From Hello World To PAC- MAN

Segmentation fault. Those dreaded words appeared on my screen over and over again.

Why? Because of a semicolon. A semicolon. That extra semicolon in my long assignment that continuously crashed my code. I remember pulling my first all-nighter, all to figure out that it was one semicolon that caused me hours of stress and hundreds of segmentation faults.

But when I figured it out, boy was I excited. After removing that semicolon, I could sort the MLB draft by position, by batting average, by high school they attended, and more. Maybe some of the players were missing their hometown? Or some were switch-hitters who could bat both right and left-handed. Didn’t matter—I knew how to sort the 1000-player list and get the right player to appear with varying user inputs.

It was empowering.

And Girl Develop It lets me revisit the excitement of creating something out of nothing.

Although I took a brief hiatus from my coding days after graduating from college, I have loved participating in the first half of Girl Develop It’s Python class, hosted at SmartBear. Girl Develop It is all about providing affordable and judgement-free opportunities for women interested in learning web and software development.

We’re proud to be able to support Girl Develop It in empowering those in the Boston community to learn Python. We’re only halfway through the class and we’re already learning what integers and floats are, and building games like PAC-MAN.

But more than just learning how to code, the class has brought back that feeling of community and empowerment. Sitting in a room full of those who are there because they are excited to learn something new is an amazing atmosphere. People are there for all different reasons—to learn a new skill for fun, to learn about software because they want to create an application, to pivot in their careers—or maybe they just want to be exposed to the software development world.

Personally, I receive many benefits from the class—but there are two that stick out to me. Firstly, I am able to be apart of the community around women in technology. I love getting the chance to gather with a group of women who are leaving their mark in the world of technology. It is empowering to know that there are others committed to increasing the presence of women in STEM and are hungry to learn new things every day.

It also gives me the chance to once again wear the hat of the customers I am targeting on a daily basis. I can feel their frustrations when I include an extra semicolon or create my own functions that don’t exist. I can once-again feel what it’s like to have to debug, figure out how I could have planned better, and think about what I wanted to accomplish in my code to debug faster. If only I used comments—so when I returned to my code I could remember why am I defining variables in such a way, or why I have included nested loops that seem infinite.

All of these problems are things my customers face every day and it allows me to understand their pain points better, as I am feeling them on a much smaller stage, and how the tools I work with everyday can make their lives easier—whether it’s through code collaboration with Collaborator, tracing my defects more easily with QAComplete, or using TestComplete for Record & Playback (so that I don’t have to worry about scripting).

While I am by no means an expert at Python, I am grateful to Girl Develop It for giving me the opportunity to learn something new with an amazing and supportive group around me. We have gone from Hello World to PAC-MAN in the first half of the class, and I am so excited to see where this second half of Girl Develop It takes me.

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