Developing an app can be very a challenging task for anybody who is trying it for the first time, but with a lot of dedication, patience and focus, it can be very enriching and empowering.
This was the experience of 16 young women over the age of 18, who took part in the Intel Girl Rising two-day mobile app development workshop at JoziHub from December 4th -5th . The aim of the workshop was to encourage each of these young women to pursue careers in tech and further improve their skills and knowledge.
Even for those with a bit of experience in coding, there was a lot to learn and take in from the various guest speakers consisting of women working in tech who had stories to tell and most importantly, the practical side of things where they were taught to develop simple apps using Scratch and Android App Inventor.
As I sat and watched the group learning everything step-by-step, I felt a sense of admiration for them. Much as I tried to focus and follow everything, I just couldn’t grasp it. They on the other hand, hardly needed much help as they fixed their eyes and attention solely on the task at hand. I suppose one had have the same eagerness to learn and try something new as they did for it to sink in.
For Desree Mampane, the workshop was an opportunity to improve her skills. She works as a game and website developer at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria and wants to add app development as a credential that will help her move up in her line of work.
“The main reason for me being here is that I want to start developing my own mobile apps, but first I want to create an app that will contain and list all the games I have worked on so far. Over the past two days, I’ve learned to use Scratch and Android App Inventor. I had never used either of the two must and I must say, they are very cool apps and I had fun with them.”
“I think App Inventor is amazing because all you have to do is drag and drop text boxes to build your app, which I found to be much easier than what I’m currently doing at work. So I’ll use this experience and incorporate it into my own work.”
18-year-old Kelebogile Chiloane just completed her matric and has her sights set on studying and pursuing a career in tech. For her, the workshop was about motivation and getting a glimpse into what she will be venturing into.
“I came here to see what women in tech do and what tech can do for me personally and professionally. I want to explore the career opportunities in this industry as well since I just completed my matric and have applied for a B.Com in Information Systems. So far the experience has been great, I’ve never developed any app before or used apps such as Scratch and App Inventor, so for me it’s a completely new learning experience. At first it seemed very difficult, especially if you’re not familiar with developing, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes fun.”
On whether she herself would go into app development, Kelobogile says:
“As far as that goes, I haven’t really considered it yet but maybe I will in the future once I’ve really gotten the hang of this and have thought of solutions that will help people.”
Developer and blogger, Candice Mesk, assisted by Lorenzo Rheinicke, was tasked with being the workshop conductor and teaching the girls throughout the workshop.
She shares her thoughts on initiatives such as the Intel Girl Rising App Workshop and what she hopes the young women at the workshop took away from the experience.
“We’re here at this workshop to make a difference. I think it’s important that we start to see women entering different IT fields. The industry is very male-dominated at the moment and if continues that way, then women won’t be encouraged to be a part of it. Why would women want to go and work for a bunch of “dudes”? I want to work with women I can relate to and have fun at the office. If I have to sit in a room filled with men, that doesn’t sound exciting to me at all. We have to start changing that and if we have more women in IT, it encourages the younger girls to pursue it as an option.”
“In terms of what we hope the outcomes will be, I think every woman here has her own reason and outcome they want. I just hope the girls realise that it isn’t as scary and difficult as everybody thinks it is, it’s something we can all do. What’s really important for me today is that I want to show people that if you want to learn something new, the internet is there and all the information you need is available. You don’t need to study for 3 years to become a developer. There are free tools on Wikipedia, YouTube and so on.”
A two-day app workshop can only just scrape the surface in the quest to empower girls and women to pursue careers in tech, but it’s small initiatives such as these that are the catalysts for other initiatives to follow and can have a big impact on the lives they touch.
At the end of a long day, the one thing all the women took away can be summed up in these four words: “I can do it!”