Laura Wadden – We can’t let all the google-ites take us over

Rails Girls Berlin “Wall of Fame”

This a series of interviews with women, that have successfully made their way into coding.
Check out their stories, get inspired!


 

Meet Laura who grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago in the US and studied Political Science at university. After moving to Berlin in 2012 she decided to learn to code.

 

I needed an environment of welcoming people and people who were also trying to learn to program. My first workshop was MAGIC!!!

Hi Laura , can you tell us a bit about yourself and your educational background.
I grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago in the US and studied Political Science at university. I also took a lot of extra courses. l ike math and computer science classes (for fun!).
How did you get to know about Rails Girls Berlin?
I moved to Berlin in September 2012 and decided to learn to code. When I started looking for ways to do that, I saw that the Berlin Rails Girls community was really strong and applied for my first workshop.
Why did you join the workshop and what was your impression of it afterwards?
I joined because it felt like the way I wanted to meet people in this community. A focus on women, a welcoming atmosphere, fun people. I needed an environment of welcoming people and people who were also trying to learn to program. My first workshop was MAGIC!!! I was inspired after hearing women speak about their experiences. I also met most of the people I am still friends with and inspired by today.
Had you any previous programming experiemces before?
Yes, HTML and CSS. I also knew basic computer logic, such as loops and other logic operators. At university I took computer science logic classes pass/fail for fun.
How did you continue learning?
After my first beginners workshop I was immediately accepted into Rails Girls Summer of Code. I worked everyday with my pair and after that did Hackership through Open Tech School and other smaller projects (with varying success rates). I also learned a lot while applying for different jobs – I had to do a lot of code challenges and I learned through those as well.
What was the biggest obstacle during your learning process?
Coding everyday. I got tired of it sometimes, but I had to keep doing a little bit everyday. It sounds cliche to say, but it was the hardest to keep doing little stuff even when I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.
When and how did you decide to change your profession?
Long story!!! I used to work at a non-profit and saw how helpful it might be to have some technical skills. Even though I lived in the heart of technology (San Francisco) I didn’t see a lot of people around me with those skills. I wanted more people in my community to have badass tech skills. We can’t let all the google-ites take us over! So I decided to learn to code so that I could be one of the people building stuff.
Regarding my profession, I still don’t want to completely change it… I worked at a non-profit working with queer and transgender youth activists, then I was a swim teacher, then a blog editor for a non-profit. I love doing all of these things. Eventually my goal is to merge my new coding skills with my non-profit experience. The two go hand-inhand especially as technology is shaping more and more parts of society.

Where you afraid of that step? If so, how do you think about it in retrospective? Was there a reason to be afraid?
I was totally afraid and I had no idea how I would do it. But with this kind of profession there are many jobs in this area so the risk is lower.
What is your advice to women who want to learn coding?
Keep being your badass self and don’t let them assimilate you. Keep helping other women and creating friendships and professional relationships with other women. Include people in your network who are different than you. If we want to change any of these tech cultures, we have to keep doing things in our own way.

Your extra question: What was the coolest project you ever worked on?
I LOVED writing my own programming language with Nicole Felhösi. You can see the github here: https://github.com/queenfrankie/lani.

We thank Laura for helping us to inspire more women to get into coding and wish her happy coding. If you want to tell your own story, please get in touch with us.