Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

2008 and My First Foray into Coding

When I was in 11th grade, in 2008, I took a programming class where we were taught how to code programs in Visual Basic.

This Visual Basic class was my favourite class in high school, aside from Writer’s Craft. Our weekly assignments were always fun. My favourite assignment was the slot machine game we built near the end of the semester (something similar to this).

But my love for that class was not inherent or immediate. Quite the opposite, actually.

The first week of the course had nothing to do with coding at the computer, but everything to do with solving MENSA-style logic problems.

I didn’t pass any of my assignments that week, and by the end of it I was having a teary-eyed breakdown in front of my teacher, listing every excuse under the sun for why I should just drop the course. Among those reasons was that I didn’t feel smart enough.

My programming teacher, Ms. Graham, was a fierce lady. When I had this breakdown in her classroom after school one day, she refused to accept my defeat. She told me that I just needed to keep trying and to look at things in a different way. That learning to program didn’t have to do with how smart I was, but my ability to look at the world differently than I was used to.

MySpace was hugely popular in 2008 and I was obsessed with it. I loved not only its social value, but also the fact that I could customise the layout and style of my page. My girl friends and I used to spend hours hacking pre-written HTML codes for our profile pages until they were exactly how we wanted them to be. My hands never learned how to draw like an artist, but dang could I hack a MySpace profile to match my aesthetic.

It wasn’t until today that I realized this:

The two most important memories I have about coding are directly linked to some of the most important ladies in my life.

Near the end of 2016, while on a leave of absence from a Masters degree in Communication Science, I decided to take a front-end development course. It felt nice to be in an environment where I already felt ahead of the game. I understood the basics of HTML from my MySpace days, and grasping the logic of JavaScript wasn’t as difficult (or traumatic) as my first week in that Visual Basic class. It was as though I was back in my element, a feeling I had lost completely after a really hard year following treatment and recovery from a cancer diagnosis.

It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that a big part of the reason that I feel so drawn to the coding community after an 8 year hiatus from anything programming related are the ladies who inspired me in 2008, and all the ladies I’ve met since I started coding again in 2016.

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