Did you know that the first computer programmer was a woman? Indeed, Ada Lovelace was the very first to write an algorithm for an early computing machine back in the 1840’s. About a century later, ‘Amazing Grace’ Murray Hopper, an American computer scientist, worked as a pioneer of computer programming and invented the COBOL language, a high-level programming language still used today. It’s also said she invented the word ‘bug’. Susan Kare held high positions, at Apple among others. Far from being the only ones, those three women have contributed to the evolution of computing. However, the number of women in today’s IT sector remains particularly low…

It was thus a real pleasure for us, here at the MIC Brussels, to leverage our various partnerships and contacts in the capital and bring forward a team exclusively composed of women for the MIC Mons’ annual DevCamp! In collaboration with Interface3, a training centre in Brussels aiming at coaching women in the IT, we gathered a team of 4 women to join in this weekend and we’re proud of it!

Although this was their first DevCamp, and despite their relatively short experience as developers, these strong women quickly got over their stress and fear. After picking a name (‘LES MECS’ – ‘the guys’ in French), they quickly chose a project they liked and got down to it: the development of a multilingual chatbot designed to help migrants cope with complicated situations they might face when arriving in Belgium.

It was a real challenge for them since they had never worked on a chatbot before. Surprisingly, they weren’t even destined to be developers in the first place. Their first career choices were more literary (social science, librarian, historian and editor) but a mix of choices and circumstances made them reconsider their lives. They then decided to join Interface 3 and follow the Web Application Developer training. As Christelle said, ‘And then, I found what I really liked! It was obvious because it combines a very technical and logical aspect with a creative one. Moreover, Interface3 taught us lots of programming languages. After a one-year training, I did a 3-month internship in a big company (SSII) who then offered me a permanent contract. I’ve now been working for them for a year and a half and I’m still learning a lot of things every day! What more could I ask for?’

Through the DevCamp, the ladies had the opportunity to pilot a drone, try on a HoloLens, see how a 3D printer works and learn even more on programming languages. But most importantly, it was a great human experience! Laure said: ‘What I preferred was the contact with the participants and the staff. Everyone was very welcoming, open and interesting in their own way. It was also a great chance for me to observe new technologies and broaden my horizons: 18 months ago, I didn’t know what a hard disk was!’

A pitching session would close the weekend. Every team had time to present what they pulled off during those 3 days and explain what difficulties they had met along with the next possible steps to keep going. The project carriers were absolutely thrilled by LES MECS’ presentation and were really satisfied with the work that they had done.

All in all, it was a great experience both for the developers and for the project carriers. We are thankful to the MIC Mons for organizing the Camp and we are glad we could bring a feminine touch to it. But above all, we are really proud we could offer those women this experience and we hope this will help them thrive in the future. Way to go, ladies!

 

This article is an adaptated translation from MIC Belgique‘s original article, written by Martine Meunier (Officer Manager).