tatianaalexenkoTatiana Alexenko did not have a computer for some time as a child, and her first computer was actually a hand-me-down. But, as her interest in the machine grew and evolved from gaming to Photoshop, her seriousness toward computer science also took shape.

Alexenko graduated with a bachelor of science in Information Technology and Computer Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia, also with a minor in business and German. She also completed her master’s coursework at Mizzou, studying computer science and IT with special emphasis areas in artificial intelligence and robotics. Alexenko is currently completing her thesis on Natural Language Processing for elder care robotics.

Since early 2015, Alexenko has worked as a software engineer at Cerner on the Registration and Eligibility Services team, which is part of Revenue Cycle. She started her mentoring with Coding & Cocktails in early 2016.

1. How did your interest in coding begin?
Growing up, I didn’t have a computer for the longest time. I think the first computer I got was at 14 or 15. I think it was hand-me-down that had a lot of games on it, including Master of Orion. It’s a strategy game, and games were a thing that I was really into. I started playing around with Photoshop on it, too.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
More recently, after I started getting into computer science in college, I started learning about how computer optimization works applying to real life. It can be applied to managing relationships with people and how you manage your time.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I spend at least half of my time coding. I spend at least half of my time writing new code. It’s good experience getting to work on that large of a big code base. I like that Cerner is a big company. I like having a gym on site and the campus, as well.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
It’s challenging sometimes debating things with people. Guys can get away with being more passionate during a debate than women. When you are passionate about something, it can be easy to get carried away.

5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
To my younger self, I would say to research more. I was interested in playing games, but do more research on creating things rather than using existing things. I wish had known about the other applications of computer science, such as artificial intelligence. I wish I also had taken math classes more seriously back then, too. With artificial intelligence, you have to really know how the formulas work. For other people, it really depends on what they are trying to do. If they are trying to do data science, they should have a solid background in math and statistics. If you are trying to be a web developer, you have to want to continue to learn and put in the extra hours throughout the rest of your life. It has to be your passion; if it isn’t your passion, you aren’t going to be good at it.

6. If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
When you are rational, and you try to talk to people about world events and politics, you can be perceived as cynical and cold.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
It’s already in our lives. Your behavior is constantly being tracked and analyzed by machines whenever you use the Internet, which is all the time. There is technology that is going to improve the lives of people who cannot take care of themselves, such as the elderly population. We have a growing elderly population but a shortage of health care professionals. In the next 20 years, we are going to start to see AI assistance that will help people not to feel like they are not alone. Self-driving cars also are going to start taking off sooner. It involves city planning and health care planning. Basically, it’s just improving processing of all kinds – it’s already being done all around you; there’s just going to be more and more of it.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Media Analyst-Account Coordinator for Synoptos Inc. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.


OliviaMark

At 17, Olivia Mark is seriously dedicated to what she wants out of her life. Her Google calendar neatly organizes her priorities as a senior at Shawnee Mission South High School: She is enrolled in three AP classes. She nannies for two different families. She runs her own year-old web development business, via oliviamark.com. She is on the drumline in Marching Band.

And then, there are the specific prospects of what Olivia will study next year as an incoming freshman in college. She knows she wants to major in computer science, but her secondary major or minor is still up for grabs: She either wants to study data science with an emphasis on urbanization on marsupials in Oceania or computer forensics. Despite a full schedule, Olivia has remained committed to Kansas City Women in Technology since her freshman year of high school, mentoring with Coding & Cupcakes.

No matter what path Olivia will take in continuing her computer science-related studies, one aspect is clear: She is just getting started, and she shows zero signs of slowing down. She perhaps says it best on her website: “The code is just the beginning.”

1.How did your interest in coding begin?
We have this super old Dell in my basement, and I remember messing around on it. Neither of my parents were really like, “You should learn programming.” It was something that I took on my own. I took my first formal programming class my sophomore year of high school, and I really got into it. For most of my formal programming education, I have mostly been the only girl.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
It’s definitely made me a lot more persistent on things. I remember beforehand, I would be like, “If this doesn’t work, I’m going to skip it.” I think now, I have become a lot more patient and have worked to debug a problem. I’m also a lot more technical with my things: If I need to do something, I want to do something right.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
On July 15, 2015, I started my own company called Olivia Mark Web Development. I have branched out to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles. I create websites for small businesses, and I really enjoy it. I was 13 when I created my first website. Part of it is meaning new people – each website is for completely different people. You get to meet all of these connections that will serve you in the future, which is awesome.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
Being taking seriously. A., I’m a female. B., I’m 17. I feel like taking being seriously is hard. Some of the companies come to me; I go to a lot of them. I reach out to small businesses and ask if they would like their websites revamped, and since I am a student, my rates are substantially lower. It’s about being taking seriously or finding clients that are willing to hire someone who doesn’t have a college degree.

5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
To not be afraid – to just go for it. It might be intimidating because A. people are older than you or B. they are mostly male. But people in this field are very cool and are very willing to meet new people.

6. If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
It’s so much more than diverse than people think it is. People come from all walks of life, all over the world, cultures, gender identities – everything. Everyone comes together with the common goal of expanding knowledge and building new things. I don’t think a lot of careers can say the same thing.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
If not already, it’s already in every aspect. You can’t go about your daily life without running into some sort of technology, whether you are conscious of it or not. Some would say it’s a good thing; some would say it’s a bad thing; I don’t really know because we’re not there yet. With my math classes, I have seen more integration with programming, as well.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Media Analyst-Account Coordinator for Synoptos Inc. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.


Sara Heins and Ashley Sullins studied different academic majors as undergraduates at separate Missouri universities, but it was their respective positions at Red Nova Labs in Kansas City, Kan., that brought them together in their journey toward coding-based careers. Now, they find themselves sitting just feet apart at a different company as they work toward a goal that both admit wasn’t really on the radar even five years ago. The two women helped lead Kansas City Women in Technology’s first ever DjangoGirls workshop in June, which introduced ~75 women to web development. Sara & Ashley will cover front-end architecture in their Coding & Cocktails program in September.

Sara Heins

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Sara Heins earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2012. After working as a content writer at Red Nova Labs for a year, she transitioned into a web developer role after seeing what her co-workers on the development and engineering side of the business were creating. She continued her education through several classes at Johnson County Community College; online resources like Codecademy; and reading the Head First book series published by O’Reilly Media. Heins has worked as a front-end developer at Big 6 Media since September 2015, and her KCWiT mentoring role began in January. Her outside interests include running and serving as an occasional foster parent for cats and dogs through KC Pet Project.

1. How did your interest in coding begin?
I had no previous interest in anything to do with IT or tech. Any time there was something to troubleshoot on the computer, I didn’t want to deal with it. It wasn’t really until I was working in the industry that I saw that it was really more about problem solving and not always just about technology.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
I can troubleshoot things with more confidence now; like, “Why isn’t the sound working on my TV correctly?” It seems so trivial, but now I’m like, “Okay let’s go figure it out.” Even in taking my dog to the vet, I now make a list of information, because I think in that way now of how to solve problems, so that the vet doesn’t have to run a bunch of expensive tests.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I like creating something from the ground up. You start with this mock-up of a website, and then you create this really cool-looking page. I’ve never been an artistic person, but someone is able to give me a mock-up of something, and I can then create it. I am able to be creative without necessarily being artistic.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
Sometimes, I am given a project, and I have no idea where to start. In those situations, I now know that I can figure almost anything out. Sometimes, that’s stressful, but it usually works out in the end.

5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one that is more coding-based?
Get involved with Kansas City Women in Technology earlier. Find a mentor outside of work to help you learn. A lot of this stuff is really hard to do on your own.

6. If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
It’s more about finding new ways to learn and solve problems than being that stereotype of a 40-year-old virgin sitting in his parents’ basement. If someone had told me five years ago that I would be doing this, I would have said, “Why? This doesn’t sound like fun.” It really is more than just about technology. It’s about finding new ways to solve problems.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
I’m just hoping that we will encourage younger women and girls to learn more about computers and software engineering. If we can get them to learn about it when they are younger, they can study it in college. It was such a good fit, and I feel like I should have been studying it in college, but nobody ever said to me, “Hey, you should do this.”

Ashley Sullins

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Ashley Sullins received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Park University in 2010. Upon graduation, she was unsure of the exact career path she wanted to take. Because of her intern experience with a company that marketed for doctors’ offices, she then worked for a related startup company in the operations division, where she worked alongside developers, sparking an old-new interest. “In middle school, I had made smaller websites, but I had never met developers in person, and I didn’t know it was an actual career track,” Sullins said. Last year, she completed the five-month developer boot camp Epicodus in Portland, Oregon, after she had previously worked at Red Nova Labs in quality assurance and project management. Sullins began working as a front-end developer for Big 6 Media in January 2016, and one month later, she joined Kansas City Women in Technology as a mentor for Coding & Cocktails. She also enjoys circuit training-related workouts and participating in charity-based 5Ks and 10Ks.

1. How did your interest in coding begin?
From a young age, my peers were all involved in sports, but I was bad at sports. When I was making websites, I wanted to win awards. So, when I made fan sites for a book series, it felt like I had won something and accomplished something.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
I know that my technical knowledge has made me more persistent. For example, my mom had a computer problem with her Windows operating system. I haven’t used Windows in years, but because of my day job, I was able to debug the issues and find out what was going on. Also, it’s about persistence: You have to keep going and find out solutions. Sometimes, like when I was younger, I would give up before trying all of the different options.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I think I enjoy the independence of my work. When I was a project manager, I had to tell other people what to do for me. Now, I am able to pursue action items as I want, and I have more control over my day-to-day life.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
I think one of the more challenging aspects is pressure. If a client finds an issue, it has to be found and resolved immediately. As a green developer, I am still finding out my skills, so sometimes, it can be a little stressful since I don’t have the experience of a senior developer. It can be fun, too, because it does help me grow as a person.

5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one that is more coding-based?
I enjoy development now because of the experience I had throughout my career and the non-technical positions I had. I recommend starting out in a non-technical based track like QA or project management and seeing if you enjoy it first. Ask questions of different developers in the field. Give yourself time to figure things out, and don’t get overwhelmed. It’s okay to feel like you don’t know what’s going on.

6. If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
I think the biggest thing for me, when I was in a non-technical role, I thought I wasn’t smart enough or that I wasn’t math-minded enough. The biggest thing is needing patience and being able to problem solve and see how things are connected. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
When you’re in high school or middle school, and you have to take French or Spanish for a semester, I feel like computer science should be one of those classes that you should have to take to see if you have any interest in it. With girls, they especially don’t always have the opportunity to get that initial exposure. It sounds like it is already happening in some schools, so I am hoping that in the future, computer science won’t be a certain subsector; it will be another language like English that we can use as a communication tool.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Media Analyst-Account Coordinator for Synoptos Inc. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.


Shérry_Delich

Shérry Delich has been a thinker and a tinker her entire life. Her love for computers began with a general appreciation for engineering from an early age. Upon earning a bachelor of science in Electrical Engineering and Physics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2003, Delich worked as a software developer at a variety of companies across the metropolitan region before joining VinSolutions two years ago.

In addition to mentoring for two years with CoderDojo, Delich is active as a volunteer with Girl Scouts, as her two older daughters are both Girl Scouts. She provides support for troops in the Northland area with cookie sales, day camp staff, and recruiting efforts.

1. How did your interest in coding begin?
It’s not just computers; it’s engineering in general. I came from a family of six kids, and I hung out with my older brother, who is seven years older. He loved working on small-gas engines and anything mechanical in nature. I kind of picked that up from him. I enjoy manufacturing things out of different things. I am really big into robotics; physics is what my actual major was in. There’s always been a solution to manufacturer what I need.

2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
I see the overlap mostly when I volunteer for organizations that have no technology. With Girl Scouts, everything was a paper form – online- forming something takes me 20 seconds. You’ll see these different organizations that are stuck in the Stone Age, and I really do enjoy helping them out. It’s about baby steps and not overwhelming them, though. That’s just the way I teach my kids, too, with logical thinking. Instead of them saying, “I can’t do this” or “I can’t open this,” I ask them, “How do you think we should open this?” I do that a lot with my Girl Scouts, too.

3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I’d have to say the flexibility. I have a lot of flexibility when it comes to my architecture. We have a set of architects that pretty much give us lead developers free reign. I get the opportunity to introduce different technologies that I want.

4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
It’s not so much now, but early on in my career, it was immediate distrust. Two people would get hired on at the same time, with the same background, and I felt like I had to reprove myself. I’m very forthcoming with my age now. I feel like I have to go in there >now and say, “I am 37 years old.” I felt I was doing well to not be noticed, and that has changed dramatically for me now.

5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one that is more coding-based?
Really looking at yourself and decide why you are trying to do this. I find that a lot of younger women that I talk to these days are looking for a better income. This is not the way to do it. You have to have a true love for it. I love the fact that I can spend all day to find a problem, but a lot of people rip their hair out over it.

6. If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
One, 90 percent of the stereotypes you hear about us being fueled off of Mountain Dew and beef jerky and Twizzlers is not true. We are not all the same. I find that to be one of the more frustrating things. And, it’s not just women: I’ve worked with men who also have found it to be the same.

7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
The STEM question is huge, especially with my kids: There is a huge push for STEM in schools, and there is a huge push for STEM in Girl Scouts. It’s one of the things that gets the recruiters going. The only thing I can really stress to people is that if your child does not want to do it, don’t cram it down their neck. We still need the artists and painters of the world; not everyone is going to be an engineer. You can’t force a kid into it, or they are going to learn to hate it.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Media Analyst-Account Coordinator for Synoptos Inc. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams. 


Sometimes the most intimidating part of learning something new is taking that first step. After that, it just takes effort. Coding & Cocktails co-director Tamara Copple talks about one of the questions we hear often from our participants. 

Tamara“Tamara, how do you do it?” a Coding & Cocktails attendee asked me, frustrated at her own efforts to make discernible progress. She knows my story: how I heard about Kansas City Women in Technology while listening to public radio station KCUR on the way to work. How my developer husband told me I was “definitely” programmer material and should network with them. How I showed up to the very first Coding & Cocktails session as a participant, fell in love with KCWiT and within three sessions found that I was suddenly the program’s co-director, when I still couldn’t script my way out of a paper bag. She knows the spiel I give every time I present at Coding & Cocktails: “Nobody becomes a programmer by spending 3 hours a night, one night a month, while drinking. Nobody.”

Coding & Cocktails is about overcoming your inhibitions and self-doubt and trying something radically different. Despite the name, drinking alcohol is not required, but if a custom cocktail helps relax you enough to give it a try, we’re your show. If you discover programming is not your thing, that’s okay. Enjoy the drinks, enjoy the camaraderie, and pat yourself on the back for at least giving it a try. You’ve already done more than most.

On the other hand, if you discover you enjoy yourself at Coding & Cocktails and want to learn more, great! However, as with weight loss, yoga or going back to school, anything worth doing takes effort and practice, and eventually you must fully commit to the path to achieve the goal. Here are three things I have learned on my own journey.

First, know thyself. Know in your heart of hearts why you want to pursue programming. It takes a certain kind of thinker – not a mathematician, but a person who can think logically in steps and see patterns. One who enjoys building, and creating. One who really digs problem solving. Thanks to the plethora of free coding classes available online, just about anyone can learn the fundamentals but it takes a problem solver to get to the next level. I think in pictures and concepts, so algorithmic thinking is a learned behavior for me, but I persist because I like problem solving, and programming challenges me mentally in a way I enjoy.

Second, be accountable to yourself. As the program co-director, I have deliverables. I have a presentation to script in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. When I present a topic, I need to know what I’m talking about. When my partner Sarah asked, “Do you think you could push the presentation to the website this month?” I figured it out even though I had never touched the website code before. Trial by fire may not be necessary but you must carve out the time for learning and more importantly, practicing. If it takes the pressure of a deadline, so be it, you can always set one for yourself!

Finally, build your network. Be seen, be heard, and be active. Meetup has a nearly inexhaustible list of technical user groups. KCWiT specializes in connecting women who “want to be” with those who “are.” Talk to other women programmers, and make friends. We even have a Slack chat group for that very purpose. Letting people get to know you and your commitment makes them more willing to help you along your journey, and eventually even help you network into that life-changing job.

At Coding & Cocktails we provide a feminine, low-stress, non-judgmental environment for self-discovery. What happens next is up to you.



Coding & Cocktails wouldn’t be what it is without our fantastic mentors who volunteer their time to help other ladies learn how to code.  One of our Coding & Cocktails mentors, Heather, shared her perspective on the May Coding & Cocktails session on JavaScript using jQuery.

HeatherIn May, we introduced jQuery and JavaScript. This is by far one of my favorite languages to work with because of all the fun things you can do with it. JavaScript should not be confused with Java, because they are two very different things (Java is a programming language and JavaScript is a scripting language for one). This is also a language that I am still learning everything I can do with it. It is just that vast. When I started coding many moons ago building websites that would make you gasp, I used HTML and JavaScript. I thought they were “da bomb” because I had buttons that changed colors, cursors that changed when you hovered over a link, font that changed colors, and even scrolling text. It is now over 10 years since I created my first page and JavaScript still amazes me. With that said, it’s pretty clear that if you do not understand everything in one three-hour session, you are not alone.

JavaScript is a language that is used to make the user experience better, as well as provide a dynamic aspect to the site. It is an older language, actually celebrating it’s 21st birthday this year. Just like using CSS compilers can make things cleaner, using the jQuery library can help keep things streamlined.

As a mentor this month, we had a lot of people who were new and jumping in. This helped me go over the skills I learned a few months ago when I attended the Git session as a student. We went back into Github and cloned KCWiT’s repository, checked-out a new branch, and then worked on the files in Sublime Text.

From a mentor standpoint, it was great seeing ladies learning how to work with JavaScript because it is used almost everywhere, but definitely in front-end development. It is also a great place to take a pause and review everything we have covered so far. CSS, JavaScript, and version control are a couple of the key aspects when it comes to front-end development and are definitely things that take a while to learn (especially since I am still learning them with years of coding knowledge).

So what is my favorite part of this month’s lesson? Being able to use an in-browser debugger (I’m on a Windows computer so I just click F12, but it’s cmd+option+i on a Mac). I love having quick access to look at errors, see the various elements (that light up when you hover over the code), and see sources of different aspects. It makes working on a site just that much easier. I am looking forward to next month when we’ll get to review and catch-up before moving onto the next session and I hope to see everyone there learning alongside us!

 



One of our Coding & Cocktails LadyDevs, Tara, will be sharing her perspective on the Coding & Cocktails sessions with us over the next few months.  Here is what she had to say about the April session, which was an Introduction to CSS compilers.

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Precompiling CSS. I’ve spent a week trying to think of what to say about this, and, to be honest, I’m not sure. Tamara hit the nail on the head when she said we won’t get this all in one go. There’s a lot of information to absorb on this one, and it’s a lot to wrap your head around, but that’s what our Slack channel and mentors are there for! Honestly, this is probably what I’ll be working on in June when we take a “break” for review and further practice on the concepts we’ve already covered.

Compilers are new to me, and I know there are a lot out there for all sorts of different projects. I’m not sure how they all work. For this, we used Sass. I’m probably going to go over the slides a few more times to make sense of it all, but, from what I got working on it, you can create separate Sass files for variables and other elements of your styling and then compile that into a CSS file. This is a very high level concept of what goes on, but the idea is that, in big projects, you can make changes quickly and efficiently. It creates a cleaner, more manageable code. I spent an hour working on my CSS, because we were getting some CSS practice in too and my CSS skills are pretty weak. In that hour, I got about three lines completed and a few mentors stumped until we all realized my mistakes and then (Ta da!) working code. I originally thought that the CSS file was required before Sass files could be created and compiled, but I was mistaken; this was just something we did at Coding & Cocktails to give us some extra CSS practice (my CSS needs CPR) and to show us how a compiled file compares to a CSS stylesheet.

I can definitely see how it can make coding cleaner in the long run. There are some things I’m not quite sure I understand, but that’s what Coding & Cocktails is all about: working it out with women in the same boat. I’m hoping that some of this can be worked into modular development so that SASS files can be used in other programs with some minor changes to reduce the coding time, but I’m not sure if that’s possible…. Granted, a lot of development is using someone else’s code. Precompiling seemed like a lot of work with the additional CSS practice, but I look forward to the how much easier it’ll make coding in the future!



One of our Coding & Cocktails LadyDevs, Tara, will be sharing her perspective on the Coding & Cocktails sessions with us over the next few months.  Here is what she had to say about the March session on version control.

taraVersion control. It’s an easy enough concept to understand: a system of recording changes to a file so that specific changes can be recalled later.  There are several reasons this is important in development, and we used Git to learn how to create our own repositories and pull/push them between our laptops and the cloud. So, let’s Git on with it!

The command line made it’s comeback this month as we worked in Git Bash again. We pulled repositories down from GitHub onto our local machines, made updates,and pushed them back up to the GitHub. It’s surprisingly not as difficult as it sounds. Some of the more complicated concepts are forking and branching. Forking is when you copy someone’s repository to your own project, while branching sometimes involves working on a project with others, being able to make your changes separately from the released version of code and merging it back into the master branch.

Here I owe a big shout out to our mentors! I got lost several times along the way, and our mentors are always right there to help out. This was a quick paced Coding & Cocktails and went right until 9pm, so it was great to have the mentors right there when something didn’t work quite right. Coding & Cocktails makes sure you aren’t ever lost, and I’m very grateful for the work these ladies do to keep us learning!

The big take away I got from this session is the implications to modular development, where teams work on individual aspects of a project and merge it into a solid whole later, and peer review elements. GitHub is very important in both of these regards. Also, if the code doesn’t work for some reason and a prior version is needed, version control makes it easy to go back to the necessary version. All of these are important elements of development. This session gave a big overview of what life in the workplace will be like after graduation, so that’s greatly appreciated.



One of our Coding & Cocktails ladydevs, Tara, will be sharing her perspective on the Coding & Cocktails sessions with us over the next few months.  Here is what she had to say about the February session on the command line.

tara

This month’s Coding & Cocktails tackled the Command Line, or, as I lovingly grew up referring to it, “that place you must never go for fear of turning your computer into a paperweight forever”. That command prompt box terrified me. I was raised in a household where women weren’t allowed to play with computers beyond Microsoft Office and some games because “tech stuff wasn’t for girls”, so this session really challenged the concepts of what I was capable.

My terror was completely unfounded, and this month’s Coding & Cocktails put all those myths about the monster hiding in the computer to rest. I settled in with a stiff drink, because I KNEW I was going to need it… and proceeded to sort through directories and folders; create, move, rename, remove, and manipulate all sorts of files; and do the same things we do every day with mouse clicks and icons from the comfort of a keyboard and a few simple commands. That’s it. No magic. No ruined computer. No calling Geek Squad for help. Just me and a room full of women showing our computers who’s boss, which is rewarding because, sometimes, you kind of feel like the computer has the upper hand on you.

That’s one of the best things about Coding & Cocktails (well, besides the crazy delicious drinks): it doesn’t matter your level of expertise. You get to spend an evening learning how not to be dominated by your technology and learning how best to put it to use FOR you. It’s an empowering feeling, especially in this day and age when we like to attribute intelligence to our machines. Too often, we talk about our computers like they have a mind of their own and won’t do what we want. Coding & Cocktails reminds us that computers aren’t finicky kids throwing tantrums and gives us the tools we need to make them work for us: how to look in the right places, use the right commands and think in a way that the machine “understands.”

My whole way of thinking about how I interact with technology is slowly undergoing a pretty significant paradigm shift: I’m starting to reconsider how I interact with the technology I use on a daily basis, why and how it works like it does, and how to optimize its use for me. How can technology REALLY make me a better person? What does that even mean? These are some pretty hefty questions that are coming out of a night of drinking with the girls over a computer screen and some computer classes, but I’m in the process of reinventing and redefining my life by going into development after years working in healthcare. And I’m not the only one. I know several other women in Coding & Cocktails are experiencing the same transitions themselves. This is important stuff, and it starts with something as basic as learning how to manage the command line in an environment where we feel safe and comfortable to be ourselves. I won’t lie: the alcohol helps too.



What I do: 
Junior Computer Science major at Kansas State University.
What languages do you know?
C -sharp, HTML/CSS
What do you enjoy most about working as a mentor for CoderDojo?
It’s really cool to introduce kids to computer science. It’s a really inviting place for beginners and then also students who a more skilled.
As a computer science major, do you often see women in your classes?
There are some women in my classes but not very often, it’s not very diverse in that respect.
What is your impression of the technology ‘scene’ in Kansas City?
It’s great to have the Google Fiber Space which is awesome in itself. Also the KC Start Up Village is a great resource.
 What is your favorite music to listen to when you’re coding?
Anything that can get my head bopping. So hip-hop or anything like that.


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