WCW: Brit Hemming Talks Web Development Boot Camps, Travelling Full Time and Feminism in the Work Place
It seems there is always another breaking story to remind us of the rift that exists between men and women in terms of career.
Whether it’s an update on how the gender pay gap is still a thing, the small number of women CEOs or how sexism in the workplace is yet to be eradicated, there’s a never-ending reminder that feminism is needed more than ever.
That’s why at Team Organic we’ve decided that our new column, ‘Woman Crush Wednesday’, will lift up women who are making their mark in the world of tech, digital marketing and entrepreneurship.
In the first installation, we caught up with founder of Programmers 4 Peace, author and front-end developer Brit Hemming, who’s quickly becoming a leader for women in tech.
Brit’s own blog, Stay Curious Darling, showcases her travel-lifestyle alongside the programs and boot camps she teaches, as well as touching on important subjects such as feminism being used a marketing tool – rather than to truly promote equal rights.
While these various projects might seem independent from one another, there’s one running theme – giving up the 9-5 to work for what you really believe in.
Where in the world are you and what are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently in Erbil, Iraq working with Re:Coded an organisation that has been running coding boot camps here for the last two years.
I’m helping them start a children’s program, launch their web development boot camp, create a train the trainer curriculum, launch a web development boot camp in Qaraqosh – a city that was held by ISIS for 3 years and recently liberated – and develop the curriculum for and launch a freelancing boot camp in September.
I’ve also run a women’s only introduction to HTML and CSS workshop to try to get more women to participate in the tech industry here and hopefully get a boost in female application for the boot camps.
Tell us a bit about Programmers 4 Peace, why did you decide to start the business and what are its aims?
At Programmers 4 Peace, we believe that one of the major barriers to peace is economic instability. By teaching youth the skills they need to be competitive in today’s job market we are helping to remove that barrier. We aim to teach our workshop, boot camp and hackathon participants the skills they need to get online and access a global digital economy.
I started Programmers 4 Peace a year and a half ago. I was working in the international development field prior to 2015 and I was becoming disillusioned with a lot of charities and NGOs, I felt they weren’t really addressing the problems I was seeing in the communities I was working in. I wanted to continue to work on my own projects like helping women start businesses but I knew I needed to make money to support myself at the same time.
When I was home I took a one day workshop with ladies learning code – an intro to WordPress. I really enjoyed it and decided to enrol in a part-time HTML and CSS course with HackerYou. After I completed this I applied for their 3 month full-time boot camp and have been freelancing since. I decided to give up my lease in Toronto in 2016 and have been travelling full time since.
I decided that teaching code was a way that I could merge my passions. I never considered myself a technical person, and there is nothing exceptional about me – so if I could learn to code what’s to stop anyone else?
“Coding changed my life, it gave me a different perspective on the world and an entirely new way of thinking.”
The fact that you can work on a project from anywhere in the world is huge because this means that people who may not have access to employment or opportunities because of where they were born can now be on a more level playing field. Coding changed my life, it gave me a different perspective on the world and an entirely new way of thinking. It’s basically problem solving and I want to share that with other people or communities who may be struggling.
Why do you think it’s so important that children begin learning code at a young age?
We teach maths in school, not so that every child will grow up to be a mathematician but so that they can understand the world around them. Coding is no different.
What does feminism in the workplace (and the tech industry) look like to you?
Feminism to me is just basic human rights. It’s the belief that men and women are equal and should be treated as such. I think my generation grew up being taught that feminism is a bad word, but I don’t see why anyone would not want to identify as a feminist.
“I think my generation grew up being taught that feminism is a bad word, but I don’t see why anyone would not want to identify as a feminist.”
My gender doesn’t define me, and I believe I should be given equal opportunities regardless of how I look or identify. As women we make up half of the population on this planet we need to be at the table, making decisions and being part of the conversation – but we still have a long way to go.
What challenges have you faced on your way to becoming a tech entrepreneur, particularly as a woman?
I think my biggest challenge is having to tip-toe around other people’s feelings. As a woman if I’m too direct, or I tell someone what to do without adding a million please and thank yous and sugar coating it I am perceived as bitchy or cold.
I’ve had both men and women try to hug me in an interview or business meeting when I am meeting them for the first time, a handshake would suffice and I am uncomfortable hugging people but I do it anyway because I don’t want to be perceived as cold. I don’t think a man experiences the same thing.
What advice would you give to women looking to kick-start their career in tech?
I would say what are you waiting for? Identify what it is you are passionate about and what area you want to work in. Find out what skills you need to get you there and then go and learn those skills. Just start, sometimes that’s the hardest part. And if you are waiting for the perfect time, that time is now. You will always find an excuse to wait, you just have to go and start.
What’s you’re go-to motto when you’re having a tough week?
“You may not have control over the situation but you can control how you react to it.”
I tend to think that everything happens for a reason, so when I am having a rough week I usually try to find the lesson. To understand what I’ve learned from my experience and to make the necessary changes so that I don’t experience the same thing again. I’ve learned that the only thing you have control over is yourself. You may not have control over the situation but you can control how you react to it. I try to always step back and reflect and challenge myself to see if I could have reacted better.
What are your plans for the future of Programmers 4 Peace?
I am planning on moving Programmers 4 Peace in a more sustainable direction. So far all of my workshops, hackathons and boot camps have been self-funded, and while I still want to keep these experiences free for my students I also want to make sure that Programmers 4 Peace is functioning in a way that is sustainable and will allow me to all of my time and energy on achieving our mission and goals.
I’m currently working on a business plan, and plan on approaching companies and training for their specific needs to ensure more graduates get employment after my programs and that I am making the businesses I am working with happy in the process.
What are your thoughts on teaching kids coding? Have you experienced sexism in the workplace? Do you wish you were travelling full time? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter by tweeting @TeamOrganicUK.