The first Django Girls happened!

Ola Sitarska

August 05, 2014 | Tag: » DjangoGirls

This is a story about turning 45 women into Django developers.

I bought the djangogirls.org domain on 15th April. At that time I didn't have plans to do Django Girls in any near future but I've kind of known for a long time that I would organize it one day. Just two weeks later I was going to Berlin for ThingsCon and Markus Holtermann tweeted me asking if we could meet. This meeting finally gave me a much needed kick in the butt to just go and do it.

I emailed Ola Sendecka just two weeks after that, when the EuroPython team agreed to host us. I knew Ola was the perfect person to help me with that: she is the best female Django developer I have the pleasure to know, I love working with her and we both really care about bringing more women into the Django world. Back then it was supposed to be this one-time thing we were doing to help bring more diversity into EuroPython, but it grew out of proportions on the very first day after we showed it to the world. I'm so happy it did!

The first Django Girls

For the first event we received 310 applications from 33 different countries. We were really stressed about running our first workshop. Yeah, we've done huge conferences before, but this is quite different. This is different because we care so much about good experiences: we know that the first experience is crucial and we wanted all of our 45 Django Girls to fall in love with programming.

The first Django Girls took place on Monday on the very first day of EuroPython 2014 in Berlin. We've managed to get together an amazing group of 45 women coming from 15 different countries. 15 great coaches showed up to spend their free time before, during and after the workshop teaching our attendees about the Internet, computers, the command line, Python, Django, open source and much much more.

Django Girls workshop

We loved the energy, atmosphere, people and everything about this day. Our expectations were met to the fullest extent. 90% of our attendees finished the whole tutorial and successfully deployed their blogging application to Heroku. You could feel the excitement in the air! It was a challenge to make them stop and go get some rest after 11 (11!) hours of intense programming.

Experience

We believe that first experiences are the most important and I also know that there is a lot that we can do to make this first experience friendly, positive and leaving only good memories.

Django Girls experience

That's why we invested a lot of time and energy in creating a great atmosphere. We did this by caring about little things like nice tablecloths, colorful posters, fresh flowers, sweet cupcakes and laser-cut Django Pony necklaces. But also by making sure that everyone was happy, motivated and felt totally awesome and accomplished.

I can't stress enough how important these little big details are.

Tutorial

During the workshop everyone worked in small team (3 beginners + 1 coach) and they met each other before online on Google Hangout or Skype to do the installation and just get to know each other, so that there would beat least three friendly faces during the workshop.

All groups were following the tutorial. We spent a lot of time browsing the web for the perfect tutorial: one that is up to date, has an interesting topic and is beginner-friendly. And I don't mean beginner-friendly in the terms of someone who is new just to Django. We were aiming for beginners who use their computers to only browse the Internet until now. There was not any resource that would fit that specific group. Shocking, isn't it?

So we decided to write our own. 2 people, 5 evenings + nights, the tutorial was.. far from done. We didn't have any more time to test it before the workshop, so we decided to do it on production: what's a better environment to test it than 45 curious women, right? :)

While writing the tutorial, we focused on a couple of things:

  • learning by making mistakes - this is how we learn stuff in real life, too. Every step involved creating a bug first, learning how to read and understand the error and then fixing it. It made them understand how it all work together. It made them not afraid of errors, problems and bugs. This approach also showed them what programming is all about: solving problems. It worked out amazingly well.

  • assuming our reader knows nothing - if you're a programmer, it is hard to put yourself in the mindset of a person who knows nothing about programming or computers. All other resources on the internet assumed that you know what a terminal is or that you're familiar with urls, views and templates.

  • fast achievements - programming can get very frustrating if you spend a few hours on it, fix lots of bugs and accomplish nothing that looks real. That's why we're focusing on fast effects - doing things not necessarily in the right order, but in an order that gives rapid small wins that boost productivity and motivation.

  • "you're awesome” - we're fighting the impostor syndrome with every step. Celebrating small achievements is important.

All of this turned out to be really important during the workshop.

EuroPython

But Django Girls weren't done after just one day: it was only a kick off to a full week filled with Python awesomeness.

Thanks to the EuroPython organizers' generosity, every attendee received a full pass to the entire conference for free. We wondered if this week would be a waste of time or an actual learning experience for them, but decided to just try it and see.

It was the best decision ever: everyone showed up on the conference for the whole week, attending talks, trainings and parties. They had fun, they learned something new and it was really empowering for them to just go to some tutorial and be able to follow the instructions because they know their way around the command line already.

The best thing: you could actually see a difference that Django Girls made at the conference. You could see A LOT more women on the corridors and session rooms. It also gave us time to really get to know each other and make some meaningful connections. We were saying good-byes with tears in our eyes.

But the most wonderful thing happened during EuroPython Sprints! The Django Girls attendees also came for the Sprint time. We joined the Django team in their room and decided to show Django Girls how this open source thing works. Thanks to that, many of them contributed back to the tutorial by fixing typos and grammar or even writing whole new chapters on their own! Our inbox was flooded with Github notifications and the tutorial's repository received more than 30 pull requests. Yay!

<3

Of course, all of this wouldn't have happen without the support from our amazing sponsors and coaches! Thank you :)

What's next?

Django Girls @ EuroPython was a wonderful experience for us, attendees and coaches. The 2nd Django Girls just happened at PyCon Australia thanks to great work done by Elena Williams.

While choosing our attendees, we focused on looking for leaders. People who will get back to their hometown and do something awesome with their new skills. We also spent some time to write down everything we've learned in a Django Girls Organizer's Manual. Thanks to our amazing attendees, Django Girls will now happen in 20 new cities!

You can help us make a small dent in the universe, too. Want to organize, coach, sponsor or support? Drop us a line and let's talk! [email protected]