One charity's drive to diversify coding

minute read

When Kimberley Cook started out in software development a decade ago she would often find herself the only woman on teams, or at best one of a small handful. Having heard of codebar, a charity that “facilitates the growth of a diverse tech community by running free regular programming workshops for minority groups in tech”, she decided to become a coach and encourage others to join the field. Fast forward to 2022 and Kimberley is now the Director of said charity, as passionate about diversity and inclusion as ever, just with a little less hands-on coding these days. 

codebar is not alone in offering these educational services, other organisations like Coding Black Females, Code First: Girls, Coders of Colour and CodeYourFuture similarly subscribe to increasing diversity and inclusion in this space. And Kimberley is glad for them, because, as she says in a recent interview with us, “having two white women on your team isn’t diversity”. Indeed. In order to create better workplaces - and better tech - we need to see a better representation of our pluralistic society in companies. 

a seated woman and man pointing at a laptop screen with code displayed

What does make codebar somewhat unique is that their organisational model is one of grassroot chapters, with each outpost being created by the local community of coders and techies. Individuals with an interest in D&I start up a chapter and, with help from the local business and amateur community, organise workshops and events. That is how the Norwich chapter began. 

Rose Bonner and Holly Allen have been instrumental in breathing life into the Norwich codebar hub, which started operations this year and has to date held 19 workshops and events for 163 students. With over 14,000 students registered across more than 35 chapters worldwide, coaches are - as always - the key requisite for continued success. One of these coaches is our very own Chief Technology Officer, Rupert Redington. He has been mentoring for a few years and is loving the opportunity to teach again - after all, he started out as an English and Drama teacher before turning to software development.

"A key requirement for senior roles in tech is the ability to clearly communicate complex technical concepts and teach other team members. Being a mentor outside of work is a great opportunity to hone those skills and increase one’s employability." 

Kimberley Cook, Director at codebar

a mixed group of people seated at a table looking at laptop screens

A long-time advocate for continuous learning, Rupert is quick to point out the benefits to both students and coaches of the codebar programmes. For students, workshops provide the opportunity to either hone existing skills or explore a completely new direction in their professional development.

“It’s wonderful meeting students who, much like myself, have no formal education in something like computer sciences, but enjoy coding and might even consider reinventing themselves professionally. It’s great to be able to support that kind of development.” As for the coaches, Rupert says companies could “take quite a hard-headed, business-first approach” to giving their staff time to coach, noting how skills like communicating technical concepts is a key prerequisite for tech leads. Giving staff the opportunity to teach others in a relaxed environment could mean more confident employees at work. 

In many ways, this everyone-wins view mirrors the gains from greater diversity and inclusion in the technology sector. After all, we all win when a more diverse workforce creates more inclusive, less biased technology. You can hear more from Kimberley and Rupert, and what they had to say about diversity, accessibility and culture, in a recorded conversation which we've posted on our website.

If you want to learn more about codebar or get involved with them, visit their website.

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