CoderGirl & A Community Supporting Women in Tech

It’s February, so let’s spread the love for CoderGirl and our community partners! 

xoxo, CoderGirl

What started out as an informal meetup by women with the intention to ignite conversation, empower and support one another and build and refine computer programming skills in 2014, has since transformed into a robust education and job placement program with a set curriculum, learning standards and a clear pipeline into apprenticeships and tech careers. However, the foundation in which the program was built, remains the same: make space, inspire, empower, support and code girl, code! 

The transformed program begins with a 24-week or 45-week specialized track designed to equip CoderGirls with technical and job-readiness skills, leading up to our apprenticeship job placement program. CoderGirl provides a space for women of all skill levels to learn to code in a supportive community of like-minded individuals. With professional mentors from companies who’ve hired CoderGirl grads like Mastercard, Maritz, Centene, Charter Spectrum, and World Wide Technology, CoderGirls get the training and support they need to launch a successful career in technology.

The Work

Each week, the women in CoderGirl commit 3 hours for in-class instruction (5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday evenings) and 10-15 hours of work on assignments, online lectures, reading lesson materials and independent project development outside of class. Depending on indicated preference in their applications, women participating in the CoderGirl Program are assigned to one of the 8 skills tracks representing skill areas most in-demand by local companies when hiring entry-level tech talent.

These 8 skills tracks are divided into 24- and 45-week courses: 

  • SQL Server & Databases (24 weeks)
  • Salesforce (24 weeks)
  • Data Analysis (24 weeks)
  • User Experience / UX (24 weeks)
  • Data Science (24 weeks)
  • Java (45 weeks)
  • C# / .NET (45 weeks)
  • Front-End Web Development (45 weeks)

It really does take a village. 

We wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of our wonderful network of alumni, mentors, and community partners.

Most significant to achieving this mission, is our partnership with Mastercard, through their generous support we are able to continue to keep CoderGirl free and accessible to students. They have also hired a significant number of LaunchCode graduates, specifically CoderGirls, and their employees give their time by volunteering at job readiness events and serving as Mentors and Teaching Assistants.

“Mastercard believes in doing well by doing good,” says Deann Donohue, Community Relations Director. “We are especially committed to the communities where we work and live. At Mastercard, we are committed to moving the needle in technology workforce needs and our partnership with LaunchCode and the CoderGirl program builds on that commitment by connecting us with skilled, new tech talent which leads to better engagement, innovation and productivity within our organization.”

Mastercard is not only seeking unique ways to find driven and qualified tech talent, they are also committed to ensuring the technology sector is diverse and inclusive to all. 

Carolyn Peters, Software Development Engineer with Mastercard and LaunchCode graduate, describes her LaunchCode journey as nothing short of challenging, but ultimately the path she needed to take to launch her career in technology. “There were times I wanted to quit, but the encouragement of my classmates really helped me push through.”

Mastercard isn’t just a job to her either, it is a workplace that embodies her core values.  “I love that my company values diversity and inclusion. When I am at work, I tend to forget about the gender gap in tech, which is a good thing, I never feel out of place in meetings or like I don’t belong.”

Additionally, the funding we receive from American Family Dreams Foundation provides additional support to the program which has also made it possible to grow and expand the CoderGirl program into the specific skill tracks we see today, ultimately enabling our students to be trained in high demand computer programming languages and skills. 

“American Family Insurance strongly believes in creating opportunities for individuals and communities to thrive,” said Noah Salata, American Family Dreams Foundation Community Investment Consultant. “Our partnership with LaunchCode advances meaningful growth in our communities while helping others achieve a greater measure of prosperity.  The CoderGirl program exemplifies this approach through increasing diversity and engagement of women who are seeking opportunities in the tech industry. American Family Insurance is proud to partner with and support LaunchCode’s CoderGirl program as they help individuals on a path to self-sustainability.”

Sharon Reid, CoderGirl graduate, exemplifies the nontraditional tech talent that CoderGirl aims to serve. After a difficult divorce, Reid was looking for a more financially stable and challenging career and stumbled upon the CoderGirl program. After completing the SQL skills track, she was placed into a full-time position as a database administrator - not only was she able to launch a stable career in tech, but she found a supportive community of women. Her CoderGirl journey hasn't ended either, she now serves as the lead mentor in helping other women secure careers in tech. 

“CoderGirl changed my life,” said Reid. “I wanted to give back and help others have similar opportunities. Many women have non-traditional paths to a tech career, which can be quite a challenging journey. I am honored and excited to help bridge that gap so that companies can focus on aptitude and skills.” 

CoderGirl isn’t just a program for students, it is also a space for women with seasoned tech careers, to give back and give seats to more women at the hypothetical table. For Valerie Houseman, a CoderGirl Mentor, it was a challenging experience at first in that it put her out of her comfort zone by having to come up with answers and solutions for students on the spot, but most importantly, a rewarding experience in being able to have a front-row seat for seeing students master the material and move on to more complex projects. 

She also enjoyed being around a nontraditional mix of growing tech talent where ideas can cross-pollinate. “The cohort was a mix of young twenty-somethings, mothers returning to work, math and tech teachers eager to make an impact on their classrooms, cat rescuers and trucking operators, space geeks and soap makers - all working together and sharing in their vulnerabilities of learning and the triumph of finally getting it.”

Jessi Wilcox, CoderGirl program manager, also has a unique perspective in that she has been able to see firsthand the organic growth and development of the program in which she describes as a reflection of it's goal to broaden participation from underrepresented groups. 

“Moving beyond a pipeline for tech talent, CoderGirl encourages personal agency over an individual's pathway to tech. And as the program continues to grow, we're building an ecosystem. With the January 2020 cohort, CoderGirl was able to launch our newest track offering, Salesforce! This effort was possible with the lead from CoderGirl graduate and supporter, Emily Gries and Laura Malley. As CoderGirl graduates more students and employers hire more CoderGirls, the program, consequently, is able to improve and expand on the opportunities, networks, and experiences available to students.”

The philanthropic support of Mastercard, American Family Dreams Foundation, other funding partners (like Boeing, Maritz, US Bank, Enterprise Holdings, Gateway to Innovation, and Trio Foundation), alumni, company partners, and community volunteers has enabled the continued growth, expansion and impact of CoderGirl within the St. Louis community. 

While CoderGirl has undergone recent growth and evolution, the mission to change the traditional face of tech remains the same – we welcome everyone of marginalized genders into CoderGirl's supportive learning community. 

Applications for Summer 2020 CoderGirl cohort open May 16! Learn more here!