This years Melbourne Knowledge Week (MKW) is going to be big. It features more than 60 horizon-expanding events covering topics ranging from augmented reality and its influence on neurosurgery, to coding with accountants in the Botanic Gardens. You can even learn to code like a girl.
What’s that? No, we’re not being facetious.
We spoke with Ally Watson, founder of Melbourne-based organisation Code Like a Girl, to learn more about her day job and her involvement in Melbourne Knowledge Week.
Tell us about Code like a Girl and how you got into it?
As a coder, I know how important it is to keep up-to-date with the latest technologies, be inspired by others in the tech space and have a network of people for advice. The best place to do this is at tech meetups and Melbourne has lots of these, for just about any technology! The thing is, just like the industry, there are often not many women in these meetups. Being a noob can be daunting for anyone but for women in particular, the challenge is greater.
When I moved to Melbourne two years ago I was faced with this all over again. I didn’t know anyone and found myself bailing on tech-meetups because I was worried I’d be the only the girl in the room and social anxiety got the better of me. It occurred to me that I probably wasn’t the only girl who felt this way, so I created my own meetup: Code Like a Girl. What started as a meetup has become so much more. We’ve started running workshops to provide the girls of Australia with the tools, knowledge and support network they need to flourish in the world of coding.
What excites you most about working in your field in Melbourne?
For me coding is a satisfying pastime and a great creative outlet. The possibilities of what you can create from code regularly sends me into a frenzy of ideas for new projects. What I love about Melbourne and the tech community here is that everyone’s a maker, thinker or tinkerer. Almost everyone you’ll meet has a side project or is in a collective outside their day jobs, and it’s just such an inspiring and exciting community to be in.
For anyone reading this and wanting to learn to code, what are some pearls of wisdom you can give them?
It’s easy to think of code as something daunting if you haven’t been exposed to it, but those days are long gone. There are programs and websites dedicated to teaching coding in a fun, free and accessible way. There are new cutting edge programming languages and frameworks that are designed to be easier to understand and pick up. It’s never too early or too late to start learning to code, and the things you can do are endless. The tech industry will never stop growing, jobs will continue to be in high demand, and code has become the language that keeps our world running.
Tell us about your involvement in this year’s Melbourne Knowledge Week?
We have two events running this year: a two day introduction to creative coding in partnership with Signal, which teaches the basics of coding in a really relaxed and sociable way, and an event we’re hosting at the Melbourne Knowledge Week Festival Hub at 1000 Pound Bend called ‘The Internet of (Girl) Things’. This brings together Australia’s top experts to showcase some of the best female smart products on the market today.
I’m also really excited about what’s happening at the MKW Festival Hub in general. This space is going to be a constant buzz of inspiring speakers, events and workshops. If I didn’t have to work that week I’d love to just float about this space and soak up all the knowledge. What a great week it’s going to be!
For anyone visiting from out of town for Melbourne Knowledge Week, what are your pointers for where you get coffee and bites in the city?
Marcellina, who’s not only my right hand gal in Code Like a Girl but also my go-to for all my foodie spots, recommends Shortstop for the best doughnuts in town. It’s right near 1000 Pound Bend. You can also get great coffee from Market Lane and Brother Baba Budan. I also love Wonderbao for their steamed buns, and Earl Canteen is my easy go-to for sandwiches.
The Melbourne Knowledge Week program is out now, with more than 60 horizon-expanding events running from Monday 2 May to Sunday 8 May.
You can meet Ally at The Internet of (Girl) Things networking and workshop, one of many events happening at the MKW Festival Hub, supported by the University of Melbourne, at 1000 Pound Bend, 361 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.
Other events and activities happening at the MKW Festival Hub include:
• a Virtual Reality Lounge presented by Deakin University’s School of Engineering
• pop in for pop-up co-working where you can grab a desk and work alongside other festival goers
• an innovation are showcasing a selection of Melbourne’s most exciting product developers