Yoyo hosts the first codebar Kent



Having been a developer for a number of years, and having attended and run many developer meetups, it struck me what a lack of diversity I saw in the attendees. Not all developers are young white males like myself, so where was everyone else?

This got me chatting to a few people and I discovered codebar. With diversity in all areas of STEM being an issue, it was great to discover codebar, a not-for-profit organisation, whose goal is to enable underrepresented people to learn programming in a safe and collaborative environment. This is usually done through free regular workshops and one-off events.

I coached at a few of the workshops and wanted to see what was available locally (so people weren’t always expected to travel in to London) - to my surprise there was nothing, unless you were a school kid, so after some further discovery, conversations with the team here at Yoyo and the team at codebar I decided to set up the first chapter of codebar in Kent here at the Yoyo offices in Tunbridge Wells.

We held the first event this week, on Tuesday evening, and there was a brilliant turnout. We had 17 students and 11 coaches who came along to work together, at the student’s own pace, to support their learning.

The evening began at 6:30pm with a few drinks and food kindly supplied by the team here at Yoyo whilst everyone arrived and got to know each other. Prior to the evening the students had said what they were interested to learn, many are completely new to coding so areas like ‘An Introduction to HTML’ were popular along with a few students wanting to know more about JavaScript and Ajax. Knowing the areas, I could then pair off the students or pairs of student with an appropriate coach.

The coaches were other developers like me, with a mix of experience, who want to help nurture new, up and coming talent. The coaches’ role is not to take over, they are there for guidance and support. The students can go through tutorials on the codebar website, work on their own projects or work on other tutorial sites. The coach can sit with them to explain specifics as they go along or just be there to call on if a question comes up. It was great to see some of the students really surprise themselves with how much they could do and one of the ladies is even considering being a coach at a future event.

After a couple of hours of coaching we then wrapped up and students and coaches could then carry on their conversations at a local pub.

Having seen the success of this, and personally having the satisfaction of having helped someone, I am now looking at setting these up every third Tuesday of the month. The feedback from the students has been great with many praising their coaches and talking about having never attended anything like this before.

“Codebar is a fab free initiative. Yoyo ran it really brilliantly - the pizza and wine got things off to a good start. The coach I had was excellent - really patient and great at explaining things. It was great to be 1 to 1 with him and ask any questions along the way. I would definitely return if Yoyo run it again.”

Jenny Student from Tunbridge Wells

The next workshop is scheduled for Tuesday 17th April and for anyone considering attending but not sure I would say ‘Go on, give it a try’. We really do encourage a friendly, supportive atmosphere where no one knows everything and no question is a silly question, and we have a strict code of conduct in place to support this. Us coaches don’t always know the answer and if we don’t, we’ll work with the student to discover the answer. The sessions are about uncovering your potential and are great if you are considering a new career but finding it difficult to get started.

Interested students will need to check the eligibility criteria on the codebar website and bring their own laptop.

It’s not just about the students, I’d love to find more coaches and companies to host the workshops. As a coach who can see the lack of diversity it’s great to see a mix of people come along and realise their own potential.

“Looking around the Yoyo office and seeing so many bright minds with heads down and eagerly learning to code was very inspiring. The atmosphere in the office was really relaxed and I think everyone felt welcomed. I'd highly recommend to anyone that's interested in learning to code, regardless of ability or confidence, to come along as the environment was very supportive! I'd also love to take part in Codebar as a coach in the future again too, that's for sure!”

Callum Coach from Tunbridge Wells

For those companies who might be considering organising and hosting, rest-assured it is not an all-encompassing job and if you are keen to support diversity in our industry then give it a go. In terms of tasks, I organised it over a period of time so did things bit by bit. The key things were to organise food, drink, space and power. I also went to other meetups where I recruited some of our coaches.

It’s also about us giving back and you never know, some of your students may end up working for you one day – codebars job board has been key to this in the past! For more information on coaching or hosting contact me at [email protected].

I am looking forward to the next workshop and can’t wait to see these grow in the local area and eventually expand all over Kent.

For information on codebar visit codebar.io or contact me at [email protected].

Mike Masey - Developer at Yoyo Design & Event Organiser