Hi, I’m Wendy, a Technical Data Analyst on the Content and Quality team at INRIX.
Prior to 2015, I was a biologist, working in academia, research and biotech. Today, I write Python scripts to analyze incoming and outgoing data to improve our customers’ experience. Crazy, right? Here’s my journey in Python from novice to teacher to developer.
In the summer of 2013, I participated in a two-day boot camp designed to teach scientists best practices in Python and bash scripting. Not surprising, the class was predominately men, and instinctively the women stuck together (there were only three!). Throughout the course, we worked together, relying on each other’s strengths and limited coding experience to get the most out of the boot camp. At the post-boot camp beer session, one of our instructors commented on how tight the three of us had gotten in the two-day course. He said, “Maybe you are the inaugural members of Seattle PyLadies.”
It turns out PyLadies is an international mentorship group for women who code, or are learning to code, in Python. It focuses on helping women become active leaders in the Python community.
At the time of the boot camp, I was new to Seattle and was working remotely as a bioinformatics scientist for a biotech startup in Boston. Being remote, I learned to work more independently. My slow connection to our server meant I couldn’t search for files through directory/window GUIs. I had to learn bash scripting. The time zone difference made it difficult to wait for a new script from my analyst, so I learned to modify the scripts, then started writing them. While I was learning new skills and making the most out of the experience, working remote was extremely isolating.
After the boot camp, I began attending Seattle PyLadies’ biweekly HackNights at a downtown Starbucks. I was out of the house, around people and practicing Python. It was a great experience.
Learning to code as part of PyLadies was life transforming. I acquired the technical skills to compliment my skeptical, scientific mind. Through my new supportive, empowering network, I gained the confidence to try new things and share my knowledge – as an instructor at Girl Develop It, an organizer of Seattle PyLadies, and a speaker at PyData Seattle 2015 and PyCon 2016. I was self-empowered to look for a local job outside of my biology world.
Empowerment is my philosophy when I teach Python. I want to show people how to solve problems. I don’t stress the syntax, formatting or logic. Instead, I stress environment setup, package installation and error investigation. These are the barriers to new coders that generate self-doubt. If I can empower new coders with the tools to work through these difficult steps, they will have more fun when trying to create and learn.
This story comes full circle with my new(ish) employer sponsoring Women Who Code CONNECT 2016, where I will teach an Intro to Python workshop. Who knows, maybe one of the attendees will be a future INRIX developer.