Geek Girl Code Retreat

April 12, 2012

On March 17th we hosted a Coderetreat "by girls for girls”. The aim was dual, to say the least. As organisers we wanted to contribute to the Stockholm developer meet-up community, as well as introduce more new people to the community, our network and to the format of Coderetreat, which has proved to be a popular and useful practice event.

In the Coderetreat movement, the goal is skill improvement. We agree that the whole professional developer community would benefit if we practice and reflect on our craftsmanship, in this case, by attending a well facilitated Coderetreat.

Our Stockholm meet-up-community – from the fence

After a year as Consultant Manager for one of Valtech’s developer groups I am fascinated by the thriving developer “meet-up community” in Stockholm, and all the traces seen on blogs, Twitter and conferences. The drive on this scene is remarkable, impressive and very inspiring.

Outside the world of sports I have never been near such an active network. Everyone at a meet-up has a passionate interest for their trade. The atmosphere is friendly and sharing as many seem to know each other or are acquainted from several meet-ups. Relatively few women attend these meet-ups but many participate in several types of events. Nevertheless, the meet-ups are well attended. Some events are so popular that the seats are often full within 30 minutes.

The aspects that are good or bad for a team, group or network depends on its vision, purpose and goals. These can vary from team to team. The risk of strong networks is that they can be excluding, which, in the long run, drains any team and group from revolutional ideas and radically new perspectives. Within these groups it is important to have some 'emotional glue' or social links that keep you together and help you become an effective team. With this, groups can consistently work together towards common goals.

The fact that SHRUG at an event last year allegedly saved 15 seats for first-timers shows that awareness of these meet ups is there. On top of this, Agila Sverige's requests for new lightning talks is also evidence that networks welcome newcomers. These facts raise the following question: Should more be done in that respect in existing strong networks?

How do you reflect and evolve but stay non-hierarchical in a network?

Please give me your thoughts, below or when we hopefully meet.

My aim is not to express negative critique on the meet-up community; I am in awe of the whole thing. I think you should really enjoy and take pleasure of any group, unconference or network where you are on the inside, but also:

  • Be aware of different aspects of networks.
  • At some point do a retrospective of your purpose and drives.
  • Reflect on whether you should benefit from new participants.
  • Take action to achieve your group(’s) ambitions.

The Geek Girl Coderetreat @valtech – in retrospect

I found the goal for the unconference “to create new networks and elevate female role models in the industry”, as inspiring as the illustrative slogan “Do something – Learn something – Share something – Change something”on In that light our “Girl Coderetreat” initiative felt just right, even if we got mixed feedback along the way.

Some notes from my own reflections suggest that the Girl Coderetreat was a really good day/thing:

  • It was a day with a great vibe in the room from the first minute, and we ended on the same note in the retrospective.
  • Many found new inspiration, personal contacts and expanded their personal network.
  • We had a mixed group of senior developers, students, frontend – backend – hardware developers, with very shifting starting knowledge and experience with Test Driven Development
  • Several felt inspired to go back to their dayjob and do more of TDD.
  • It was great to just be programmer for a day, not a 'female' programmer, who has to prove herself.
  • There were many first-timers attended the meet-ups.
  • Several knew few or no one else attending at the start of the day.
  • Reasons for not going to meet-ups differ. For example not knowing about an event at all or finding out about the event after all the spaces have been taken; feeling a bit intimidated; feeling ”meet-ups is probably not for me” or feeling you would not “make the cut” or be skilled enough.
  • Those who regularly attend meet-ups are already part of a strong community sub-network and have access to “inner circle information flow” and “agents.”
  • We had 48 signups on the list the week before the event, but only 28 showed. We couldn’t help but to wonder why. But the good thing was that Emily got more time to facilitate on TDD.
  • Several were amazed by the fact that there “are so many female programmers here who I have never seen on any events”. Wow, what a group it was! In the same room!
  • Everyone seemed to like my barbecue…

Other posts about our Coderetreats and the Retrospective findings

Please mail me if you have seen some more that we should promote!

On a final note

On March 17th it felt great contributing to the quest for improved developer skills and craftmanship. Probably equally important was that numerous people that had not felt the power of a community gathering got a push and a chance to do so. Several students attended along with just-in-time signups and attendants who are not in the “inner circle” of Stockholm’s meet-up community. The fact that it was a lot of strong and clever women is a fantastic bonus.

Salute to all attending this great event. Kudos for all efforts by my fellow Valtechian Kim Thörning (and Peter Lind), and of course our great facilitator Emily Bache.

Until next time!