Have you used your local library to learn about tech? Programming? Web site design and construction? If not, why not?
I haven’t been getting those materials from my local library, in Birmingham, AL. They didn’t have what I needed. I’ve bought my own books and training materials. Among them, off and on, was subscription access to Lynda.com. I’ve used Lynda training materials (first for websites, then for ongoing design software training) for almost 20 years. Until the past few years, it was not easy to afford.
Two and a half years ago, while attending a WordPress conference in Toronto, one of my fellow attendees, Alex Sirota, told me that Lynda.com had a library program (He has a write-up on his professional blog.) It’s been a big success for the Toronto Public Library system, with city residents using it to learn needed skills quickly. This is a great example of the idea of “city-as-a-platform”, in which the city/region/state works to make it easier for more residents to pick up in-demand skills.
I’m currently using Lynda.com to learn about systems administration and security, and Windows 7 & 10 deployments. Since my last use three years ago, they’ve added more IT and programming related materials to their existing design-software core. Most of it is introductory through intermediate, but it’s enough to give me direction as to what I should be studying next.
New to Birmingham and want to know where to find the techies? Or you’ve finished a first degree or training course and you want to know how to connect with other people in your field? In Birmingham, here are the three places you need to start looking to find them.
TechBirmingham’s community listings
TechBirmingham, the region non-profit coordinating and promoting the growth of the regional tech sector, has listings of the local tech organizations on its Community page. These include chapters of national organizations, such as the Project Management Institute, Infragard, Code for America, and Women Who Code .
You’ll also find local tech-focused groups such as the Red Mountain Makers and Steel City SQL.
Magic City Tech
MagicCityTech.org is the signup page for the Magic City Tech slack, a chat channel used by tech community organizers to coordinate events, share information and post jobs. An informal watercooler-style back channel, you’ll see everything from good React tutorials and case studies. to job postings for Scada and R programmers. The number of channels has grown significantly in 2017 & 2018
The first We Rise Women in Tech conference, June 23 – 24th was organized by Women Who Code Atlanta. I’m in my mid-fifties, and after a mid-life career reboot (second degree), and starting some of the organizations I felt were essential to my – and others’ success in the Birmingham metro region – was only now getting out to my first tech conference. I was looking forward to more of the welcoming environment that I had found at the first Women Who Code hackathon in July 2016. I had to work Friday (the first day), so was only able to attend the Saturday sessions. My notes on the sessions I attended continue below the break.
Because I was talking to a number of women at the We Rise Women in Tech conference this weekend, (June 24th) about the mechanisms necessary to make a given tech community penetrable by people who are not part of the dominant culture, (in Birmingham, white Caucasian hetero male), I want to park links to some of the organizations that I was introduced to who are developing the essential contact and education networks.
5 LGBTQ organizations (article behind the link)
Steal this list! Build the community! My observations from WebGrrls in the late nineties, and now with Women Who Code, is that when you are a minority group within a given community, working to grow your presence in a regional industry, national and international organizations help. A lot.
Updated October 28, 2018.
In many cities with a tech scene there is a need for programmers and developers who aren’t necessarily computer science (CS) majors. CS is great for understanding the structures underlying programming, how software interacts with hardware, and the mathematics behind compression, encryption, algorithms graphics and topology. Their skills and understanding are needed to build computing and programming structures and frameworks, for working out effective storage techniques, telecommunication methods, encryption and for a lot of security work. You will always need these specialists. And, if you want to be a CEO of major tech company, the groundwork is vital.
But for the rest of us, a mix of our existing skillsets in combination with either a boot camp or self-study with tutorials are the most effective ways to start a programming career. Our power is crossover knowledge. We’re going to be working in teams to build and implement using existing tools – and being able to learn quickly, effectively and put existing pieces together to solve people’s problems is the best way we can contribute.
Working on some lesson plans for teaching introductory computer science concepts to middle and high school students this afternoon – and revisiting the CSunplugged.org website for the first time in a long time.
If you haven’t learned the underlying concepts, have a family member who would like to learn (child _or_ elder), the series of videos on the site (also the participation activities and lesson plans) do a really good job of explaining how binary encoding works, compression, image representation, parity (checksums), as well as explaining the origin of many words.
This is a really good series, which demystifies a lot of the techniques developed over the past sixty years that allow us to program computers effectively. Watch it. Even old school pros will be enlightened.
Parking this here until I can circle back around to it. Swiped from an article about Pop Up Code’s offering in Huntsville. Things to learn for web development:
• Ruby on Rails
• HTML and CSS (first checked off, know the second, just need to work with it more . Edit – as of May 27th, have done a fair amount of review and am ready to start building some little samples and templates.)
• Twitter Bootstrap (yeah…..)
• Domain modeling for database-backed web applications
• Understanding and utilizing APIs (well along on this bit)
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Still digesting this one. Walter Isaacson masterfully links Charles Babbage’s original work and Ada Lovelace’s ideas about computing with Hollerith’s punch card tabulation system, Edison’s systemization of innovation and the developments in circuitry control during the 1930s that laid the groundwork for today’s digital technologies. Good book – I recommend it as essential background reading for anyone interested in understanding how innovation happens, in the history of computing, and in understanding trends going forward.
If you’re here, you’re interested in forming a chapter of Women Who Code, here in Birmingham.
Women Who Code‘s key initiatives include:
- Connecting our community with influential tech experts and investors
- Career and leadership development
- Increasing female speakers and judges at conferences and hackathons
- Increasing participation in the tech community
To join as a founding member, sign-up at Women Who Code Birmingham. Once we hit twenty local women, we’ll set a date for a first organizing meeting.
Edit – Monday May 25th 2015 – local chapter is now live! We’re starting in on Ruby on Rails in June. First Git class running on June 1st.
Computing: A Concise History by Paul E. Ceruzzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
While I was back at school, I was desperate for a history of computing that would give me a framework on which to hang all the new information I was acquiring. This is the book I wish I had.
Published in 2012, it’s a tight, well-written, (short!) book, that ties together the technical developments of the 19th century, 1920s, 30s, 40s & 50s into a clear, concise story of how different technical developers (and their resulting tools and ideas) were able to build on earlier work to create systems to first, automate calculations using hardware, and then later, develop the first programs and software.
One of the clearer histories written to date, this will serve as a good beginning orientation for all people who are starting to explore computer technology, and who want a context in which to place current modern devices and software. Shirley Bob gives it two thumbs up.