Girl Develop It (GDI) is a not-for-profit organization with chapters around the world, dedicated to providing affordable and accessible instruction and mentorship to women interested in software development.
Bringing GDI to Detroit
GDI Detroit was founded and is organized by Erika Carlson, now a software developer at Detroit Labs, and Michelle Srbinovich, Digital Director and current interim co-general manager at WDET radio.
“When Michelle and I started the group,” Erika explained, “my motivation was pretty simple: I had recently learned to code and absolutely loved it, and I wanted to create an opportunity for other women to learn in a relaxed, beginner-friendly environment. These days, I’m motivated by the stories I hear from our students — the confidence they gain through learning to code, the fun they have, the possibilities that open up for them, and the opportunities they create for themselves.”
Michelle feels the same way: “We’re just as passionate about empowering female developers as we are about teaching women how to code. We feel there is a real opportunity here in Detroit to build a tech industry that is diverse from the ground up.”
Cara Jo Miller, a UI designer who had lived and worked in Detroit for 5 years, was the founding instructor of GDI Detroit. She taught a number of introductory and intermediate HTML and CSS classes, and helped improve and extend GDI’s curriculum. Her contagious enthusiasm and endearingly quirky personality instantly made her a hit with students.
A few months ago, Cara Jo moved to Boulder, Colorado to become Lead Designer at Simple Energy. She wasted no time in spreading the GDI love: within days of moving, she had founded GDI Boulder.
“I’m really happy I got involved with GDI early on and was there to watch it grow into an amazing resource for the community of Detroit,” she writes. “When you start to impact the community of Detroit, you see it right away. Once, a random lady came up to me and Erika and said, ‘OMG, you’re the Girl Code It ladies!’ Word had spread about GDI to the whole metro Detroit area, and that’s awesome.”
Girl Develop It and Atomic Object
At Atomic Object, we are committed to supporting women in software, as well as contributing to the revival of Detroit. Supporting GDI and other local user groups, and hosting our own events like BitCamp, are great ways for us to do both at the same time.
Of course, there are nice practical benefits besides the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from doing good in the community. Promoting diversity in the tech community helps ensure a robust and vibrant pool of talented designers and developers, both now and in the future. And our involvement with local groups also helps spread the word that Atomic is here in Detroit, we care about the community — and, by the way, we’re hiring!
Besides, hosting a group like GDI is a treat. They are incredibly well organized, they offer affordable, high-quality curriculum and a supportive environment, and they are simply a joy to interact with. We love hosting GDI, and if the adorable notes that appear on our white boards are any indication, the feeling is mutual!
“We are so delighted to call Atomic Object our ‘home’ in the city of Detroit,” Erika tells me. “We definitely love the unique, creative, comfortable space, but the best and most valuable thing to us is the incredible support and encouragement we receive from everyone we encounter at the company. It’s very inspiring to have a company like Atomic Object say to us, ‘We believe in the work you’re doing.’ GDI Detroit has grown to over 500 members and taught beginning programming to over 200 students in Detroit since November 2012, and our partnership with Atomic Object has made much of that work possible.”
Michelle concurs: “Having this great space to hold classes and workshops each month makes it easy for us to focus on what’s important — our community and the quality of our curriculum. Atomic Object has been a supporter and guide for us since our very first event, before we were even sure of where we were going with the chapter, and we’ll forever be grateful for that.”
“The Atomic Object team is so amazing and supportive of GDI and we couldn’t be happier to have such an amazing sponsor,” adds Cara Jo. “I wish every city with GDI had their very own Atomic Object!”
Join the Girl Develop It Detroit group on MeetUp to find out more about upcoming events.