During the last years a lot of initiatives focusing on increasing diversity in IT and getting kids into IT have emerged. I think it is really necessary to improve the image of IT in our society. Up to now, most people associate IT with lonely males sitting in the basement eating pizza. But there is so much more to the software world and coding can be a great job if IT is your thing. But this is not the topic of this post.
I’ve already participated in different mentoring events and enjoyed it every time. So I was happy when Falko Riemenschneider asked me and Gerrit Hentschel if we would be interested in organizing the first German ClojureBridge event. This initative was founded in the US in 2014 and aims to increase the diversity especially in the Clojure community.
For me, it was important that our event should not only be targeted at complete beginners to get a chance to get into contact with IT. I also wanted to give women (like me) who had already decided to work in IT an opportunity to get in touch with other women and with different companies. Networking is important, especially in early stages of your career.
So it was great to see that during the workshop none of the women had to feel odd as is often the case at other tech events. Even though I believe that most developers are open minded and do not care about gender, it is different and really great to have a balanced gender ratio.
This opinion is supported by the fact that after asking on the Clojure User Group mailing lists of Cologne and Bonn and in our companies, we quickly found around 20 male volunteers who wanted to share their Clojure enthusiasm with our participants.
Likewise, it was also very easy to find companies who wanted to sponsor this workshop: bevuta IT, codecentric, doctronic, innoQ, and itemis. Furthermore, the publisher dpunkt.verlag provided us with Clojure e-book codes. So it was easy for us to organize an amazing event with fantasic food in a great location – the old council hall in Solingen. We even could afford cups with the ClojureBridge logo – now everyone can remember that great day.
After 5 months of planning, the workshop finally started last Friday with the installation party. All 25 registered participants from all over Northrhine-Westphalia as well as from Belgium and the Rhine-Main area got started by installing the JVM, Clojure and the editor of their choice on their laptops. That installing makes hungry was proven by the stack of empty pizza boxes.
On Saturday we started with an amazing breakfast. After a short introduction our groups dove into Clojure guided by their fantastic coaches. We had groups with total beginners who never had written a line of code before, but also students and experienced developers (most of them with a Java and/or web background). Like many other diversity intiatives, ClojureBridge also offers men (in our case 3) the chance to participate if they are brought as a guest by a woman.
In the morning session, all groups covered the basics of Clojure and functional programming. During the lunch break a lot of networking between the participants and the coaches from all the different companies took place. I hope that I will meet a few of our participants again during an internship or as colleagues in some years.
After lunch some groups continued with the basics and other groups already started with web development or graphics programming. We closed the day with presentations from some of the groups showing their results from the small projects they had started during the afternoon.
We also recognized that it’s the small things that make participants happy. For instance, one attending mother brought her 7 months old son, so we provided a room where the babysitter could take care of him.
Sadly, the media were not really interested in our event because women and IT is not a hot topic anymore, and other stuff seems to be more important to them. I hope that one day the image of IT will change and all of us can help to do so. I urge you all to talk about your job (that you hopefully enjoy or even love), especially to kids or other people who didn’t get the chance to get into touch with our amazing field of work yet.
Motivate them to participate in any of these fantastic opportunities like RailsGirls, devoxx4kids, CoderDojo, Girls’Day, and, last but not least, ClojureBridge. The next chance is the second German workshop in July in Berlin.
If you enjoy teaching others, getting to know interesting people and learning something new, think of helping at one of these initiatives as well. It is really a great experience and everyone can make a difference. Even if it can be exhausting, it is totally worth all the work. Don’t hesitate because you think you don’t know enough, because this is not the point. In most cases it is about learning together with the participants. When teaching others, you always learn a lot.
Moreover, for companies that really want to increase their diversity, such workshops are the perfect place to meet motivated, diverse people. Managers, support your employees to participate and sponsor such events.
Big thanks again to Falko and Gerrit as well as all our coaches and sponsors: without you this great event wouldn’t have been possible!