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LLC took off with coding workshops and networking events and is now in 22 cities with more than... see more
Source: Times Colonist
Author: Sarah Petrescu
Photographer: Trevor Ball
Co-ordinating a meeting with three women in different places — a downtown Victoria office, Seattle hotel room and Fairfield living room — is easy when at least two of them are technology buffs. “Let’s meet on Zoom. It’s kind of like Google hangouts, but better,” Erin Athene said of the web-based video conferencing service.
Athene and Christina Seargeant are co-leads of the Victoria chapter of Ladies Learning Code, a national non-profit launched in 2011 by a group of women in Toronto who felt isolated trying to learn computer programming, or coding.
The organization took off with coding workshops and networking events and is now in 22 cities with more than 25,000 participants and a branch for girls.
“I found out about Ladies Learning Code and asked if I could launch it in Victoria. I definitely saw a need,” said Athene, who moved from Seattle in 2013.
She had co-founded the software company Topaz Bridge Corp. and “did everything but the technical stuff,” she said.
“I realized there was a lack of power there and how much more affective I could’ve been with more knowledge on the technical side.”
Athene said being the only woman on an executive team also led her to launch Ladies Learning Code. The chapter got its start at the 2013 VIATEC Discover Tectoria showcase, where Athene set up a booth. More than 50 women signed up.
“It definitely piqued my interest,” said Seargeant from her office in Bastion Square at Workday, a finance and human resources software company.
She said many companies want to support women in feeling comfortable to enter the technology world. “And there’s a war for talent with not a huge pool of people to hire from. So they support building this up on a grassroots level,” Seargeant said.
The two teamed up to plan the group’s first HTML/CSS coding workshop and spread the word about the need for mentorship and skills for local women in the tech world. They needed $1,000 to hold the event and turned to the crowd-sourcing tool Tilt to fundraise.
“We started sharing the link on Facebook and within an hour Dan Gunn [the head of VIATEC] offered to match up to $5,000,” Seargeant said. They raised $11,000 and sold-out the event with more than 100 people attending and 50 more on a wait-list.
The turnout was diverse and included tech newbies, those already working in the tech field wanting to expand their skills, and senior developers wanting to mentor others.
In the three years since, the Victoria chapter of Ladies Learning Code has held more than 20 workshops on everything from building a website to WordPress and gaming. It has 600 members and holds events every month or so. This summer, Girls Learning Code was launched with a camp at St. Margaret’s School, and Athene said the next project will target kids and teachers who want to learn.
“Our goal is not that everyone codes for a living. Our No. 1 priority is to be that first stepping stone. We believe in digital literacy,” said Athene, a managing partner of PurposeSocial, a web development company that commits to having a technical team made up of at least half women and minorities. “I’m a lot more comfortable now in my work, understanding the landscape and what back-end and front-end development do,” she said.
Ryan Stratton has volunteered as a mentor for Ladies Learning Code since the first Victoria event.
“There certainly is a gender gap. When you look at the traditional tech office, it’s about 80 per cent [men] — including ours,” said Stratton, founder of Craftt, a software management company for craft brewers.
“When you build products for men and women you want your team to reflect that,” he said, also noting there are more jobs than technical talent in Victoria.
“For me, [mentoring] is the satisfaction of increasing digital literacy, but also investing in future employees and the community,” Stratton said.
Janni Aragon, a University of Victoria political science professor and the interim technology and society director, said the diversity problem in the tech world is well-recognized and needs to change.
“It’s not just about gender, but racial and ethnic diversity as well,” she said. Aragon has attended most of the Ladies Learning Code events in Victoria.
“At every one, a woman mentor gets up and says, ‘I’m the only woman on my team,’ and that’s why they are there,” she said.
While many computer science programs are still dominated by men, Aragon said she’s seeing an increase in women from other faculties such as fine arts and social sciences pursue technology skills.
“They are good sectors with good pay,” she said, adding students, usually women, in technology and society course say they want to be the change. “They want to be trailblazers and get out into these fields,” she said.
Victoria high school students will gain some real-world experience in video game development see more
Victoria students in Grades 11 and 12 to spend a week or two at local companies
Victoria, BC - February 24, 2016 - This spring, a handful of Victoria high school students will gain some real-world experience in video game development in Victoria-based game studios.
The Student Video Game Work Experience Program is a partnership between local game companies and the Greater Victoria School District.
Nicola Priestley, the school district's career coordinator, says the program will give Grade 11 and 12 students the chance to spend a week or two working at a local game studio.
"It's a way for us to expose our kids to another industry. They may love video games. They may love playing video games, but they don't look at it as a potential career pathway," she told On The Island host Gregor Craigie.
"Within this industry, there's so many career paths … so I think it's a win-win for them."
Andrew-Wynn Williams of Codename Entertainment, one of the participating companies, added that video games are an important hook to get students into computer science.
"We want a growing tech industry. We want coding in school, and these are all things we agree are important focuses," he said. "There's no Grade 8 student in a school today going, 'I want to learn coding so I can code a giant industrial freezer.' They want to work in video games. And so we are kind of like the gateway."
Williams says kids in the program usually gravitate to coding, art or are a little unsure of what they want to do, so do a more general industry immersion.
The program is in its second year, and Williams says he's hopeful that more companies will get on board than the six that did last year. Greater Victoria School District students can apply for the program at their schools.
Click to hear the full interview: Victoria students to become (work)-Space Invaders at local video game companies
Armstrong has worked with angel investors, tech startups and educational institutes to commit $280k see more
(Image: Kate Armstrong, director of Emily Carr University’s Living Labs, has worked with angel investors, tech startups and educational institutes to commit donations and in-kind support to teach code and web development to refugees | Rob Kruyt)
Kate Armstrong recalls feeling helpless last fall as the Syrian refugee crisis unfolded.
There would be 25,000 refugees entering Canada by the end of February, and the director of Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s Living Labs wasn’t convinced they would all crack the code to enter the job market successfully.
But since November, Armstrong has worked with angel investors, tech startups and educational institutes to commit $280,000 in donations and in-kind support to teach code and web development to 100 refugees.
The Startland initiative (stylized as “#Startland”) plans to raise another $150,000 through the FundRazr crowdfunding platform to provide refugees entering the tech workforce with free workspace, laptops and smartphones.
“We’re in desperate need of new coders,” Armstrong said. “It’s sort of a win-win because the technology sector needs new people, and there is a skills gap.”
A 2014 BC Technology Industry Association report found the gross domestic product (GDP) of the province’s tech sector has grown by 12% since 2007. B.C.’s overall GDP has grown 6% over the same period.
Meanwhile, about 84,000 British Columbians are working in the tech sector, and startups have long lamented a shortage in talent.
Premier Christy Clark announced in mid-January as part of B.C.’s technology strategy that the province would begin phasing in coding to the school curriculum this fall to deepen the tech talent pool. Clark said Victoria would also streamline the B.C. provincial nominee program to bring in specialized tech talent from overseas to fill in the labour market gaps.
But Carla Morales, director of the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISS), said the Startland initiative stands out because the private sector is taking the reins from the government to find talent shortage solutions.
“That for me is the future of business,” she said, adding that the initiative is the first of its kind.
ISS has partnered with Startland on the initiative to provide it with access to and support for refugees entering B.C.
Armstrong admits it was a necessity because none of the organizers had prior experience working with refugees.
The ISS evaluates labour markets to ensure refugees are being aligned with in-demand jobs, and Morales doesn’t expect that to be an issue for clients trained to code. But applicants to the program could face major language barriers or be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s a very individualized process,” she said. “You might have one client that comes in that has excellence language [skills], that may be interested in code, that may be the age of 21 … and then you may have a client on the other end.”
B.C. is expected to welcome about 3,000 refugees from Syria, but ISS does not have a breakdown of the demographics entering the province.
If B.C.’s intake heavily favours children or the elderly, Startland might be left with few refugees able to join the program.
While the Startland initiative will be open to all refugees no matter their countries of origin, Armstrong said the program would not likely start until late February at the earliest so that Syrian refugees arriving in B.C. would have time to adjust.
In addition to partners such as ISS, the Startland initiative includes Wantoo, Lighthouse Labs, Red Academy, CodeCore Bootcamp and BrainStation.
Armstrong added Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) and Espresso Capital have also provided seed donations to the initiative.
While 100 refugees will be trained to code initially, Armstrong said Startland will “step that up and get it moving.”
Orca Jam 2017 took place at Fort Tectoria Oct 13-15, 2017 see more
Source: CHEK News
Orca Jam 2017 "Make a game in 48 hours" [Video]
Orca Jam 2017 took place at Fort Tectoria Oct 13-15, 2017 where dozens of coders got together to create their best "1980s" themed video game... in just 48 hours.
Watch the newscast below at the 11:20 mark to learn more.