Interview by Alice Mrongovius
You are all based in Berlin, but from all over, how did you first meet?
The group initially came together after seeing how successful Rails Girls Berlin was, wanting to create a long-term movement. After a few meetings, we decided to work on expanding the concept to workshops for various programming languages, without excluding male-identified people.
Where did the inspiration come from to start OpenTechSchool?
Rails Girls Berlin programming is often viewed as something inaccessible without many years of university, which is a misconception we want to break. Providing opportunities to adults to try coding by working with their peers was an idea that spoke to everyone. We really liked the idea of creating a safe learning environment where volunteer coaches would work with small groups.
What is the biggest misconception about working with developers?
In this context, the unfortunate stereotype of the antisocial, snobby geek is pretty fitting. The truth is that all of our volunteer coaches are friendly, patient, kind teachers, with a genuine enthusiasm for sharing their knowledge and seeing others experience those wonderful “I get it!” moments.
What can people expect when they come to OTS?
First and foremost, you can expect that you will meet people who are very excited to help you learn. We strive to create an environment where no one feel shy asking any question, as well as hope to empower our learners by not only showing them the ropes, but providing direction for them to continue learning on their own. Working in small groups on practical assignments is the best way, we feel, to provide workshop participants with a strong fundamental understanding of what they’re learning, as well as plenty of “Aha!” moments. We want to motivate everyone, regardless of their skill level, to try learning/coaching, and hopefully get them hooked on it.
What advice would you give for women who are interested in developing programming skills or career?
Start or join a local initiative, be it a meetup, user group, workshop or talk night. Get the tools to know how things work, experiment with programming, and learn how to sketch and prototype your ideas. Most importantly, make friends and find mentors. Work with your community to find ways to disband the boys’ club ruling tech at the moment, an environment many of our male-identified feminist friends find disturbing as well. You have more comrades than you know! Why not organize an OTS chapter in your city?
And… catch up with them at OTSCamp, Campus Party. They will be hosting workshops on various technologies, if you would like to coach any of them, sign up here: http://bit.ly/OTSCamp
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