National non-profit expands coding classes to Delaware [video]

    (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

    (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

    Girl Develop It provides a new option for women looking to improve their technology skills.

    The non-profit group Girl Develop It is expanding to Wilmington, offering everything from introductory to more advanced coding and web design classes.

    “It is a super supportive community,” says Megan Anthony, co-leader of the Wilmington Chapter for GDI. “Everybody is learning together, we’re asking questions. I myself am not a coder, so I’m learning, too.”

    Learning Javascript or HTML code is like learning a new language, so to make the process less frustrating, Anthony says the group focuses on creating a positive learning environment where questions are encouraged.

    The launch of GDI in Delaware comes at a time when the tech industry is struggling to recruit enough skilled coders. There’s also pressure on firms to add more women into the traditionally male-dominated profession.

    “The more diverse your workforce can be, the better for everyone,” says Anthony.

    At industry giants like Microsoft, Twitter and Google, one study found that more than 80% of tech positions are held by males.

    GDI is attempting to correct that imbalance, now offering classes in 50 cities across the country.

    “It is really important to be among peers in a learning environment and feel like you can ask any question and not feel nervous about that or feel like you are asking a dumb question because you don’t know some very basic thing,” says Corinne Warnshuis, executive director of the five-year old non-profit.

    “So we just like to create an environment where women can thrive because they are in the company of their peers.”

    For students like Antoinette Russum-Hane, who attended a weekday evening session tucked inside the offices of 1313 Innovation, GDI is a chance to gain enough experience to begin a freelance web development career.

    But she doesn’t expect an easy road ahead.

    “Well, as an adult learner, you are going to be uncomfortable and a little frustrated when it doesn’t click immediately,” she says. “However, I have no problem asking questions here. They make you feel very comfortable about that. And as long as someone is there to explain it, I will make sure that I get the knowledge eventually.”

    Classes run about $10 an hour, a small down payment on a potentially lucrative career, according to Russum-Hane.

    “I have friends who have kids and the kids are going to college and don’t know what to do with their lives, and I’m telling all of them, go into computer science,” says Callye Morrissey, who has worked in and around tech, but never as a programmer writing code. She’s thrilled to have access to local instructors.

    “I think it is a great opportunity, and it is so exciting that it is in Wilmington because usually you have to go to Philly for everything. So it is really awesome, yeah.”

    Girl Develop It has plans to extend its reach into more American cities, and also internationally over the next few years.

    Megan Anthony says she’s excited to bring GDI’s motto ‘Don’t Be Shy’ to more women.

    “I think women are intimidated by joining the tech field…leave it at the door,” says Anthony. “Be sassy, learn something, it is a lot of fun.”

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