An update on our Brisbane Plus cohort, from Community Facilitator Caitlin

At four months into our Brisbane Plus 2021 program, it’s incredible to see how far the cohort has come since day one when we opened Visual Studio Code for the first time. Since then, a group of lovely mentors from the local tech community have guided our students through the trials and triumphs of learning to code. Even though many of the women participating in the program have to also balance work or family commitments, each of them has continued to impress with their dedication to studying and practising these new skills. Their positive, curious mindsets are what has made this such a successful cohort so far, along with the passion of our mentoring team who have gone above and beyond to support them.

Due to the ever-changing COVID situation, delivering our program this year has been an interesting road: we have often had to switch between remote and in-person classes at the drop of a hat. However, despite this challenge, both students and mentors have been quick at adapting to the restrictions. While we are happily back to in-person now, we are still proud of how we managed to hold such fun, interactive Zoom sessions when online learning was required. The positive, collaborative vibes in the mentor breakout rooms were awesome, as was the ability to have a “Panic Room” where individual students could seek help from the lead mentor with things like putting out Git fires or solving tricky installation issues. This experience has led us to innovate and improve in ways that will be useful for future programs.

Another key difference in our program this year has been the introduction of mentor “office hours”: one-on-one sessions designed to be booked by students on an as-needed basis, especially for students who have found themselves struggling with in-class content or project work and need a little extra help getting up to speed. For students who have work or family commitments outside of the program, we are delighted that the office hours have helped them to better balance their studies and enhance their learning experience.

For me, as Community Facilitator, the true highlight of the program has been the spirit of camaraderie amongst our cohort: it is heart-warming to watch women supporting each other in class and sharing advice, resources and coding solutions over Slack. This feeling of connectedness and community has only grown since we started doing our Inspiring Women in Technology lightning talks each Saturday. We have listened to groups talk about Ada Lovelace, Dr Fei-Fei Li, Melanie Perkins (Canva co-founder), and Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code. As women entering or already in the tech industry, it has been valuable hearing lessons from such role models: “stick with tech even when you’re feeling like you’re alone or not qualified” and “be brave, not perfect.” I know I appreciated the reminder!

Currently, the Brisbane Plus students are deep into building their own crowdfunding apps that they will add to the HTML/CSS portfolio sites they made back in the first module. They finished the backend of the crowdfunding apps last month during the Django/Django Rest Framework (DRF) modules led by the wonderful Shauna McCormack (Hot Doc); now Lachlan Young (Tanda) is taking the class through React, which they’ll be using to develop the frontend. Motivation is high, since connecting these two pieces is where the full-stack magic happens!

Next month, on November 6, we will be hosting our keenly anticipated Masterclass Day – a special event where students can listen to talks and workshops from local experts in different technologies like Cloud, Accessibility, UX Design, and Machine Learning (speakers to be announced soon). It will be a chance for students to explore areas of interest that they might not have been exposed to much yet and perhaps gain insight into what direction they might like to take their careers after graduating from the program.

Indeed, as the program nears its December finish, our students are already thinking about life beyond – now that they are equipped with these new technical skills. Over the past couple of weeks, the students have been having coffee catch-ups with representatives from our partner, BHP, to discuss junior developer opportunities within BHP’s Digital Factory. It’s exciting, contemplating all the possibilities that will be opening up for them!

If you’re interested in following the journey of the cohort, follow She Codes Australia on LinkedIn to see what they are up to each week. If you are interested in meeting the cohort or finding out more about opportunities in Brisbane email holly@spacecubed.com for an exclusive invitation to the Brisbane Showcase event in December.

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