Group of women facilitate coding learning

Melissa Sariffodeen’s interest in computers started early. “My family got their first computer when I was 11,” says the co-founder of Canada Learning Code. “I quickly realized that I could go to different forums, inspect the code on a website, and learn how to create (one). She learned the code herself through “trial and error,” eventually creating a Harry Potter fan site and drag-and-drop avatar maker. She excelled in a high school computer class but was not encouraged to continue. “I was one of two women on this whole class,” she says. “I haven’t seen anyone like me do it.”

But she held on. His first real foray into the world of coding began after graduating from Ivey Business School at Western University in 2011 and started attending meetings for the Toronto tech community. At one event, Sariffodeen met Heather Payne, who was just starting sales and marketing work at a local startup. “We were both interested in doing something entrepreneurial. And the barrier for us was knowledge of the technology, ”explains Sariffodeen. “Being self-taught, we didn’t know enough to build a product in any substantial way. “

They held a brainstorming session to address the shortage of women in tech, and that meeting spawned the first iteration of CLC, called Ladies Learning Code. “A month later to the day,” she says, “we held our first workshop. This one – and the next three – sold out so quickly that Sariffodeen, Payne and their fellow founders, Laura Plant and Brianna Huges, knew they were onto something big.

Sariffodeen is now CEO of the organization, which officially renamed Canada Learning Code in 2017, with 37 full-time staff running workshops across the country for Ladies Learning Code, Girls Learning Code, Kids Learning Code, Teams Learning Code and Teachers Learning Code. .

The goal, according to Sariffodeen, isn’t to have everyone writing code as a full-time job, although CLC does offer courses for more advanced learners considering a career change. “It’s really about giving people an agency in this digital world that goes beyond just consumption,” she says. “It’s important to understand how it’s built. “

All workshops are available free online and are funded by government support, sponsors and donations. CLC offers live, convenient, real-time help – what Sariffodeen calls the organization’s secret sauce. “There are mentors out there to help you out, because we find that often the biggest obstacle is that little thing that makes you confused,” she said, referring to mistakes such as, say, omitting a period- comma when encoding. “Having this high rate of synchronous support really helps people, especially newbies, feel confident when they try this for the first time. “

In addition to moving from in-person learning to online learning during the pandemic, the CLC has also changed the content of its courses to reflect the way people live, work and learn now. He has run workshops for small businesses and entrepreneurs to help them get online, teaching digital marketing, website building, and using Google apps. It also provided additional support to teachers, offering courses on online teaching.

Sariffodeen is proud of how CLC has handled the past 18 months, but looks forward to returning to in-person workshops in places such as technical event rooms, libraries and community centers, while offering online sessions. She says her goal over the next six to 12 months will be to continue supporting educators so that every child (or anyone else) in Canada can learn these skills.

“We want everyone,” she said, “especially under-represented groups to have access so that we can build the future.”

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