Falling in Love with Tech in Helsinki
How a non-dev techie took a radical approach to understand her working environment.
In 2015, I fell in love.
This was when my love affair with tech began. I had always been fascinated by tech and innovation, but never to the extent that I would consider working in the field. In 2014, I surprisingly started working in a startup software development house, and was introduced to agile methods and the software development world. Later in 2015, I stumbled upon Zalando’s focus on autonomous teams and soon after began working in their newly opened Helsinki Tech Hub. I was sold: My crush on technology was solidified.
When you work in a tech company, you should make sure you take an active interest in understanding the work going on by your peers. I asked myself: How can I understand tech better? What is it that Zalando developers are doing? How can I immerse myself in their mindset?
These questions were swimming through my mind on a daily basis.
I’ve learned and experienced a lot about my tech surroundings while helping build and ramp up the Helsinki office: Working daily with teams, Retrospectives, Hack Weeks, OKRs, meetups, etc. There was one thing, slightly out of my comfort zone, which I had yet to do: Learn how to code.
In April we hosted the Helsinki Rails Girls workshop, and I jumped on the opportunity to organise it. The Rails Girls workshop concept is a two day free event for women to dive into the world of building web applications. Rails Girls is a global, non-profit volunteer community that was founded in Finland.
The evening started with participants getting to know their peers and coaches in small teams and then continued on to installing and testing all required software needed for the workshop: Atom/Sublime Text, Ruby, SQLite and Sinatra.
After all installations were finished, there was a short introduction to web design and prototyping to help us all get into the right mindset of building a web application. We were then asked to recreate Facebook, and write all the relevant components we could think of on separate post-it notes. We added them to a whiteboard wall to see if we could come up with all the components needed. Needless to say, it was a challenge to complete this task in the given 5 minute time limit. The exercise demonstrated not only how technologies and web applications are developed, but also emulated how complex creating software and web applications can be, which was a revelation for most of the women participating in the workshop. Most had little to no previous experience in the tech world, let alone with coding.
The next morning the coaches introduced themselves, giving the participants some guidance and encouragement to delve into unknown territory. We were then off to create our very own websites from scratch.
I think the revelation of understanding what coding is and what software development requires, even if I only scratched the very surface via the workshop, really opened up my perspective about working in the tech world.
The experience of learning how to code was fun, eye-opening, and surprisingly addictive – I strongly encourage all non-dev techies to take the leap too. Personally, I am still in love with tech and there is still much to learn – I can hardly wait to fail fast, while continuing to develop my new skills.