Hear Me Code Provides Safe Space for Women to Learn Code

Photo: Shannon Turner

Hear Me Code, a group that provides free coding lessons for women by women in the Washington area, started in September 2013 with four women around a kitchen table. In just a little over a year that number has increased to 1000 women.

Shannon Turner, self-taught developer and founder of Hear Me Code, went to various tech events when she first started coding and was often one of the few women there, she said.

“Everywhere I looked, the whole room was filled with men. I felt really outnumbered,” she said. “I even got nasty comments like ‘Are you here with your boyfriend?’”

Turner realized that she was not the only woman going through this, and that she should do something about it, she said.

Hear Me Code was founded so that all those who identify as women could have a safe and supportive space to unlock their potential, she said.

Ensuring that the group is barrier-free is why “it is free, and will always be free,” Turner said.

There are already enough barriers for women in tech, so she does not want to add to that by charging for the classes, she said.

Turner taught every class by herself in the beginning, but the number of women interested grew so quickly that she realized she could not do it all herself, she said.

She remembered how she had recognized the full extent of her skills when she first started teaching, and realized that she could reach out former students to become teaching assistants, she said.

Hear Me Code now “also provides a space to empower others through teaching,” Turner said.

Mariah Minigan, a former student of Hear Me Code, started teaching after completing Lesson 2.

“The fact that Shannon had pushed me to TA, pushed me to teach, right after taking those lessons, was really empowering,” Minigan said.

“When I saw her lead meetings at work, I knew she would be a great teacher,” Turner said. “She taught Lesson 1 in November to a packed class and did an amazing job.”

Turner said Minigan also motivated others who never considered that they could teach, too.

Hear Me Code’s Lesson 1 has to be held every month in order to keep up with the increasing number of new students, Turner said.

February’s Lesson 1 was full with a long waitlist, which is usual. Some students were finally attending after being on the waitlist for past Lesson 1s.

The teacher for this lesson was also a former student, and there were plenty of teaching assistants who floated around the room helping students with specific questions.

Courtney Pitman, an admissions counselor with the School of Information at UC Berkley at 2U, found the group environment the effective for learning, she said.

She had tried some online coding lessons, but found it hard to keep self-motivated, she said.

“I’m going to share this with every single one of my female coworkers,” she said. “And the male ones too, just to rub it in.”

To wrap up the lesson, Turner said to all the students, “I’m really looking forward to you teaching the next lessons.”