Expanding and supporting Code First: Girls in Manchester

Posted by

Sam Phillips

on March 21, 2017

Code First Girls in Manchester

Last night we celebrated the successful completion of Manchester’s new Code First: Girls General course.

In 8 weeks, we’ve helped a group of twelve women grow their skills in technology. Some of them had done some small bits before, and some were total beginners. Last night all of them presented responsive websites they’d built and deployed to GitHub pages.

Most Code First: Girls courses are run at universities, which naturally restricts them to current students of that university. Previously, only London has “general” courses that allow women who fit a much wider set of criteria to partake. Not any more! Manchester now has its own general course.

I’ve been working actively on diversity in tech for the past three years — in addition to working around the business at eBay and Shutl on improving hiring and retention practices, I also volunteered almost every week on education programmes. These included Women Who Code and RailsGirls and I was also a coach, host and syllabus author for codebar, which is a fantastic not-for-profit organisation that runs weekly workshops for underrepresented groups in technology — and not just women.

When I moved back to Manchester I was keen to keep up this involvement and volunteered at the Code First: Girls course at the University of Manchester (where I studied — very nostalgic!) ran by Rob Paskin, and when I was asked to lead the Manchester’s new general course, Resident.ly supported me by giving me time to develop the syllabus, put together materials and help students debug.

Congratulations to all our students and thank you to Alina, Alison, Anna and Joe for instructing. Thanks also to ThoughtWorks North for keeping us fed and watered every week — it’s hard to learn when you’re hungry :)

If you’re interested in attending the next Manchester General Beginners course, you can register your interest now. It starts in October. We look forward to seeing you there!

Other things we’re doing to build a diverse team

In addition to helping build long-term solutions to the lack of diversity (women, LGBTQ, underrepresented ethnic groups), we’re taking a number of shorter-term steps to help us build a diverse technology and product team:

  • Running an open recruitment process — we’re happy to receive emails from people who’d love to work with us, but usually we’ll only engage further if we open a job up more generally. In general, men are more likely to send these “on the off-chance” emails when they don’t meet the criteria for publicly-advertised job openings
  • Removing any male-specific language from our job ads and reducing the number of bullet pointed requirements
  • Being flexible around candidates’ technical experience — although we’re primarily a ruby shop, we’re happy to talk to people from a broad range of technology ecosystems
  • Making reasonable adjustments as required to our interview process as required by candidate needs
  • Keeping our interview process lightweight so it doesn’t require significant financial or time commitment in evenings/weekends (we won’t normally do a take-home technical test, for example)
  • No whiteboard coding in interviews
  • Providing flexible working arrangements to accommodate people with caring responsibilities — simple things like keeping everything online means it’s easy to work from home at the last minute if you need

I also take time to give and receive feedback to/from our team members around any behaviours we see that aren’t conducive to an inclusive environment. These micro-aggressions and thoughtless assumptions are seldom malicious but can have a large, detrimental impact. By setting up a culture of expecting the best from one another and giving constructive feedback, I hope that we can create a fantastic, respectful environment where everyone can do their best work.