• Michele Guido

    It Takes a Village to Make a Programmer

    I want to introduce Michele. She's a former English teacher and she moved from New York to Berlin more than a year ago. She'll share a story about how she passed through the English institute - from English teacher to a web developer, from zero to fully employed person, so meet her (Applause). Hi, everyone, my name is Michele with one "L," if you want find me on Twitter. I'd really appreciate it. It's one of my life's goals to be famous on Twitter. I'll tweet out my slides later, if you're interest in the that. So this is my talk: it takes a village to make a programmer. And as I was introduced, it's going to be a talk in two parts, the first part will be my story, and the second part will be suggestions for you for how you can help out in your own village. To begin my story: I went to school for English teaching, and I unfortunately graduated at the height of the recession in the United States, so I ended up substitute teaching. If you can remember having substitute teachers, it's one of the most demoralizing jobs in the world. It was pretty awful, I was miserable. I realized I would have to move to get a job. I thought, okay, if I have to move far away to get a job, I'm going to move far, far away so I picked up and moved to Berlin. When I got to Berlin, I got a job at a random tour operator where I was an office manager. I knew it was temporary. I had a big decision to make. There were lots of different paths I could take: I could go back to teaching, I could stick with this random job, I could try something different. When I was living in New York City, I had met, for the first time, someone who was a UX designer. And I was interest in the that. I thought maybe I would like to get into UX design. One day at my office job, we got a bill from the programmers that we were employing, and I was shocked at how outrageous the price seemed for something that they had done for us. I had just recently written back and forth with them about this customer feedback form that they made for us. I just thought it was terrible. I had to write back and forth with them so many times with little things to fix to make it better. I was so upset that when I went out after German class that night with my classmates I was ranting and raving to them. I started saying that I could do it better than they could. I should be a programmer, they should be paying me that money. And I didn't really take myself seriously, as one doesn't, at a bar that evening. But, my class mate did, and she e‑mailed me a week later about a front end web development course that was being offered in Berlin, specifically for beginners. It was really expensive. I sent an e‑mail to my broth who had his own information security business, and I said, hey, want to sponsor me? I couldn't afford the class by myself, and this was literally the whole text of the e‑mail that I sent him. He didn't respond, so I wrote a second time, and I said: seriously, will you sponsor me for this course?! And he replied with a brotherly response of, okay, fine, but, take the class and do good and after it's done, show me what you can do! So I said, okay. Halfway through the course, with just knowledge of HTML and CSS, I participated many my first Hackathon. This was where I had my holy shit moment. I was surrounded by these people, the energy was buzzing, everyone was making their teams and planning their ideas. I just couldn't believe that everyone had this powerful skill where they could take whatever this idea was that had just existed inside their own head and make it into something. Right there, with all their tools in front of them that other people could use and interact with. I thought that was amazing. And I really wanted to be able to do everything that those people could do. So, the class ended and I e‑mailed my brother. I gave him some pointers about his web site that I thought he could improve, and he was happy with that. Then I quit my job, as this office manager. I said, thank you, but I finally found what I want to do and I need to leave, and go to do this. So, I quit my job. I had a lot of time on my hands. Soon I heard about this conference called eurucamp, and a couple of girls I knew had gotten tickets through Rails Girls. I said, hey, a tech conference, that sounds really cool! I've never been to one of those, I should go. There were no more free tickets left. They said to follow the main Twitter account, maybe someone will sell theirs for cheap because they can't go. I saw a tweet by this guy named Bruno: I have a ticket, I can't go, give me a good reason why it should be yours. So it tweeted at him. Hey, I just quit my job, I'm super passionate, give me your ticket. I wasn't sure I was going to get it or not. But, I did. However, Bruno said he had three stipulation. You can have my ticket, he said, but you have to do three things: Number one, you have to have fun, and you have to have a lot of fun. I said okay, that I can do. Number two, you have to find my friend Justine, she's a speaker there, give her a hug. She's here today, everyone should find her and give her a hug. I said, okay, I can do that. Number three, I don't care what it is, what you do, give back to the community in some way. And this is what I'm trying to do today. I'm trying to give back. Inspiring you to be people like Bruno. He helped me the way so many people helped me. I got to attend the conference last year. Conferences are so much more than attending talks, I had so many experiences there that I never could have imagined that would affect me so profoundly. I also participated in the the Rails Girls workshop, which I think was awesome. However, I realized then that I did not want to start by learning Rails. I felt like it was too much magic happening. I wanted to get into the nitty‑gritty and understand what I was doing. So I decided I would start with learning Ruby by itself. Some of the girls I attended with went on to become my friends. I met so many people here that I'm still in touch with, that was awesome. I was exposed to lightening talks for the first time. That's where I first had the idea that I wanted to become a speaker. I thought, hey, a five minute talk, I can do that. And finally, the most amazing thing, was, at the Rails Girls workshop there was a woman speaking. Her name is Floor, she was speaking about how she changed careers in one year and I'm sure her talk was excellent but I don't remember a single thing about it. All I remember is the introduction of hers, and I was sitting this with my arms crossed thinking to myself: Pffftt, I'm going to do it better, I'm going to do it faster. I've talked to her since then. She's okay with that, her whole point of the talk was to inspire people to do the same thing, so it had the right effect. So eurucamp ended, the magic was not going on for very long, because I had five days of being unemployed where I was super productive. Five days. And after that, everything went downhill. (Laughing) I don't know if you've ever been unemployed for an extremely extended amount of time, but it's not very easy to stay motivated. To stay disciplined, to get up and do the things that you need to do. It's much easier if you have a place to go and someone to help you. I was lucky to have a friend who quit at the same time I did. He was a former programmer who wanted to learn to teach, and I was a former teacher who wanted to learn to program. He really became a mentor to me, which I think is one of the most amazing things you do for someone, in my field. He started hanging out with me, we pair programmed, he wrote homework assignments for me. If I didn't understand a certain concept, he would whip me up the gist and share it with me on the spot. It was really incredible, the way that he was able to use his knowledge to share with me, to help me get started in the this. But, I couldn't do it with just Franz alone. So luckily I found out Open Tech School was about to start a program called Hackership. It's based sort of on the HackerSchool in New York, if you're familiar with that. Basically it's a program where you're learning full time alongside other learners, and you not only with other learners, but there are coaches provided for you, experts. At the end of every week we also had to do a presentation, sharing what we had worked on, so that was really great to get public speaking experience. While I was there, I was writing a web application from scratch, with no frameworks or libraries at all. So I was really proud of the work that I did there. Especially a user authentication system where I only used a library for Crypto stuff, which I thought was really cool. So this is a really great program. Now, just to backtrack and give you a little bit of a sense of time for how long all of this stuff was happening. January the second 2013 is when I wrote my very first hello world at this front end web development course. This year, January 21st, so 365 days, I received not one, but two junior web developer job offers in Berlin. And I accepted one at a company called Sociomantic. We do programmatic advertising, unfortunately we don't do any Ruby, so I had to give up some of my Ruby. We do lots of Javascript stuff and we're always hiring, we're expanding, and it's a really great company. They have this really great attitude of if it doesn't exist and it's not good enough, build it yourself. I really like that. I had to wait a few weeks to get my Visa approved and so, in that time, I decided to start applying to speak at conferences. Bruno, the man who gave me his ticket to eurucamp last year, is organizer of Ruby Conf Uruguay. I got accepted to speak in Uraguary in May, but something happens when you're unemployed for 7 months, um, you run out of money. So, I once again had to rely on the community. At the urging of the conference organizers, I set up a kickstarter and within twelve hours I had enough money to have my trip entirely funded to go speak at this conference to give this talk that I'm giving right now. And it was amazing, I'm so thankful to the community for this. It was mostly entire strangers, people I had never met before. Who really knew nothing about me but my story. I have to say thank you to these people. One of the rewards was mentioning them in the my talk, so thank you to Bruno. Denis. Daniel, Sven, and a dozen other people that were so generous to me. The community has been so incredible, so now I'm going to urge you to help in your own village. I'm going to give you a list of options based on what kind of resources you have available, and I think there should be something for everybody here. Maybe you have a little bit of time ... the simplest thing you can do is given encouragement to people who you know who are changing careers or just getting started. There were so many days when I felt like the most stupid person on the planet. When some concept just would not click in my head, and I was like oh my God, what were you thinking, you can never do this, you're never going to find a job, who's going to hire you? I would just get myself really down. Inevitably, when you're living in an international city, you meet so many people... I'd meet someone and they'd be like, oh, hey, what are you doing in Berlin? And I'd be like oh, I'm learning to program, changing careers. And they'd be like what, no way, that's so cool, you just change careers? I'd be like, oh, yeah, wait, it is kind of cool what I'm doing, maybe I am following my dreams! So just something as simple as that can be really really beneficial to somebody who might be really down on themselves. Something else you do with just time, is expose your passions. I want you to take to Twitter, start a Blog, do whatever you can to start talking about the things that you're interested in. I know that a lot of you have something that you think is really obscure and specific that nobody else interested in this but you. But you never know who else is of thinking about the same things as you if you don't open yourself up to that. And especially if you start thinking about people who might be beginners and who might want an introduction to something, if you can make yourself available, it can be a really wonderful thing. Maybe if you have a little bit of time or a lot of time, there's a reason for this ... quality beginner friendly resources. If you have a little bit of time, you can share the ones that already exist and that are good. If you have a lot of time, you can write them yourself. The reason that this is so important is because you know that there's such a wealth of resources out there and they are not created equal. It can be really hard to know where to start, and to know what's good and what's not if you don't have somebody helping you out. So this can be really important thing for people just getting started. Maybe you don't have time, but you have money. Be a sponsor. Somebody can have so many excuses for not starting something new, if you can really just take away this last excuse of that they can't afford it, sometimes you can talk them out of everything else. It can be really hard to talk someone out of not being able to afford something, money doesn't just come from nowhere. So, that could be sponsoring someone for a course, getting them a subscription to something like team tree house or lynda.com. One of those more quality resources. You can also send someone to a conference. As I said before, conferences are so much more than you can imagine from just reading the description of it. It's networking, it's workshops, it's expanding your mind, it's meeting people. It can really be a wonderful thing. If you have a lot of time, become a mentor. I can't say this enough: This is *the* most influential and important thing that you do for anybody that's starting out in any career. And there are lots of different ways that you can do this. It does haven't to mean a huge commitment, it can be as much as you're willing to give. You can meet with someone for lunch once a month, once a week... Whatever you're able to commit to. You could pair program with them, you could simply e‑mail advice. In my time over the last few months I learned about this program called flash mentoring, it's a distributive mentoring movement, You add the mentoring text to your personal web site ... go to mentoring. It's where they'll give you a suggestion for what you can write to say, hey, I'm open to being a mentor, you can get in touch with me. So, I think it's a really wonderful way to get started if you're not sure where to get started with mentoring. Maybe you have space and time. Then we need you to create safe spaces. Safe spaces can mean a lot of things, it can mean a study group, it can mean a meet up, it can mean a Hackathon. I want to take a moment to talk about women only spaces or any kind of queer only space or whatever only space ‑‑ a lot of people seem to think that these are exclusive. As in, oh, that's not fair, it's only for these people. But the idea is that they are actually inclusive, and they include people who might have otherwise been excluded. Whether they would have felt uncomfortable or felt like it wasn't for them. This something that can be really important, and maybe some day we won't need spaces like that. Maybe the whole world will get along and nobody will have problems with differences or anything, but that day is not today, unfortunately. Yeah, so safe spaces, why are they so important? it's important because that's where you challenge yourself and take risks and you learn what you're capable of. If you don't have somewhere to experiment safely, you'll never learn, you'll never reach your full potential. Finally, if you have courage, I urge you to tell your story. Especially if you have a story that doesn't fit the mold of the, you know, kid who started programming when he was first able to talk and has done it his entire life. It's really important. There's this quote from this documentary called 'Miss Representation': you cannot be what you cannot see. It's important to have a role model, it does haven't to be a carbon copy of yourself. You can be inspired by people what are not like you, there are always exceptions. It feels helpful if you find something you have in common to really help yourself believe. What now? I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the hard work I put in, I think that's important. Of course I'm so grateful to all of the people that helped me along the way. But it wouldn't have been possible without the hard work I had to put in myself as well. And I have a quote for you. There's so much benefit to the person who contributes to others that I often think that there's no more selfish act than a generous act. That means that whatever you give back to your community, to help someone else out, you're not just helping them, you're helping yourself even more than you're helping them. It's really rewarding. I've spoken with Franz, my mentor and friend about this, and it's just really rewarding to feel like you're making a difference for other people. Tal Ben‑Shahar is a positive psychologist, he's a really smart guy. So, now, I would like you to return to your villages and make some programmers! I have some resources for you. I will tweet this out, it's just some beginner resources that I think are good, the mentoring, the site about how to diversify in your company. Because that's a question that's come up beforeB And these are a bunch of groups that are reaching out to specifically women and girls to get them into coding. And yeah ... so ... thank you! (Applause) If you have any questions, I'll take them I'll also be happy to take them outside, no matter how socially inept I might seem.

    About Michele Guido

    Michele is a former English Language Arts teacher from Long Island, New York who moved to Berlin in August '12. Shortly after her move, she discovered her true calling in coding. She began her first Junior Web Developer position earlier this year at Sociomantic Labs in Berlin. With her talk she wants to make this industry a better place for everyone and she hopes that her talk will inspire a significant amount of people to make a difference in their own communities. Outside of coding, her passions include rock climbing, comedy, reading, writing, and pizza.

    This talk

    This is the story of how I changed careers in less than a year, from zero to fully employed web developer. I worked hard, but I was able to flourish and succeed because of the help I received from individuals and organizations throughout my extended network. This talk is meant to inspire you with concrete ways you can help out in your own community to welcome newcomers and career-changers. As Tal Ben-Shahar said, There's so much benefit to the person who contributes to others that I often think that there is no more selfish act than a generous act, so why not come to this talk for your own good?