Supporting diversity in tech with codebar

Simply Business is proud to team up with codebar London – a not-for-profit organisation that provides free coding workshops for underrepresented people, to support diversity in tech and help to coach students who want to learn how to code.

Simply Business and codebar

Having welcomed codebar at our Simply Business office in London on several occasions in 2019, we were excited to team up with them again in May 2020 for a virtual coding meetup for aspiring developers from underrepresented groups.

Codebar has built an incredible community of experienced and committed developers, not just in London but from across the world. So our software engineers at Simply Business London were proud to present at the codebar workshop and support diversity in tech by sharing what it’s like to work in software engineering with the students at codebar.

Simply Business’s journey with codebar began back in September 2014, when we held our first-ever Simply Business and codebar workshop. Here’s a nostalgic flashback of this event, taken at our former offices at Finsbury Square, London.


Photo supplied courtesy of one of Simply Business’s Principal Engineers

Supporting diversity in tech

In teaming up with codebar, we want to support making technology more accessible to everyone and provide a great experience for people who’ve not yet had an opportunity to learn how to code by sharing our expertise in building applications.

Diversity and inclusion are cornerstones of our culture at Simply Business so it’s important that people who work with us feel respected and valued for who they are.

In an industry that is often male dominated, the tech team at Simply Business already exceeds the industry average for women in tech by 13%, with 28% of the team comprised of female technologists. Our target is to achieve at least 30% of women in tech at Simply Business by the end of 2020, and to continue to improve on this.


Breaking into code

Learning to code can seem a really daunting task. With so many different frameworks, languages and a variety of tools available, trying to figure out where to start can seem near impossible.

So if you’ve ever taken an interest in coding but never imagined in your wildest dreams you’d have the opportunity to try, then the codebar workshops provide an ideal and supportive environment for aspiring programmers to try coding.

Codebar provides online tutorials for beginners, which means you can get a head start before attending one of their weekly workshops. With a range of online courses to choose from on the codebar website, there are also additional resources that students can work on to support their learning.

If tackling programming for the first time seems intimidating, the coaches at the workshops are on hand to answer any burning questions and help you work through any problems. People who are complete beginners, who have never seen a line of code, are welcome!

What happens at a Simply Business and codebar workshop?

Our previous coding workshops with codebar have been hosted at our Simply Business office in London. These workshops have been well-attended, with typically over 60 talented and enthusiastic people from diverse backgrounds meeting up and keen to learn more about coding. While some people may have previous development experience (e.g. Java, HTML, CSS, Python), others have no experience of coding at all. But they all have one thing in common – a curiosity to learn about technologies they’d not had the opportunity to try before.


Codebar workshop at Simply Business, London

At the workshops Simply Business has held with codebar in London, people get the opportunity to code for the very first time, learning basic programming skills and writing code themselves. For beginners, codebar provides the perfect introduction to the foundations of programming, including classes, regular expressions, syntax, logic and terminal commands.

Experienced coaches (software engineers) are paired with students who are relatively new to coding. Attendees also get a two-hour personalised tutorial in whichever language they want to learn. They then get to work on a project – this could be a personal project, or a website they’re building from scratch.

What makes codebar unique is that the weekly workshops they provide are key in supporting those who want to go on to become software engineers – and codebar has a great network around them to achieve those aims.

Virtual meetup

In May 2020, Simply Business hosted codebar’s first ever remote meetup. This was an incredibly exciting event and our team was honoured to be working with codebar at this online session, joined by over 140 attendees.

Simply Business Tech was represented by Jennifer Gabrielle-Chapman (Head of Talent Acquisition & Inclusion) and Rob Faldo (Software Engineer), who presented their top tips on how people can best navigate their career during the Covid-19 crisis.


Remote meetup hosted by Simply Business and codebar

Jen and Rob provided their insights into the current market and how you can make yourself stand out as an engineering candidate once the industry normalises. We were thrilled that the presentation was so well received and that the audience engaged by asking many questions in the Zoom chat.

What made this remote meetup particularly special was that people from all around the world could join (not just from London, as our office-based events are), making it a really inclusive event – something that underpins both Simply Business’s and codebar’s values.

Coaching at codebar

Codebar has a really special atmosphere, something I’ve never seen before.

At codebar, it’s not just the students who come from different backgrounds, but also the coaches. Coaches are experienced software engineers who dedicate their personal time and share a genuine passion for teaching other people and provide an opportunity to develop a new career path. They share their insights into what it’s like to work in the industry, which can range from a walk through a developer’s day-to-day working life, tips on how to learn code, what methods work best for them and their recommendations on how to learn certain programming languages.


Learning from coaches at codebar and Simply Business, London

Students very quickly understand that it’s okay to make mistakes, there are no wrong questions; if they stumble, they learn ways to overcome frustrations and techniques for working through any problems. It’s very rewarding to watch students’ creations come to life after all their hard work, and witness that lightbulb moment that happens when something just ‘clicks’.

For those new to programming, and with so many different online learning resources, it can seem overwhelming and people often don’t know where to begin. Software engineers who’ve been in the industry for a long time can help provide recommendations on who to approach for advice, social media influencers, podcasts and online tutorials that can accelerate learning. It’s important that students feel that they can invest their time appropriately and have the opportunity to confirm which resources will be valuable to them.

The start of a journey in coding

For those attending a codebar workshop for the first time, it’s the start of an exciting journey and career in software engineering. Many students have gone on to join a bootcamp course and make a successful transition into tech. In fact, some of our engineers at Simply Business were codebar students not so long ago. You can read some inspirational stories about codebar students on the codebar blog.

At Simply Business, we continue to support codebar as we understand how crucial these coding workshops are. Collaborating with codebar not only benefits the students, but also our coaches at Simply Business. In tech, we’ve experienced the benefits of sharing our knowledge with others, both personally and professionally.

If after reading this blog post, you’re considering trying your hand at coding, the codebar workshops are definitely something to consider.

Simply Business runs and hosts regular events for its London Meetup group. For upcoming events, visit Simply Business Tech events.


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Julia Studholme

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