Kike didn't let perfectionism hold her back from realizing her dream of learning how to code.
I’ve felt demotivated, but I am not going to quit.
On my path to becoming a woman in the tech industry, I did a lot of wandering. But it’s true what they say: Not all who wander are lost.
Weeks after graduating secondary school, I found myself at home with time on my hands. I was waiting to hear about my admission to university, and the wait was eating away at me. I decided to take up something I’d always wanted to try.
I was going to learn how to code.
When I told my uncle, Ibrahim, of my intentions, he was overjoyed. He started me out by trying to teach me the concept of C++. Two weeks and loads of uncompiled code later, I quit. When my uncle questioned me, I told him I wanted to focus on my entrance exams. He didn’t push.
The truth, however, was that I hated failing. After expending so much effort trying to debug my error ridden code, I decided programming just wasn’t for me. This mindset led me to quit my attempts to learn web development three times in the space of only two years.
Still yearning to learn coding but not willing to try again, I went searching online and stumbled on a TED talk given by Reshma Saujani, an American lawyer and politician. She’s also the founder of Girls Who Code, a US-based nonprofit that teaches girls coding skills. In her approximately eleven minute TED talk, Saujani called out the societal bias which raises girls to be perfect and boys to be brave.
She spoke about her loss in the 2010 Democratic primary for the US House of Representatives in New York’s 14th congressional district against incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn B Maloney. She got only 19% of the total votes after investing an incredible amount of money into her campaign. She was the first Indian-American woman to run for Congress. She described this as the first brave thing she had ever done. She was 33.
As she spoke, I realized there and then that I had keyed into the socialization that I had to be perfect at whatever I did, including coding (which is not possible, really). I was behaving exactly like the Girls Who Code students she talked about, who would rather say they didn’t know what to write than admit that the code they had earlier written was not working right. Perfection or bust.
Immediately after the video stopped playing, I googled Girls Who Code. As I read about the troubling statistics—in 1984, 37% of computer science majors were women, but by 2014 that number was only 18%—and the efforts the Girls who Code team was making to bridge this gap one girl at a time, I could feel myself becoming motivated again.
Girls Who Code isn’t available in my country, but I am going to be a girl who codes anyway. This past summer, aided and cheered on by my cousin Jones and one of my closest friends Buddy, I completed a web design course and got started on a project very close to my heart. In my country, higher institutions pay very little attention to students of agricultural science. Perhaps it is so the world over because materials are very hard to source both online and offline. I’ve decided to change this by creating an e-library spanning first to final year courses.
This incredible project is still ongoing and my team is growing each day. I am working with developers, content creators, and research assistants. All hands are on deck and more hands are needed. However, I like to look at the awesome progress being made and not at the fact that there is still so much left to do.
I’m not going to quit because I now know that it is okay to not get things right the first time. I’m not going to quit because the tech world is amazing and full of new adventures every day. Learning to code isn’t hard, and statistics show that more and more, great jobs in every field will be given to people who can code. Most of all, the feeling that comes from creating something that can add value to millions of lives all over the world is one I want to live with every single day of my life.
Now, I waste no time in recommending and sharing resources to friends who indicate interest in learning to code. I want to build a team of young women who are fearless and graciously imperfect in their endeavors. I believe that now, more than any other, is the time to show the tech world what we as women have to offer.
This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.
How to Get Involved
You can help Kike get her project off the ground. She is looking for volunteer back-end developers who have experience with log-in and database development, volunteer content creators who can help prepare online courses, and a volunteer illustrator to help design diagrams. If you are interested in supporting Kike and her work, contact her via private message. You can also find her on Twitter.