race, ethnicity, or religion. Existing is a step outside the comfort zone.

Image: #WOCinTech Chat

Nadira Hasna

Nadira Hasna is a nineteen year-old Indonesian-American, aspiring software/web developer. She aims to work primarily in the non-profit sector as a community activist and organiser, hoping to use the skills she learns to benefit the causes she believes in, such as women and children's rights, education, and poverty alleviation.

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