Kansas City hosted its first ever ngGirls event on July 26-27, 2019. Almost 70 women, 30 mentors, 11 volunteers, 8 organizing team members, guests, and company sponsors attended the event which was organized by Kansas City Women in Technology (KCWiT). It was a lot of work, but definitely worth the countless hours spent, so I want to tell you about what we did and hopefully inspire you to organize your own coding workshop.
ngGirls aims to increase diversity in tech by introducing women in technology. At a ngGirls workshop, women will walk through a self-directed tutorial to build a website using Angular. Mentors are on-hand to assist.
First, I reached out to ngGirls organization to discuss what their expectations are for organizing an event and to express interest in doing so. Shmuela and I communicated via email and video chat during this process. She also sent me her organizer notes. Armed with this information, I reached out to KCWiT, an organization I already volunteer with, to see if they were interested in organizing the event under its umbrella. KCWiT already hosts Django Girls every year so they have a lot of experience and the support structure to host large events like this. With approval from both organizations, we targeted late July 2019 for the event taking in to account the timeline we'd need to organize and working around Kansas City Developer's Conference schedule.
The organizing process started in full force at the beginning of 2019. During January - February 2019, I created goals & timeline milestones, set up Trello boards for project planning, created a budget, identified roles/responsibilities, searched for a venue, and started recruiting teammates.
Luckily, we were able to utilize a lot of processes and foundation laid by the Django Girls KC event team to assist with this step. The documentation they had was invaluable. Like Django Girls KC, I wanted my teammates to have autonomy for their roles. Many of my teammates are new or early career in tech and I wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to grow their skills as much as they desired, so I tried to keep project milestones very high level to allow them the flexibility to take on as much or as little as they wanted to within their responsibilities.
We held our planning kickoff meeting on February 28, 2019. By this time, all leadership positions except for one were filled. We went over project goals, milestones, and expectations during the kickoff meeting and each person was then tasked to come up with their leader plan in the next 2 weeks. The leader plan allows each organizing team member to identify goals specific to their role broken in to project milestones. The leader plans were reviewed, discussed, and final preparations made for opening applications for the event. We also set a cadence for meetings and decided to sync up every 2 - 3 weeks either online or in person in addition to communication over Slack. The ngGirlsKC microsite on ngGirls website was also prepared and we started spreading the word via KCWiT programs and social media.
Applications for both attendees and mentors opened on April 2, 2019 and ran until May 31, 2019. It was rewarding to see so many applications submitted in the first week! We made lots of social posts, spread the word via email to various companies and other organization contacts, and also KCWiT's public relations director made a press release. Since this is a free event, we need sponsors! We started recruiting for sponsors by reaching out to local companies targeting the ones that use Angular. Since it had been 2-3 months of planning for most of the team, we had 1:1 meetings to make sure everyone was doing ok and to see if their needs and desired growth were being accommodated.
Good news/bad news... Interest in the event was really high, but unfortunately we couldn't accommodate all the applicants. We also wanted to make sure attendees weren't overqualified to attend and that they were ready for the challenge of an all-day coding workshop. Attendees were selected using a criteria outlined by Django Girls. We also had mentor and volunteer selection as well. Everyone was notified about their status and asked to confirm their participation in the event. We then invited all confirmed participants to KCWiT Slack so we had a central communication platform.
With 6 weeks to go, we increased the cadence of our leadership meetings to once a week via Google Meet. Now that we have confirmed participants, we can provide a more stable headcount for ordering swag and reserving catering for food. We also found a yoga instructor and a rescue organization willing to bring dogs for dog petting for de-stressing activities. These 6 weeks passed by so quickly!
We planned a Friday night install party, an all-day coding workshop on Saturday, followed by a Mentor/Volunteer appreciation party Saturday after the event. Most of us took Friday off from work to start setting up. Part of the organizing team went shopping at Costco and the remaining people starting preparing the venue. We also had help from volunteers who took some time off of work to assist. 🤩
Attendees started arriving for the install workshop and it was finally time to meet the women who signed up to learn how to build a website over a weekend! The install party went smoothly. We cleaned up and prepared to return to the venue bright and early Saturday.
Saturday morning came way too quickly and it was show time again! After breakfast, we had opening remarks, a quick overview of Angular, and it was hands on coding time!
To help break up the day, we planned extra activities.
We had 2 lightning talks, including one from Tracy Lee (@ladyleet ) who spoke about using Twitter to build a personal brand.
We had relaxing yoga sessions and de-stressing dog petting time!
We also had sponsor booths, Platinum sponsor presentations, and raffle prizes! Each participant got a ngGirls logo totebag, a ngGirls logo coffee mug, assorted stickers (including a DEV sticker), and a ngGirls badge. Mentors and volunteers also got a ngGirls logo hat. It was a lot of fun but day was a complete blur for me and I don't remember many of the details. 😅
After the successful workshop, we held mentor/volunteer retrospective, cleaned up the venue, and partied with the mentors/volunteers who donated a good portion of their weekend to help create a successful event.
We sent surveys to attendees, mentors/volunteers, and conducted a leadership retrospective. We also sent thank you cards to all the sponsors. We're still working through post-event engagement so this part is on-going.
We had great feedback from attendees, had a lot of fun working with each other and organizing the event, and learned a lot in the process. We look forward to the next ngGirlsKC event!