Being part of one of the most active Women Who Code Networks is an honor but also takes work. I came in as a Python Lead and after 6 months I became a Director because I wanted to have a leadership role to help challenge and improve the Python group. We needed improvements in two areas that could be addressed all at once; we needed more challenging topics and we needed more diversity among our volunteer teachers. We were a small and mighty group that were still covering basic beginner topics. So I did three things that helped impact the desired goals which were more teachers especially women of color and harder topics that we could offer to our coding community. First, I started creating more advanced curriculum using python packages such as Beautiful Soup for web scraping, Pandas for tabular data analysis, and covering conditionals using the while function in for loops. Taking the burden of having to create the curriculum, teaching it first, and then passing it off to others helped other leads to feel comfortable teaching these topics and lessened the time spent to create these topics. It takes a lot of time creating the content to teach for two hours, especially if there is working code involved, so helping in that area helped the team ramp up quicker.
Second, I openly called out and encouraged the people in the meetup. I would say things like, a little less than a year ago I was in your same shoes coming to these meetups running my first lines of code and it was not far-fetched to consider themselves teaching others and representing Women Who Code. Living in again, one of the most active Women Who Code Networks; there were plenty of meetups provided by this community to attend more than twice a month in person — and for free, where someone could look at my code and I could network and meet others with the same goal. Having teaching assistants are key to a successful meetup where if I am teaching I can concentrate on presenting and answering questions while the teaching assistants can assist on a more intimate level and look at the code side by side. Including these previous things at a meetup, I would always get at least one lead of someone who was also interested in volunteering or teaching. Not to say that each lead followed through and fulfilled their interest but in less than 10 months as a Director, I grew the team of 5 including myself to 12 active teachers who have led a meetup themselves at least once.
Last, it was not something I did personally but what the team helped foster and set an example for. I identify as a woman of color being born in Mexico, and I can’t say 100% that this was the sole factor of getting more diverse volunteer leads, but I would guess that seeing someone similar to yourself; a minority teaching code helped make it more real that you could also do this.
I said earlier that you can most definitely kill two birds with one stone by gaining more diverse lead teachers and introducing harder topics. The new volunteer leads have been fantastic in creating new curriculum and covering advanced topics they wanted to cover such as Elasticsearch, using an API, handling dirty and missing data for data modeling using ScikitLearn.
I am so proud of the improvements we have done as a team in almost a year and am looking forward to what we will bring to our community next. Also a note on how we operate; we use slack to coordinate logistics on future meetups. I help make sure we are teaching 1-2 meetups a month covering at least one advanced topic, creating and promoting the Meetup two weeks before, having first time teachers lead a beginner topic first and being a teaching assistant to others, and lastly supporting the teacher by reviewing their curriculum and running their code before they teach it themselves.
If you are interested in getting more involved in the DC chapter send me a message on Twitter at https://twitter.com/