Learning website founder code-illiterate when she started; encourages women to go into programming

Ms Elisha Tan (standing), founder of TechLadies, says it is a shame women are put off by programming because they think that it is a male- dominated field. She is seen here with Mr Jaryl Sim, founder of Tinkerbox, and Ms Kate Lim, a Tinkerbox intern.
Ms Elisha Tan (standing), founder of TechLadies, says it is a shame women are put off by programming because they think that it is a male- dominated field. She is seen here with Mr Jaryl Sim, founder of Tinkerbox, and Ms Kate Lim, a Tinkerbox intern.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

When Ms Elisha Tan founded learning website Learnemy in 2011, she had to teach herself how to code.

"I couldn't find a technical co-founder, so I rolled up my sleeves and learnt it on my own," said the 28-year-old psychology graduate from the National University of Singapore.

In January, she launched TechLadies, a community-led initiative that introduces women to programming and the tech industry.

"It's such a shame that some women are put off by programming because they think that it's a male-dominated field," she said.

Nine women out of 130 who applied were picked for a free eight-week programming bootcamp that ended in April, with coaches from the industry teaching programming languages like Python and Ruby.

  • TECH PROGRAMMES ON OFFER ALPHA CAM

  • Programmes include: 10-week boot camp with four main tracks - digital marketing, product design, iOS app development and Web development.

    • Courses expected to start: July or August this year

    • Fees before any applicable subsidies:

    $7,000-$12,000


    GENERAL ASSEMBLY SINGAPORE

    Programmes include: 12-week full-time Web development immersive, and 10-week user experience design courses, part-time data analytics, and digital marketing courses.

    • Courses started: July last year

    • Fees (full-time): $10,000 to $11,500

    • Fees (full-time) after subsidies: $3,000 to $3,450


    MAKE SCHOOL SINGAPORE

    Programmes include: Seven-week full-time iOS app development programme, followed by intermediate and advanced iOS courses.

    • Courses start: June 20 this year

    • Fees: $8,000 for seven-week immersive iOS course,

    Singaporeans in first cohort get 70 per cent discount


    NEXT ACADEMY

    Programmes include: Nine-week Full Stack Web development boot camp.

    Courses start: June 27 this year

    • Fees before any applicable subsidies:$9,000


    STACKUP PROGRAMME

    • Programmes include: Five-day introductory coding course, 40-day Full Stack Foundation Web development course

    • Courses started: March this year

    • Fees (Singaporean/PR after funding): $385-$3,210

    • Fees (Foreigners): $1,284- $10,700


    TECHLADIES

    Programmes include: 10-week programming boot camp (part-time).

    • Courses start: September this year

    • Fees: To be announced

The participants met for four hours every Saturday, spending at least 10 more hours a week on their projects, which involved working in teams to build products for three non-governmental organisations, including the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics.

IMPORTANCE OF CODE LITERACY

Not everyone should aim to become a software engineer, but technology is so prevalent that it is important to be literate in code. When you work in a team, you learn about project management and how to communicate with developers.

'' MS ELISHA TAN, who launched TechLadies.

Out of the nine, two have already found jobs in technology, while another two have been interviewed for positions in the industry.

In September, TechLadies will organise another programming bootcamp, which will be expanded to 10 weeks and require selected students to attend pre-bootcamp workshops.

Such a community initiative will not replace what can be learnt from a three- or four-year computer science degree, said Ms Tan, but it can give people skills to build simple applications and work on projects or find internships.

"Not everyone should aim to become a software engineer, but technology is so prevalent that it is important to be literate in code," said Ms Tan, who is also a marketing associate with a multinational tech company. "When you work in a team, you learn about project management and how to communicate with developers."

TechLadies student Kate Lim, 29, who used to work in pharmaceutical sales, was hired as an intern at software development company Tinkerbox Studios last month after her mentor Jaryl Sim, 30, who is also the company's founder, noticed her potential.

Ms Lim is considering founding a start-up, becoming a junior developer or joining the tech industry in a role such as business development or product management after the six-month internship.

She said: "Compared to learning coding on your own, the practical experience we had on the course and the exposure to the tech community really made a difference."

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 29, 2016, with the headline 'Learning website founder was code-illiterate'. Print Edition | Subscribe