Tracy Bartley was working at a restaurant when she stumbled upon a Girl Develop It HTML class on Eventbrite. Her newly minted master's in international relations was useless.
"No one wanted to hire me," she recalls.
"I kept ordering books on programming languages and web development. They were too confusing for me," she adds. Girl Develop It was appealing as it taught what she wanted to learn and because women were teaching she assumed no one would laugh at her for not knowing how to code.
Then came her first "real job," working on the website of Wandrian Adventures, a traveling adventure company.
How did Girl Develop It help you get the job?
"It was a demonstrable skill set. It gave me something to do.
"I worked with Wandrian Adventures for about a year and then it was the web stuff I was doing that got me attention from a few other places. I had a few friends and colleagues ask me to help them set up their own web pages and start their own companies. I thought maybe I wanted to go even further and study computer science properly.
"I picked up and moved to Austin, Texas, and started taking computer science classes out there and working with a national real estate company whose owner wanted to have his own blog – and an employee training site."
She was hired to help him design those things, which was "crazy because it was way beyond my skillset at the time." So she picked up again with Girl Develop It in Austin and quickly learned that designing web pages was a completely different thing from studying computer science in school.
"I took classes for about 12 weeks before I realized I needed to call it quits. I was taking discrete mathematics and the whole nine yards.
"I loved the problem-solving techniques it taught me, but the idea of sitting behind a desk and staring at letters like that on a screen everyday ... I need more social interaction than that. I realized I wouldn't be happy in that job so I backed out before I got too deep."
Now Bartley is the digital media manager for First Book, a non-profit in Washington, DC. They have a social enterprise model and a collection of teachers registered who work with low-income families.
First Book aggregates the voices of its 60,000+ teacher members to communicate with publishers on what books to produce. The price is lower because there's a guaranteed market and no storage costs to incur.
And yes, she does use her International Relations MA now. First Book just pledged to reach 10 million children across the globe at the Clinton Global Initiative
Brenda Storer was a designer who had gone to school for graphic design and communication. She was looking for classes to improve her software skills, but most cost in the hundreds.
Then she found Girl Develop It, took every class they offered, and showed up at all the social events.
"I just found such a like-minded great group of women. What's best is the encouragement and the attitude of the whole organization that comes through with the teachers. It eventually led me to a couple of hackathons and then I ended up getting hired by co-founder Sara Chipps."
Chipps took a chance on Storer to design a new career site Levo League. Storer thought she'd be doing design, but took over the front end. Today she's the lead front end developer for the site, which offers advice, connections and mentorship for Gen Y women.
"Girl Develop It gave me confidence. I can't believe how much my confidence has grown," she says. "I don't think I'm alone in this but I needed a little bit of encouragement. I needed someone to believe in me. I don't think they made huge efforts beyond just regular enthusiasm and passion and encouragement. It's just so special."
Storer remains active and teaches some Girl Develop It courses.
"One of the best experiences was to know I could create that environment for these people like it had been created for me. I wanted them to participate. I wanted them to feel comfortable and to be interested. To create that same environment I got to walk into was really awesome – to feel it come full-circle and to see it."
Storer, who is 37, had gone back to school about 10 years ago to begin a career change to design. She had started in restaurants and temping. The web training helped her advance to yet another level.
"For me it was never really about the women in technology thing. It's just kind of how things go that I've also ended up at Levo League in women and career development," Storer adds.
"There has been a tech conference I went to where I was mistaken once or twice for a wife of an attendee. And the poor guys who did it felt so bad when they realized. But I think it's just as if I was at a teacher's conference and there was a male. I might presume he was a husband of a teacher."
More: Meet Vanessa Hurst, co-founder of Girl Develop It
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