Posted by Melissa Sariffodeen

Melissa is the Co-Founder and CEO of Canada Learning Code. She's a fierce advocate for providing Canadians the critical skills, confidence and opportunities they need to become passionate builders - not just consumers of technology and to thrive in our increasingly digital world.

Breaking Down the Difference Between Mentoring a Ladies Learning Code and Girls Learning Code Workshop

For many of our Chapters, potential and existing mentors ask ‘What’s the difference between mentoring a LLC and GLC workshop?’. We asked two of our mentors for their thoughts. There are actually a lot of similarities and we encourage our mentors to help out in both our adult and youth workshops.

We’ll begin with our instructor and mentor, Irina Shestak!

Irina Shestak

Ladies Learning Code Mentor + Lead Instructor Irina Shestak

Why did you get involved with Ladies Learning?
Funny story, actually. My friend, Florida, made me come and mentor at a Girls Learning Code HTML/CSS workshop last fall. I *loved* it as soon as the workshop began and I’ve been coming back ever since.

Tell me a bit about yourself!
Oh haiii! I am pleased to e-meet y’all! During work hours I code (and sometimes after I forget to stop). Aside from computers I explore the great BC outdoors, occasionally with a good book in hand. Oh, and I really like wombats.

Describe your day when mentoring a LLC workshop?
Both mentors and students that come are super interesting, so I get in a little earlier to get to know some folks and why they decided to learn to code. The stories are always amazing!

Throughout the rest of the day learners would work through the set of examples. A mentor is there to basically support the learners if they’re struggling with the problem set. Normally a mentor (or a couple of mentors) are assigned to a specific table, so you get to help out the same group throughout the day. Probably the best part though is when learners get something to work, and when they start to understand a particular concept. That look of understanding is probably why I keep coming back.


Group shot of mentors in Central Vancouver Island

Describe your day when mentoring a GLC workshop?
Mentoring with GLC is a ton of fun. For starters, you get to make kick-ass nametags with robot and dinosaur stickers. Sometimes (well, most times), there is also candy. That’s always an awesome way to start the day. The energy is fantastic all throughout the day. The girls are always excited to learn, ask the coolest questions you never thought of, and get a lot done during the day. Occasionally with younger kids you have to help them type, because let’s be honest, keyboards are just weird sometimes, and there are too many of them to keep track of where the semicolons are! They do get a hang of it quick, though.

Do you have any highlights that you would like to share?
Yes! There was this one time after a day of an awesome Ruby Girls Learning Code workshop, one of the girls said she wanted to be like me when she grows up.

The thought that someone walks away from a workshop wanting to do cool things with tech/science is incredibly powerful. I come back to these workshops hoping that at least one person considers this field as something they can do and they can make a difference or even at least something they can play around with in their spare time.

What would you tell someone who’s thought about mentoring our workshops?
COME MENTOR WITH ME! It will change your life ^.^

Anything you would like to add?


Next up, our instructor and mentor, Mihai Lazar!

Mihai Lazar Profile Photo

Ladies Learning Code Mentor + Lead Instructor Mihai Lazar

Why did you get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I have been part of the tech world for a long time now and I have not been oblivious to the disparity in gender representation. I have always kept an eye for articles or stories addressing the under-representation of women in STEM in general and one such article directed me to the Twitter account of an organization similar to LLC, but in the US. I was deeply impressed with what they were trying to do and I wanted to see if there was anything similar in Canada. So this is how I found LLC and made up my mind to volunteer.

Tell me a bit about yourself!
I have been working in tech for more than 10 years. I do have a formal education in computer science, but most of what I learned has been self-taught. I feel the constant need to self-improve and I really enjoy sharing what I know with other people. Currently, I’m trying to persuade my company to let me try a “lunch and learn” project, by which I use the lunch breaks as opportunities to teach the people in the company how to code.

Describe your day when mentoring a LLC workshop?
Before the workshop starts, I always try to get to know the people that I am mentoring, because this allows me to better tailor my explanations to their skill level and expectations. Moreover, it is always fun to learn more about the people you are going to work with for the next couple of hours, about their background, aspirations and ways in which they plan to use the content of the course. I always do my best to encourage students’ inquisitiveness.

Describe your day when mentoring a GLC workshop?
I have a niece who has just turned 8 years old. I only get to talk to her on Skype, but she has so many questions and wants to know so many things. Whenever I start a GLC workshop, I think of her, of what she would like to learn, of the best ways to explain that to her, of how to keep her entertained. I simply behave towards the girls attending the course the way I would towards my niece.


Mentoring at Summer Camps

Do you have any highlights that you would like to share?
It always makes my day when, after a workshop, I get emails from participants asking for guidance and advice on what to learn next. I also enjoy when, during the workshop, I hear students exclaim “Ah! That was it!” or “Oh, that’s so cool!” It just validates our efforts.

What would you tell someone who’s thought about mentoring our workshops?
I would start by giving them some ideas about how a workshop would go, emphasizing how rewarding such an experience can be, whether we are talking about LLC or GLC, independently of how different the two are. For GLC in particular, the enthusiasm and excitement on the girls’ faces when they realize they actually write code is priceless.

Anything you would like to add?
After so many years of writing code, I feel like I have almost lost that initial sheer joy and passion for what I did. I remember it nostalgically, but I now feel like I am recovering it when sharing what I know with people willing to learn.

Thank you so much Irina and Mihai for providing your perspectives! If you’re interested in mentoring, we encourage you to take a look at our current list of workshops and get on our mailing list here.

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