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My #DjangoGirlsAccra in a Nutshell

Posted in Django, and Personal

Django remains my favorite Python web framework and my favorite of all frameworks. I’ve built applications with other frameworks such as Laravel, Rails, Node-Express and serverless apps with Angular. Yet, there’s something special about Django that stands out and has always been.

The opportunity to help Girls (or ladies) to get started with Django was a no-brainer, and just in line with how I wanted to help others get up to speed with the framework.

I had never ben a coach using Django before. I had never attended a DjangoGirls event before. Heck, it didn’t seem realistic to me when I heard about the project years ago.

However, this time, giving back to young, determined and serious in a way that gets them off the ground and flies with web development was an honor.

The DjangoGirlsAccra event happened on the 16 and 17 of June 2017. DjangoGirls.org/accra/

Install Party

There is this snare. As a developer, it caught me several times. I’ve seen many developers play that on me as well.

You’ve used Django for some 4 years already. Spinning up the server comes to you naturally. Queries, Models, Templates, even native Python code, all happen to you so seamless. Except when our neighbor isn’t picking these ‘basic’, ‘simple’, and ‘easy’ processes and tasks as fast as we expected, we can get exasperated.

Mentees focused on Djangoing!

I’ve seen tutorials, both video and written, leave out bits and pieces, all in the name of, “Everyone knows this or that”. NO. They don’t. If they did, they won’t be spending their precious time combing through your resource.

With that in mind, sticking to the DjangoGirls Coach guide, which encourages to go easy with the mentees was drumming on the right surface!

I was fortunate enough to have mentees who had different OS platforms than my own, namely, Chromebook and Macintosh. Until the DjangoGirls event, I had never done any developer work ever on any of the platforms. The installation party was an eye opener for me.

Without my surprise, the Girls got their Python and Django Installation ready to go in just minutes.

My mentees, namely, Michelle K, and Sofia D, all came into the install party with so much energy way more than I imagined. No wonder ladies evolve to become some of the best programmers. Their zeal was more than expected, and it was no surprise to me they blew the install party steps wide open in no time.

The fact that one of the mentees traveled some 600km journey and the other taking time off her busy schedule to make it to the install party was more than a sign they were gonna get their hands fully dirty in the Web.

With Sofia (Left) and Michelle (Right)

Event Day

Installations are no use without following the DjangoGirls Tutorial in building the Django Blog application. Covering basics of HTML, CSS, Python, Database, Django and its related templates all within a single day seemed impossible.

Of course, as much as my mentees picked up the concepts, and run many of the commands themselves, as and when they continue building applications with these technology stacks, will their level of comfortability with the toolsets increase.

Although Django development on Chromebook proved to be a seamless experience from the start, with sudo apt get commands and others available here and there, it didn’t last as C9 (https://c9.io/) left us hanging, preventing us from viewing our local development progress.

As a coach who’ve never used a Chromebook, nor even dared develop on the OS built around a single Browser, all I could imagine was a breeze experience, considering how the DjangoGirls Tutorial made it look.

Find discussions on Twitter about DjangoGirlsAccra via the hashtag, #DjangoGirlsAccra. Many of the fine photos of the event shared available in this Album on Photos.

And so it was, for the most part. We simply had to skip testing our local development, and assume in ‘good faith’ our changes works, pushing to PythonAnywhere to test.

Speaking of PythonAnywhere, preparing for the DjangoGirls event forced to me to try the Python/Django host platform for the first time as well. Lots of first time for as a result of taking part of the DjangoGirlsAccra.

That Look from a Supergirl. The code better come clean!

There’s not much I can say about the choice of PythonAnywhere as the hosting platform for the tutorial, except the fact that the platform is a pain to work with, at least for the free version. For the free tier, 3-month hosting, what specs do PythonAnywhere offer? I feel somewhere 64Mb RAM

It felt like a 64Mb RAM, 1/4 of a 1 Gig Core, and running on a decade-old Hard Drives with less than 5400rpm. Working in the frontend seemed fast enough. However, at the console level, duh! Internet connection wasn’t the culprit though.

You get my point? If you don’t, the platform is a crazy slow test platform to play with. In the goal of sticking to the tutorial, I played along with PythonAnywhere. Left alone, I would have introduced my mentees to a true native VPS (such as DigitalOcean), with no in-browser interface ‘nonsense’.

Then a very basic Fabric Deployment script would do. Of course, that would be a lot to add to the already choked tutorial guide, except the mentees could take the working script home and play with later on. Plus, it is Python and gets them to play with more code.

“You get a cupcake; Everybody gets a cupcake!” – Noah (a Coach) and Elizabeth (DjangoGirlsAccra co-organizer)

Milestone breaks were timely and good enough to get a full recharge and go face Django head-on. Great cupcakes.

Overall, the food at the DjangoGirlsAccra event was good enough to get the mentees up and running with the challenges Django and its related technologies threw at them.

Amazing Experience, Great Mentees

It ain’t easy getting started with so many technologies at once, in a single sitting. ‘Girl Power’, they say, meant my mentees stuck to the learning experience till the end. Although none of my mentees could hit the bottom of the DjangoGirls tutorial at the end, both had a success in following the minimum steps to have the “It Works” Django page show up on the server.

Gerald (Coach) with mentees!

Climaxing the day with a Mannequin challenge was a fun experience. Again, my first time seeing a Mannequin challenge happen and take part as well. Will share the video when ready.

As a coach, I learned a lot in the process as a coach. Although my job was to coach, I think I also got ‘coached’ in the process, and I helped mentees solve issues that came up – issues nowhere to be found in the DjangoGirls guild.

Considering the zeal my mentees displayed, I strongly believe they can ship their first Django application in a month or even less. I can’t wait to see what all the mentees who made it to the DjangoGirls event build next.

Will I wanna be a DjangoGirls Coach again someday? Yes!

A big kudos to the organizers for making the event happen, and making it a memorable one. And congrats to all the coaches who also joined, making the experience an edu-coding fun for all the mentees.

Organizers cum Coaches of DjangoGirlsAccra

So, excited? 🙂 If you’d like to get more involved with Django Girls by attending, coaching, or organizing an event, check out the Django Girls website.

Django Girls is a non-profit that teach programming to women all around the world. Want to help us? Support us!