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International Women's Day

October 02, 2020

I recently had the opportunity to run a workshop for year 9 students at their Tech Taster Day in hopes of inspiring them to pursue a career in technology. As a front-end developer I often find my field underrepresented at such events, the focus is often either on development as a whole, in which case the front-end aspects can be missed, or purely on design. Being somewhere in the middle front-end development isn't always well explained and people find it difficult to define.

I would explain front-end development as the step that ties design and back-end development together. A design alone is just a picture and not very functional - on the other hand data on a page provided by a back-end developer isn't usually very nice to look at. You need someone to code the design so the data is represented in a visually pleasing and user-friendly way and provide all the interactions required. This is what I tried to convey in my workshop session.

I decided to cover three main areas in my workshop - I wanted to tell my story so the students could see how I ended up in my chosen career, I then needed to explain to them what front-end development was and why I thought it was a great career choice. Lastly, I wanted them to be able to have a go at some code so they could see how simple it is to get started and hopefully peak their interest.

A picture of a laptop where Lubna is pair programming and mentoring a new front end developer

As my own interest in web development started at roughly their age I think my origin story helped them see potential similarities in interests and hobbies into a career possibility. It offered ideas on how they themselves could get started on their own journey to web development and they engaged well with the story.

When explaining what front-end development is, I decided the best way is to show it. Through some screenshots of Auto Trader as well as popular websites such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google I demonstrated what a website would look like with and without CSS code and it made a big impact on how powerful CSS is and highlighted the importance of good front-end development.

The activity was trickier. I really wanted to involve some tech - since it was a tech tasted day - so I thought letting them experiment with some CSS would be the best way to illustrate my point. I had prepared a code-pen (an online code environment where code changes are instantly rendered in an adjacent part of the screen) with a very basic article page which had some minor CSS styling. The goal was to edit the CSS to make the page look nicer and more to their liking. I found this challenging at first since the students had to login to the school laptops and then navigate to the code-pen (which unfortunately didn't have the most user-friendly URL) causing a bit of a hurdle before they could get to the task. I did manage to remedy this in the second part of the workshops by having the logins set-up and activity pre-loaded so they can get stuck in and make the most of it.

Overall, I feel most of the students enjoyed the activity and trying out some code. It felt rewarding seeing their changes, such as background colours and font sizes instantly come to life and some of them got quite far into the activity and rather enjoyed it.

It was the first time I had run an interactive workshop like this and I was very nervous at first, but as the first session was out of the way I felt more confident and by the end of the morning I was flying through it. It was a really great opportunity for me to practice my presentation skills as well as give something back to the community. Hopefully I inspired at least a couple of the students to pursue a career in front-end development and I hope to have similar opportunities in the future!