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.
Last month, Birmingham, AL joined the worldwide list of cities with open data sets. Can’t wait to work with them. You can find them at https://data.birminghamal.gov/
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.
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 bootcamp 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.
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.
The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Clayton Christensen’s analysis of how new technologies disrupt old ones. It’s a very specific mechanism; new ways of doing things can provide services and products to slightly different market niches than existing ones. The new products and services aren’t initially as good as the existing ones, but with time and development iterations, they end up improving, then getting better than the existing products and services. The older companies may have excellent management and great products, but their customer base has very specific needs which they can best serve by staying focused on them. By the time they pay attention to the newer competitors, the competition is strong enough that it is very easy for their existing customers to simply switch to the new product or service.
Local interest – one of the examples that Christensen uses is that of the Birmingham steel industry from the 1960s through to the early 1980s when the first large-scale layoffs occurred as plant the electric arc furnace began eating into markets for U.S Steel’s Bessemer-process steel production.
Excellent read. You need to understand this business pattern.