Last Wednesday, I helped co-host Code & Coffee night, a monthly meetup done in conjunction with Chicago’s Girl Develop It chapter, which offers programmers of all skill levels an opportunity to network with peers, pair on projects, and level-up their skills.

Here are some of the takeaways I got from the event:

1. Hosting an event is fun.

I was pretty nervous about hosting an event for the first time. What if nobody showed up? What if all the attendees got lost on their way to the event? What if the food didn’t get delivered?! There were so many things that could go wrong! But shortly after the event started, I realized there wasn’t any need to get so worked up – everything would be ok, even if it was a small group or if the food wasn’t delivered (luckily, Jellyvision has plenty of snacks on hand).

If you’re thinking about hosting a Code & Coffee or any kind of meetup, don’t let event planning paralysis stop you! There are lots of ways to decrease the stress of planning an event: Ask for help from coworkers, break the event down to smaller, easily achievable tasks, or complete seemingly unpleasant tasks first. Your attendees will likely leave happy as long as there are friendly faces and good conversation. (Free food doesn’t hurt either.)

2. Learning to code? Just do it.

The best way to learn how to code is to just start coding. This may seem like deceivingly simple and patronizing advice, but before switching industries, I spent weeks talking to software engineers I knew and endlessly researching bootcamps and job projections. Lots of time had passed until I started my first project. Trying out coding is a surefire way to figure out if you enjoy it, especially important if you’re planning on changing industries entirely. I was really impressed by the projects our attendees were working on, from setting up personal websites to hacking Amazon Dash Buttons. I wish I had done the same when I was starting out instead of letting intimidation get the better of me. Don’t be afraid to jump right into it; build a small app, follow a tutorial if you’d like, but go out there and build something.

3. Start with the foundations.

Tech is constantly changing, but oftentimes new technology builds upon existing foundations. It’s easy to overlook understanding the building blocks when you can jump into a tutorial that lays out the steps for you—or when it’s simply hard to reel in your excitement for playing around with [insert “next big thing” here]. For example, if you’re learning React, it might be good to brush up on some ES6 knowledge—though it’s not exactly a requirement, it will be helpful since lots of JS code is written in ES6 and many tutorials assume you are using ES6.

4. Never be afraid to ask.  

Near the end of the event, I overheard a coworker asking one of the Girl Develop It representatives about getting more involved with GDI and potentially leading a teaching session. Earlier, an attendee had asked me if I knew of any open job positions at Jellyvision. Sometimes the best opportunities aren’t posted online—whether you’re looking for a new job or just looking to find out what new possibilities are out there, don’t hesitate to ask about it.

5. You’ll meet a lot of different people.

Although the market may seem saturated with coding bootcamps, meetup attendees don’t only consist of bootcamp grads. Some were in the process of finishing up coding bootcamps, some were there to learn more about coding but not change industries, and others were long-time software engineers who wanted a place to work on their side project. You’ll be sure to meet someone new, and hopefully you’ll be able to learn from them or even teach them a thing or two.

6. Have a charged phone at all times…

…because you never know if the delivery person will get lost in the maze that is your company’s office, whether the person you posted downstairs to let people into the building needs help, or when your phone won’t save any of the photos you took of your event because the battery was too low (and therefore your blog post will be without photos).


Don’t worry if you missed out on this month’s Code & Coffee— our next Code & Coffee event will be on August 16, from 6-8pm. Girl Develop It will open up the RSVPs on Meetup a week before the event, so be sure to check out their page then!

Also, a big thanks to Maddie Kasula and Keriann Gannon for being our GDI hosts for this month’s Code & Coffee!

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