An 'amazingly diverse mix' of people learned coding basics - Delaware

Professional Development

Apr. 27, 2015 11:03 am

An ‘amazingly diverse mix’ of people learned coding basics

“You shouldn't have to look like me to be a developer,” said Jeff Cohen of He led a coding workshop at the coIN Loft last weekend in partnership with Start It Up Delaware, 1313 Innovation, Tech Impact and Zip Code Wilmington.
Jeff Cohen teaching a coding workshop at the coIN Loft.

Jeff Cohen teaching a coding workshop at the coIN Loft.

(Photo by Tony Abraham)

What holds people back from wanting to learn to code? According to cofounder Jeff Cohen, it’s a host of things.

First, the notion that coding is a mathematician or computer scientist’s game. Cohen said that’s wrong. “Programming is not like math at all,” he argued. “Actually, it’s more like English.”

Um, what?

Cohen compared coding to putting together the classic five-paragraph essay infamously taught in high school English classes, saying programming is more akin to “breaking things down into pieces” and “solving a puzzle” than plugging characters into a formula.

Hearing “no math” should ease the discomforted mind of a yet-unswayed potential coder, right? Wrong.

“People self-select out,” he said. “They don’t think they fit the mold.” That mold is the stereotypical image of a white male in a dimly lit basement somewhere, furiously tip-tapping away at his keyboard.

“You don’t have to look like me to be a developer,” he said. The folks who gathered at coIN Loft to take Cohen’s beginner workshop this past weekend looked anything but like Cohen — what he called an “amazingly diverse mix” of people varying in age, race, gender and profession.

Jeff Cohen and his Wilmington class.

Jeff Cohen (far left) and his Wilmington class. (Photo by Kevin Allen)

Take Karen Anderson, for example. Anderson is an architect who took the weekend-long workshop out of of curiosity. Now, she’ll be using her new skills to create and implement 3D models on her own website.

“This helps me feel more empowered in the field I’m working in,” she said.

Then there’s Quadia Muhammad, program director at Delaware Financial Literacy Institute. Muhammad said that in the nonprofit world, where everything is sourced in-house, you need to have as many tools in your toolbox as possible.


“Knowing how to build a website is one of them,” she said, adding: “See? Tech can be fun.”

The workshop was a collaborative effort between Start It Up Delaware, 1313 Innovation, Tech Impact, and Zip Code Wilmington — a local code academy getting ready to launch this fall.

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