Hunched over their screens and picking at lines of code, the men and women at Shopify’s office during National Learn to Code Day could have been any group of programmers in Kitchener’s tech hub — except that most of them typed their first line of code that very same day.
National Learn to Code Day was held Sept. 24, with 30 events across Canada. Sponsored by Shopify and run by Ladies Learning Code, the annual event is an opportunity for anyone to learn basic programming. Though the participants vary from surgeons to fifth graders, everyone who comes in leaves with the accomplishment of having built something, from a webpage to a video game.
“Emily Bouchard’s project was featured at the end,” said Alexa Roeper, KW chapter lead for Ladies Learning Code, who organized the Waterloo workshop. “She created an interactive ocean exploration game. If you went the wrong way a shark appeared and it was game over — not bad for a couple hours of work!”
In addition to mentors from Ladies Learning Code, participants could get help from programmers and software engineers at Shopify.
Kristen Philippi, one of the participants, liked the chance to get a hands-on experience in tech. “I sort of studied tech related things, but more in an arts perspective,” Philippi, a local student, said. “So I was happy to come here and be able to learn the actual coding and learn how it actually works.”
Though Ladies Learning Code run monthly workshops in Kitchener-Waterloo, National Learn to Code Day was a chance to bring the introductory workshops to people across the nation, with 1,500 people participating in 25 cities. Even the CN Tower was lit purple for the occasion.
“Our workshops are open to everyone,” Roeper said. “Ladies Learning Code has a 4:1 student to mentor ratio, specifically for beginners who feel intimidated by taking the first step. For those who know how to code, there’s always more to learn, and it’s a really fun and beautiful environment to work in.”
Local MP and Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger visited the workshop — and got an offer to improve her online presence.
“We had a young girl … who’s in Grade 5,” Roeper said. She had been coding since she was two, and “offered to build Bardish Chagger a better website.”
Ladies Learning Code will have events in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region in October, sponsored by Vidyard, and November, sponsored by Google. Most events are open to anyone who wants to learn to code.