On Helping Others – Volunteering at Techtonica’s Workshop

Last Saturday, I volunteered to help students with coding tutorials in the first application workshop of Techtonica, a new San Francisco non-profit that offers free tech training for low-income women and non-binary adults. Interestingly, I myself was studying coding tutorials for React the night before.

My React studies has been going for a while. ES6, ES7, vanillaJS, functional programming… my work and studies last year rarely involved JavaScript, and the landscape has changed dramatically since the days when I was learning JQuery and Ajax. I found myself spending the days learning JavaScript instead of starting on a React web app as I had planned.

On the morning of the application workshop, I put a pause on my React studies and did a quick review of the Django Girl tutorial, since I remember reading that Techtonica hosted Django workshop before. It was pretty familiar materials, and really, how in depth can a first-day workshop be? Yet, as I walked to the workshop site, I found myself feeling unsure, both about whether I should start my web app already and whether I can teach coding well.

In the end, my worry about the workshop was unwarranted. The students went through a tutorial that introduces basic HTML and CSS. Not only did I not have any issues helping them, I truly enjoyed the experience of sharing what I know.

I signed up for the last of 5 workshops. It was a small workshop where there were about 6 to 8 applicants. Volunteers and students shared the table, so interactions were easy and the environment was pretty relax and open.

Most applicants seemed to do fine in the tutorial sets and finished it in the requested time frame. The tutorial leaded up to a personal web page. After the tutorials were completed, the applicants got called in individually to be interviewed by the staff while the rest could continue to improve and practice on their own page. They also got to present the resulted web page that their tutorial codes created. In between, there were questions and chats, mostly related to basic HTML/CSS and additional tutorial recommendations.

I found myself reminiscing on how I started coding and how far I have came. Back then, there were no interactive tutorials like Code Academy or FreeCodeCamp – the most popular recommendation during the workshop. Coding wasn’t even a word in my dictionary, until I saw a deceptively thin book on WordPress website while I was shelving books in the college library I worked at.

Now, I can build a website off the top of my head. I can explain to the applicant in the workshop what html tag to use, what css to change, and troubleshoot their codes.

True to the old saying, when you help someone, you end up helping yourself as well. By the end of the day, I felt energized and inspired by what I was able to do and how much I can help others. I went back home where I finished the tutorial set I am on, closed the browser window, and made a new directory.

I am ready to build my React web app.