Introducing Learn Code from Us
Ali Spittel Sep 19
Introducing Learn Code from Us, a site that highlights programming content creators from underrepresented demographics in tech. Over the last couple of weeks, I've been working on this project and I'm super passionate, incredibly excited, and very nervous about launching it. I wanted to introduce this app first, and then explain more of my developer story, my process for creating the app, and why I'm so excited about it.
74.2% of the respondents from the 2018 Stack Overflow Survey are white, 93.2% are straight, and 92.9% are male. When you're learning something new, trying to break into a new industry, or just listening to someone's insights, it can be really helpful to see resources made by someone like you.
I know that feeling personally -- I always say that I'm a mostly self-taught software engineer. All of us coders are self-taught, in that we all have to learn something new at some point outside of traditional education. In the same vein, none of us are -- we're actually taught by the tutorials, the documentation, the source code, the blog posts, and all the people that create those awesome resources.
I started coding in a computer science class during my sophomore year of college. Before walking into that classroom, I thought computer science taught you how to format Word documents well and how to use Excel. Instead, I was introduced to the magic of Python -- and I was hooked.
But then it got harder, and I thought coding wasn't for me. I thought coding was an exclusive world for people who had access to computer science classes in high school, who had different interests than me, and who didn't look like me. So I quit coding.
I got an internship during my Junior year that required me to code, and I started self-teaching myself the web development skills that made me fall back in love with programming. I could not count the tens of thousands of resources I've used in the last years, nor give back enough to all of the content creators that brought me to where I am now. All of the resources for 100% free online are invaluable. That being said, a large percent of the most visible content is created by the same groups that dominate tech -- which, while understandable, could be representative of the general population.
Maybe I would have been a more confident programmer, felt like a member of the tech community, or stood up to harassment if early in my career I had seen more people like me represented. I am still in a position of a lot of privilege compared to a lot of other people -- and I know that the things I went through may be much worse for them.
As of this summer, I've worked on the same team as other women for the first time in my career. There are so many encouraging signs of change within the industry, and I can't wait for more.
I'm only telling my story because I know a lot of other people have similar ones -- and I wanted to show on a personal level why representation matters.
And, now, five years later, I'm on the other side of the fence, and I'm creating the content.
Why I built the app
I've recently been thinking about creating a YouTube channel because I like talking about things, so I was researching other videos on similar topics to what I would talk about to see what works and what doesn't. But I noticed something really quickly -- as I was scrolling through page after page of videos and didn't see a single woman. So then I started Googling to try to find women making coding YouTube videos and was still really struggling. So, I asked on Twitter -- I got an excellent response which was awesome, and people asked me to create a blog post about all the women that people recommended.
I decided to do one better, and create an app instead. But I didn't want just to include women, because there are a lot more people out there who are members of other underrepresented genders, sexualities, and ethnicities in tech who would also benefit from seeing more people like them creating technical content.
About the platform
Right now there are profiles of coding content creators that have a quick sentence-long summary of what content they build, along with links to their platforms, and categories for their content. I've included link slots for blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, newsletters, and a generic slot for other types of content for the first iteration. I'm also focused on free content, for now, to make it accessible as possible for the wider public. The site shuffles the order of the content creators each time the page loads so that each person is featured equally. In the future, I want to add filtering based on types of content and the content-type tags.
If there are things that I can do to improve the usefulness of this platform, please reach out to me via Twitter or via an issue on the repo. The platform itself is built with Gatsby.js and uses Airtable as a database. The hosting is through Netlify.
If you create content geared towards programmers (including content that focuses on improving "soft skills" which are incredibly important) and are a member of an underrepresented group in tech, please fill out this form if you are interested in being included on the site. It doesn't ask for any personal information outside of the information that will be featured on the site. All fields are optional. For now, please only submit your own content, though passing this along to your favorite content creator would be awesome! This is and will continue to be a 100% free platform.
The site is located at learncodefrom.us. I would love if you checked it out or shared it with your network.