Join me at the Ed Lives! Cocktail Gala on February 23rd – or request a subsidized ticket

Feb01

Will I be seeing you at the Ed Lives! Cocktail Gala & official launch of Toronto for Everyone on February 23rd?

Ed Lives! is bringing together leaders to commemorate Honest Ed’s for the last time on February 23 at 6 pm before it closes for redevelopment, and in its spirit, launch a new initiative called Toronto for Everyone.

Toronto for Everyone is an initiative by the Centre for Social Innovation that will focus on promoting inclusive and collaborative city building through an innovator’s fund, allyship educational series, and advocacy campaign with creative agency, Sid Lee.

It’s an audacious initiative and I’m sure you can agree, more timely than ever. Launching it at Honest Ed’s — a place of grand ambition that wholly stood for community and inclusivity — could not be more fitting.

They are seeking founding members, which means being part a network of city leaders focused on inclusivity that will shape future initiatives of Toronto for Everyone.

Tickets are $259.99 and you can purchase them here. Ticket sales for the Cocktail Gala will go towards ensuring An Honest Farewell is as accessible as possible, to as many as possible.

The night will have a specialty cocktail experience, moving quartet band, food stations from a selection of diverse restaurants across Toronto, a special presentation from outstanding inclusive city builders, including Jay Pitter, Luke Anderson, Jason Carter, Erin Kang and Denise Pinto, a craft beer and art garden by Collective Arts Brewery, and lots of other magical nuggets.

Request a Subsidized Ticket

Do you know a city builder or social innovator just starting out who should absolutely be there? Are you one? I’m going to subsidize the cost of a Gala ticket for five up and comers – so many people helped me when I was just starting out, and I love finding ways to pay it forward. We can even meet up before the event and head over together.

Email me at heather [at] hackeryou.com for details.

 

HackerYou becomes first coding bootcamp in Ontario to submit application to register as a Private Career College

Sep14

When HackerYou launched in 2012, the idea of “coding bootcamps” was just emerging. Generally speaking, a coding bootcamp is an educational experience that offers full­-time, in­-person instruction of 40 or more hours of classroom time per week, focused on either full-stack web development, mobile development or front-end development. Usually, bootcamps last between eight and 12 weeks. And the goal is clear: for students to develop skills that will lead to employment. But what coding bootcamps have also traditionally had in common was that they are not accredited.

Well, if that is the criteria, then HackerYou hopes to not be considered a “coding bootcamp” much longer, because yesterday we submitted our application to register HackerYou as a Private Career College in the province of Ontario.

Background:

For years, I’ve grappled with the decision around whether or not I should go through the process of applying to register HackerYou as a Private Career College in Ontario. When one of our competitors, Bitmaker Labs, was investigated by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in 2013, I wrote a blog post on the topic. At the time, all of HackerYou’s programs were exempt from registration due to their length, cost, or both. But just as I predicted in my blog post, over time HackerYou students and alumni started requesting that we introduce programs that were longer than 40 hours. They wanted us to introduce a vocational program. So in 2014, we did. We called it our Front-End Web Development Immersive, and we’ve graduated 286 people over 11 cohorts, with a placement rate of nearly 100%. You can see where our graduates have landed jobs here.

I knew that we would eventually have to “grow up” and register HackerYou as a Private Career College. Running vocational programs in Ontario without being registered is simply not allowed, and being a responsible business owner means playing by the rules.

On September 13, 2016, I submitted HackerYou’s application to become a registered Private Career College in Ontario, and I am really excited about what this means for us.

Impact on Current Operations:

The impact on current operations is minimal. Our part-time courses are non-vocational and will continue as usual (maybe you should apply to join us?). Our Fall 2016 bootcamp has been sold out for weeks, and will begin as planned on September 19th. We can’t wait to welcome our 32 students to Cohort 12!

Impact on Future Operations:

One of the Ministry of Advanced Education & Skills Development’s rules is that you cannot advertise a vocational program until it has been approved. So, for now, you’ll notice that the webpage about our bootcamp program looks a little different.

We also can’t schedule our first bootcamp in 2017 until we receive approval from the Ministry. Sometimes, the process can take months – that’s just the way it is. But this timing couldn’t be better for us, as we always take a two-month break from bootcamps between mid-November and mid-January, anyway. Traditionally, we’ve used that time to make improvements to our curriculum. This year, we’re using that time to ensure that, as soon as we receive word from the Ministry, we’re ready to go.

If or when our bootcamp program is approved, it is going to be better than ever. First, we’ve made some massive improvements to the content which we’re really excited to share. We’ll also be able to offer a certificate. It won’t change the reason students attend HackerYou (in this industry, you don’t need a certificate – you need skills), but it’s still cool.

There is also some impact on how HackerYou operates behind the scenes. For example, we’ll now need to have audited financial statements completed every year, rather than just regular financial statements. Our students’ results will also be audited. Each year, the government wants to know how many students complete Private Career College vocational programs, and whether they got jobs. (Based on how we’ve done over the past three years, I’m thrilled to have an official medium for bragging!).

The requirements for Private Career Colleges should make potential students more eager to apply to HackerYou, if approved, than to non-registered institutions. There are a number of requirements that are all in place to ensure that consumers are protected, and that Private Career Colleges are financially stable. It’s probably one of the best things about the idea of becoming registered – it brings a level of legitimacy to what we’re doing at HackerYou that we just couldn’t provide before.

A final perk worth mentioning is around financial aid. Once HackerYou is approved and can provide three years of audited financial statements, we’ll be able to apply to accept OSAP for our vocational programs. Paying for our programs has always been a concern for students, and we’re excited about the potential to introduce this option in a few years.

Innovating from the inside:

Until now, I’ve been trying to fix education as an outsider. HackerYou existed on the fringes, outside of the system. We have had a massive, life-changing impact on hundreds of alumni, but relatively no impact on the education industry overall. We’re a blip.

Since we started the process of applying to register as a Private Career College, I’ve been encouraged by how many opportunities there seem to be for us to work with the government to  innovate from the inside. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had many productive conversations with various folks from the Ministry of Advanced Education & Skills Development. I even received a letter from the Honourable Deb Matthews, in which she states that she “recognize[s] the important work [HackerYou is] doing, equipping people with skills that are in high demand, and helping us to prepare people for the technology- and knowledge-based economy of the future.” She goes on to state that she would like to meet with me; that meeting has already been set for next week.

But despite our application to register and all of the rules and responsibilities that go along with becoming a Private Career College in Ontario, we remain committed to staying true to what has made HackerYou so successful the first place – staying small, remaining agile, and focusing on student results. We believe that, if our application is accepted, we can be an example for other Private Career Colleges in Ontario. We want to continue to be known as the best place in the province to learn to code, and I have no doubt that we will be able to continue to lead our industry into the future as we have for the past four years.

Questions?

I’m happy to answer questions about anything and everything related to HackerYou and the process of applying to become a Private Career College, and what this means. Feel free to email me at heather [at] hackeryou.com.

How to Start Things

Sep30

This post was inspired by a talk I gave at 99u Local in Toronto on Sept.15.

These days, everyone has an idea for an app, or a start-up they think should exist. Lots of people want to write books, learn to play guitar or grow their Instagram following. Everyone has ideas all the time for things they want to build or do or somehow make happen.

The thing is, we have enough ideas. We have more than enough dreamers. What we need are people who can execute.

To be honest, original ideas aren’t my strength. I’ve built my career in taking other people’s ideas and executing them flawlessly. And, like anything, the more often you do it, the easier it gets.

Here are some hacks which have helped me stop dreaming and start doing:

1) Hustle, first

I meet with a lot of people who have an idea for an app or a start-up, but are having trouble starting because they’re not technical. They wonder if I can connect them with a developer, or a designer, or even a CTO.

They often hate my advice:

If you’re not technical, don’t start with tech. Start by hustling.

Let me give you an example. A few weeks ago, I was approached by a woman who had an app idea. She wanted to create a sort of social network targeting a niche demographic.

Now, I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not, because I’m not part of the particular demographic she was planning on going after. But what I do know is that it would be unwise (and expensive) to build an app as a first step.

I recommended a hustle-first, low-tech approach. I suggested that she build a landing page about her social network and then as people sign up, invite them to a private Slack group where they could interact by having discussions, sharing photos and videos, etc. This wasn’t all of the functionality that the had envisioned for her social network, but it was some of it. More importantly, it would give her the chance to:

  1. See if she could get people to her landing page, and that it converted to sign ups, and
  2. Determine if people would even download the Slack app for their phone or desktop and give it a try.

If she found that lots of people joined her Slack community, she might be onto something. If they weren’t joining, she could contact them to find out why.

It’s an easy way to test what appetite there might be for her idea.

Securing angel investment to build out an idea or an app also becomes a stronger possibility when you can prove that there’s interest, and show that you’re able to drive users to your product, even if it’s not yet the full version you imagined.

AirBnb is a famous example of a hustle-first, low-tech approach.

Before building a sophisticated website, they created a landing page with a few photos of a room for rent. They co-ordinated over email and probably received payment via Paypal, or even in cash. It wasn’t until months later that they hired a developer to build out a fully functional version of an app.

The best thing about a hustle-first, low-tech approach is that by the time you’re ready to build your first product, you’ll have customers you can learn from and possibly even some cash (from customers or investors) to spend. But best of all, you don’t have to wait for anything or anyone before you can get started.

2) Manufacture deadlines

I procrastinate. To be honest, it’s sort of amazing I get anything done at all. It’s even worse with startup ideas, or side projects or learning new skills, because there’s no boss to give you a deadline. But I’ve figured out a hack that ensures I get things done. I manufacture deadlines for myself all along the way.

Let me give you an example. When I decided to start Ladies Learning Code, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to get it off the ground successfully. At a brainstorming session about the idea of Ladies Learning Code on July 6th, 2011, I told the 80 people in the room that our first workshop would be hosted exactly one month from that date, on August 6th. I didn’t have a venue, an instructor, any content, or even a projector screen. But I knew that if I made a public commitment and gave myself a hard deadline, I’d get it done. And I did.

I often share this tip with HackerYou graduates. We host a weekly event at HackerYou called Show and Tell. Every Friday, we stop working at 5 pm, grab a beer or glass of wine, and then enjoy presentations from three bootcamp students on some sort of material that goes beyond the scope of the bootcamp. We usually have one of our Alumni present as well. It’s fun for students to see something they might be able to do six months or a year down the road.

Often, we have Alumni commit to doing a presentation months down the road. They’ll coordinate with us to let us know what they’ll present, and then they have a couple months to actually get it done. It’s an awesome way to ensure the side project they’ve been thinking becomes reality.

Consider manufacturing deadlines in your own life:

  • If you want to run a marathon next year, sign up for a 5K run.
  • If you want to become a better public speaker, connect with a Meet-up group and offer to do a presentation within a month.

The confidence you’ll build through doing will help you continue to execute flawlessly.

3) The 10,000 Hours Rule

Starting projects sucks: it’s a lot of effort up front and it often takes a long time before anyone notices. There are no overnight successes.

It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. But even if you don’t have the goal of becoming a world-class writer/business person/singer/etc., it will still take time to become proficient. Maybe it’s 100 hours, or 500. Maybe it’s 1000 hours. The key is to not give up before you hit that point.

Taking courses or buying lessons can help you get through the dip. That’s why they get people results.

For example, I started learning guitar at the beginning of July. I’ve practiced most days of the week for about three months now…and finally, just a couple weeks ago, practicing guitar became fun. Signing up for guitar lessons helped me to keep at it, even on the days I really didn’t want to. And that’s how I got here, three months later.

As you’re starting, think about what you’re going to do once the initial excitement wears off and all you have left is the work. A course, series of lessons or a tutor can be a good way to help you get through those tough days. Meeting up with a partner who has the same goal as you can be another great way to get through the dip.

If you’d like to check out a book that changed my entire outlook on talent and hard work, grab a copy of The Talent Code. We actually send this book to all HackerYou students before they start our bootcamp, because I find it is exactly what they need to get them in the mindset for learning.

There’s no such thing as a perfect idea, so it’s time to stop waiting for one to come along. Pick the one you’re most excited about today, and just start. Put in six months or a year of consistent effort, and then see where you are. No idea is good until it’s in play. I suspect you’ll be surprised by what can happen when you start doing.

For Educators: The Importance of Being Bad at Things

Dec16

My ego got bruised today. See, I think I’m a pretty good dancer. I took dance classes as a kid, and even worked as a fitness instructor for a handful of years. I definitely think I can keep a beat. Generally I feel in control of my body and like I have coordination.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when I showed up for a drop-in beginner-level hip hop dance class today and made a fool of myself. There were a few problems. First, I just couldn’t make the moves look cool. Even simple stuff, like step-touches, just didn’t look right, at least, not as good as they looked when the instructor demoed them. And there was no avoiding this realization – you’re dancing in front of yourself in the mirror. The second problem was the choreography. Keeping a sequence of 12-15 physical movements in memory isn’t something I’ve done in a while, and I totally sucked at it. I had to constantly watch the instructor, so I was always just a little behind everyone else. Which didn’t help the “looking cool” thing either.

By the end of the class, I really wanted it to be over. And I pouted for a bit afterward. I was bummed. And interestingly, that was exactly the feeling I was looking for.

At HackerYou, we now train about 350 students per year – about 100 full-time students, and then another 250 or so part-time students. What we’re teaching those students isn’t always easy. Getting started can be intimidating. There’s a bunch of stuff you have to learn before you can take on projects that are really cool or interesting, and there are so many little things that can trip you up throughout the learning journey – even just syntax.

As HackerYou’s CEO, it’s important to me that I remember what it’s like to be a beginner, because I want to make sure I can empathize with our students. And one of the best ways to do that, I’ve found, is to do something so completely out of my comfort zone that at the end of the first day, I almost want to quit.

Two years ago, I learned how to snowboard. All I can say is, ouch. Earlier this year, I learned to drive stick. I hired an instructor – someone whose job is to teach people who know how to drive automatic vehicles to drive standard ones – and still found it to be one of the toughest learning curves I’ve ever endured.

So was I kind of bummed today when I discovered that I’m not going to be busting out some sweet new moves and choreography this weekend? Sure. But I’m actually happier to have discovered something new that I’m going to have to work really hard at. Some days, I’ll want to give up. And every time I go through an experience where I have that feeling I become just a little bit better at counselling and guiding our students at HackerYou.

The other cool thing about being bad at something is that the only direction you can go is up. And that’s a fun journey, too.

How I would learn to code if I was starting today

Dec18

Sure, I’m biased, but hear me out.

I’d start by taking a couple of Ladies Learning Code workshops, just to make sure that I enjoy coding enough to become decent at it. I’d probably start with HTML & CSS and then JavaScript. Total cost: $50 per workshop plus tax.

Then I’d enroll in HackerYou’s part-time web development courses. The next part-time HTML & CSS course begins on January 20th, and the part-time Intro to Responsive Design (a worthwhile add-on) begins on March 3rd. Led by Wes Bos, HackerYou’s part-time web development courses always sell out. You’ll learn HTML5, CSS3 and Responsive Design from the ground up, and by the end of the courses you will have built three full websites from scratch. Total cost: $2477.88 plus tax.

Then I’d apply for HackerYou’s full-time web development immersive. The first cohort in January is sold out, but the second cohort begins on April 14th so the timing is perfect. Because going from the part-time courses into the full-time course makes tons of sense, HackerYou actually offers graduates of our part-time web development courses a $2000 discount on the full-time course. Total cost: $3982.30 plus tax.

Total time: Approximately five months
Total hours: Approximately 450
Total cost: $6560.18 plus tax ($7413 including tax, or about $1400 a month)

Sure, it’s a time commitment and it’s definitely a financial commitment. But after five months with HackerYou, you’ll be ready for a job as a professional developer. And if that’s something you’re going to love, it’s worth it.

To learn more about Ladies Learning Code, click here. To learn more about HackerYou, click here.

On Education and Regulations and Innovation

Jun25

Yesterday, Bitmaker Labs announced via their website that they have discontinued operating their web development program. This action is due to an ongoing investigation from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), which may have led to a cease and desist and potential fines, even prison. The MTCU regulates certain programs – including those longer than 40 hours that also cost more than $1000 – and their objective is to look out for the public interest.

Although in some ways Bitmaker Labs and HackerYou are competitors, we’ve always had a positive relationship with them. Maybe it’s because we’re the only two organizations of our kind in Canada. Maybe it’s because Matt, Tory, Andy and Will are all Ivey grads, and so am I. Or maybe it’s because we always just sort of knew that our biggest threat wasn’t each other – it was the industry that we’d chosen, and the status quo. And, as it turns out, that threat is very real.

First, I want to say that we are sad and disappointed that Bitmaker was given no option but to discontinue operations (and we’re glad it’s only temporary). We believe that Bitmaker Labs has made HackerYou a better company, by keeping us on our toes and showing us what is possible. Bitmaker Labs has done great work since they launched last fall – they are legitimately helping people and making our city and our tech and startup communities a better place. We want both HackerYou and Bitmaker Labs to continue to exist in Toronto and beyond, and we want to do whatever we can to make this happen, including working together. Ontario needs these types of programs.

Next, because there have been a lot of questions about this, I’d like to explain why HackerYou does not anticipate an investigation by the MTCU. Private Career Colleges are regulated by the MTCU in accordance with the Private Career Colleges Act. From a factsheet provided by the Ministry:

“Exemption under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 means that an institution is not required to be registered with the Superintendent of Private Career Colleges and/or a program offered by an institution does not require approval before being offered to the public.”

There are a number of exemptions under the act, but there are two in particular that are the easiest to work with. Programs which are less than 40 hours long are exempt, as are programs that cost less than $1000. Although we have not always been perfect, we have generally abided by the regulations and now have ensured that all of our programs fall within one of these two exemptions. Additionally, I have documentation from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities stating that we’re in the clear, based on these exemptions. It is certainly a workaround – we’ve modified our offerings solely because of the regulations. If we could offer a longer program and charge more than $1000 for it, we would. This is one of the reasons we, like Bitmaker Labs, are considering becoming a registered Private Career College, though we haven’t made that decision quite yet.

As many of you know, my team and I also run a non-profit called Ladies Learning Code (which also runs Girls Learning Code and Kids Learning Code). Again, Ladies Learning Code is not at risk because none of our programs are more than 40 hours or more than $1000. What about Girls Learning Code summer day camps? Don’t worry – programs exclusively for youth are also exempt under the Act. There are other exemptions, too. For example, organizations without a physical presence in Ontario are also not required to be registered (for those wondering about programs like those offered by Treehouse or US-based MOOCs), nor are corporate training programs (where it is a third party that pays for training, not the students themselves).

I’ve learned quite a bit about the Private Career Colleges Act over the past little while, and I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned with anyone interested. My email is heather [at] heatherpayne.ca.

Finally, I’d like to share some of my personal thoughts on education, regulations and innovation as it relates to the work that I do. First, I understand why the Ministry and the Act exist. Bitmaker Labs and HackerYou are great organizations, with solid teams who are doing good work. We may not be able to say the same thing about the next bootcamp program that pops up. And I’m sure there are lots of beauty schools and locksmith schools and truck driving schools that are run by sketchbags. These fly-by-night “career colleges” take money from students and don’t deliver the goods – that is what the MTCU is trying to protect people from. Fair enough.

That being said, while I believe in regulation for the protection of students, I find the Private Career Colleges Act anti-startup. To offer a program like the one Bitmaker Labs offers requires registration with the MTCU. It takes six to eight months, usually, and a bond (a letter of credit from a bank) is required. For a school bringing in about $1 million in revenues, the bond amount is $150,000. Suddenly, a startup is looking at a six- to eight-month process before they can even advertise (because advertising before you’re registered is not allowed), plus they have to find cash for the bond. Did I mention that they haven’t even had the chance to validate their idea? This is one of the main reasons I urge Bitmaker Labs to go through the registration process – they have traction, so in some ways, the hard work is already done.

This brings me to another issue, also related to Bitmaker’s next move – also a potential next move for us. If you become a registered Career College, will you ever truly disrupt education? At that point, you’re part of the system. You’re having students complete exams and keeping transcripts on file (but off-site, in an approved facility) for 25 years. You’re applying to have your advertisements and programs and instructors approved. You’re not updating your content as often, because each time do you it’s a huge pain in the ass. But you don’t say anything, because after all, you have to renew your registration with the MTCU annually and there’s just too much at stake. You’ll probably become a dues-paying member of the Ontario Association of Career Colleges or the National Association of Career Colleges, or both. Maybe you’ll join their board. You’ll scrutinize startups in the space who haven’t registered – can you report them for one reason or another? Anything to protect yourself and the status quo, right?

So, yes, while I am unreasonably supportive of Bitmaker Labs and want to see them back in action, I also understand where the Ministry is coming from. At the same time, Bitmaker Labs and HackerYou are doing great work, and that should count for something. Young people are getting jobs – could anything be more important than that right now? I have issues with the way the Bitmaker Labs investigation was handled (couldn’t the Ministry have allowed them to wrap up the current cohort?!) and I have issues with the system in general. I wish there was some middle ground. I am torn when it comes to the decision whether or not to register HackerYou as a Private Career College. On the one hand, it seems to be the only way to create a truly impactful business, since right now we’re limited when it comes to the length and cost of our programs. But on the other hand, I really don’t want to deal with any bullshit. And neither do our students. So another option is to just do what we’re doing (offer only programs that are exempt due to length and cost), at least until the MTCU and the Ontario Government realize that the Act and their enforcement of it are going to result in a new form of “brain drain”. If we can’t provide options here, it won’t just be our engineers and software developers who head south – Ontarians who want to learn to code may have no choice but to do the same. And maybe they won’t come back.

How to turn your WordPress site into a Windows 8 app – for free!

Apr01

As part of Ladies Learning Code‘s partnership with Microsoft this year, we’re working on helping beginners to launch apps in the Windows 8 app store. Part 1 of our effort involved workshops in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa on Windows 8 app design and/or development. The team at Nascent (one of our silver-level sponsors) did an incredible job of developing the content for those workshops (as well as an awesome to-do list app) and leading both a design and development workshop in Toronto. Thanks as well to Kharis O’Connell (@rmtwrkr) for leading our App Design workshop in Vancouver, and to Barbara Spanton (@_b_a_r_b_) for leading it in Ottawa.

Part 2 of our plan involves a cool tool developed by IdeaNotion that makes it easy for anyone – even beginners – to turn their WordPress site into a Windows 8 app. It’s called IdeaPress, and you can access it on any laptop, running any operating system that has an up-t0-date browser. We’re taking things one step further by offering to publish apps using Ladies Learning Code’s Windows store developer account (which costs $99 annually) using a Windows 8 device that we’ve borrowed from Microsoft. We’re aiming to help 50 beginners publish apps in the Windows 8 app store by April 5th. If you’d like one of them to be yours (and we hope you do!), please follow the simple steps below.

1. Make sure your website is compatible with IdeaPress

IdeaPress works with WordPress – both self-hosted WordPress.org as well as WordPress.com sites will work! If you have a self-hosted WordPress site (aka. WordPress.org), there’s just one tiny extra step that you need to do…

2. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site (aka. WordPress.org), you need to install the JSON API plugin.

Log in to the admin dashboard of your website and click on “Plugins” on the left menu bar. Click “Add new” at the top of the page. In the search bar, type “JSON API” and click “Search Plugins”. The JSON API plugin we’re looking for should be the first result (it’s the one by Dan Phiffer). Under the title, click “Install Now”. Activate it. If you don’t see an option to activate it, go to “Plugins” and then “Installed Plugins” and activate the JSON API plugin from there. Finally, go to “Settings” on the left menu bar. Click on “JSON API” and activate “Core”, “Response” and “Post” by clicking “Activate” under each word.

(If you have a WordPress.com site, you don’t have to do this step! Also, if you’d like to have me do the rest of these steps for you, I’m happy to! Just send me an email and let me know the URL of your WordPress site, and I’ll go right ahead and create an app for you!)

3. Go to IdeaPress.meClick “Get Started” on the homepage, and enter the address of your WordPress site as well as your email address. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site (WordPress.org) and you have the JSON API plugin installed, it will move you on to the next step.If you are converting a WordPress.com site, it will ask for one more piece of information – your Client ID and your Application Secret. To get those, follow these instructions (instructions coming soon!)

4. General Info

Give your app a name and a description. It’s worth spending some extra time on your description, because an unclear description that doesn’t clearly explain the value of the app will be rejected by the Windows 8 App store. Here are a few examples of descriptions that were accepted by the app store:

For Wesbos.com:

“Welcome, friends. You have reached the personal blog & portfolio of Wes Bos. I’m a designer, developer and entrepreneur from Toronto, Canada. Please take a look at my work gallery, read my blog or get in touch!”

For Hackeryou.com:

“HackerYou, based in Toronto, Canada, offers the city’s best part-time courses for people who want to learn to code. The recipe? Hands-on, project-based learning from industry-leading professionals. Small classes and a 10:1 ratio (or better!) of students to instructors. And a learning environment that’s social and collaborative. Make this year the year you finally learn to code – HackerYou can help get you there.

App features:

  • Check out upcoming courses
  • View upcoming workshops
  • Inquire about corporate training
  • Learn about the team behind HackerYou
  • Meet HackerYou’s advisors”

Make a note of your app description in a Word document or draft email – you’ll need it again later!

5. Content Configuration

Now is your chance to customize how your app looks. First, start by choosing which pages should be included in the app. For best results, choose pages with lots of content, as well as a unique image. I recommend avoiding including your “Home” page, if you have one, unless your homepage has content that is significantly different from what’s on your about page.You’ll also select which categories to include, and whether or not you’d like to include recent posts. I usually include all categories and recent posts.

6. Theme Configuration

Now is your chance to change the layout and colours of your app, and add images. This is where you can make your app look really polished. You’ll need a few different images – click here to download a file that includes blank files for each of the images you’ll need. You can use a program like Pixlr to add your logo, etc. to them.

  • Background image: 1366px by 768px (I usually just upload an image that’s completely white.)
  • Title image: 300px by 80px (This should be your logo – it goes on the top left-hand corner of your app)
  • Default article image: 252px by 168px (this image will appear anytime one of your posts or pages doesn’t have a photo)
  • Logo: 150px by 150px (kind of like an app icon)
  • Wide logo: 310px by 150px
  • Splash screen: 620px by 300 px
  • Screenshot: Later, you’ll also need a screenshot of your app which should be 1366px by 768px. You can create one by simply pasting your Splash Screen image onto an image that is 1366px by 768px. This mimics what the splash screen of your app looks like when someone first opens it.

7. Accept the terms of use and generate app package

Be sure to select “Generate App Package” from the options on the left side of the screen. In order to have Ladies Learning Code publish your app, you’ll need to enter the following information:

Privacy policy: If you have one of your own, you can modify it to be suitable for your app. Otherwise, just use the general one that we created for all apps published by Ladies Learning Code. Here’s the link: http://ladieslearningcode.com/privacy-policy

Identity Name: This has to be in the format of “MyCompany.OurAwesomeApp”. So, if Ladies Learning Code is going to publish your app, and you named it “Coolest App” (back in Step 4), your Identity Name would be “LadiesLearningCode.Coolest App”.

Publisher Name: If we’re going to submit your app for you, the Publisher Name should say “Ladies Learning Code”.

Publisher ID: Enter the following: CN=0332249A-B178-470E-8455-17DC36E0D37E

Terms of use and privacy policy: Tick the box if you accept!

Click “submit” to generate your app. It will be emailed to you.

8. Get Your App Published

Shortly, you’ll receive an email from IdeaPress that includes a download link. Forward that email to me at heather [at] ladieslearningcode.com and include the following:

a) Your app description (just paste it into the body of the email). If you forgot to make a note of your app description in Step 4, you can log in to IdeaPress, open your app from the dashboard and use the arrows to navigate to the app name and description page.

b) Your 1366 by 768 px screenshot (attach it to the email).

Once I receive your email, I’ll submit your app to the store and let you know when it’s live! Thanks for helping us reach our goal of 50 apps in the Windows 8 app store!

If you have any questions about the steps involved in turning your WordPress site into a Windows 8 app, feel free to get in touch with me at heather [at] ladieslearningcode.com. And if you have a WordPress-based website, please help us to reach out goal of helping 50 beginners publish apps in the Windows 8 app store by April 5th!

This is exactly what Girls Learning Code was supposed to be

Mar08

One of the best things about this video is the fact that I didn’t know it existed until it was already posted on the internet. Since September, Girls Learning Code has been expertly run by Laura Plant and Ashley Lewis – I’m incredibly impressed with what they’ve done, and can’t wait to see what they have planned for the future. This is exactly what Girls Learning Code was supposed to be. Actually, it’s better than I ever imagined.

Thanks to Tunnel Media for creating this incredible feature on Girls Learning Code, and to Fab Spaces for leading such a wonderful workshop.

Girls Learning Code: Bring creations to life with electronics from Tunnel Media on Vimeo.

Girls and Video Games

Feb28

Last summer, we ran a week of Girls Learning Code summer camp that focused on game design. Once again hosted by Mozilla, the camp gave 40 girls the chance to collaborate in teams to design and develop their own platformer game using Stencyl. We split the girls into groups based on their age: nine-year-olds worked together, 13-year-olds worked together, etc. With the help of a group of amazing mentors, the girls created some truly awesome games and showed them off at the end of the week at their very own Demo Day.

The fascinating thing? Nothing about any of the games the girls created indicated that they were designed by girls. There was no pink, there were no unicorns or hearts or rainbows. For the most part, an uninformed gamer would have no idea who created the adventure they were enjoying – girls, boys or a mixed group. We had games where pieces of bacon had to avoid being fried, popsicles had to fight fire and collect ice cubes, turtles had to go up against sharks and crabs, and of course, the token celebrity game where Hannah Montana had to avoid the Bieberbots. You can check out all of the games our campers created here.

What does it mean? I’m not sure. After all, our sample size is small. But for adults who interact with girls, it’s worth noting because perhaps our assumptions about girls and what they like  – especially when it comes to games, and maybe even technology – are wrong. My ask to parents, as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers and sisters, and anyone else who interacts with children, is to simply not assume anything. Or assume everything. Assume that your daughter is just as interested in learning how a lawn mower works as your son is. Don’t ever automatically exclude her from that lesson, because it will send totally the wrong message – trust that she’ll let you know if she’s not interested. And at that point, you might want to teach her anyway.

Date An Entrepreneur, Female Edition – A Reprise

Jan28

On August 19th, 2011, I wrote a blog post that easily became the most widely-read thing I’ve ever written. It was a surpise to me – I wrote the thing really quickly, late at night, as a reaction to a blog post I came across called “Date an Entrepreneur” (which was based on another post called “Date a Girl Who Reads“). You can check out my post from August 19th here.

The thing that’s funny is that I wasn’t yet an entrepreneur when I wrote that post.  I was working at a startup, and we’d hosted our first Ladies Learning Code workshop, but I hadn’t yet taken the leap.

Now, of course, that’s all changed. Today, I’m definitely an entrepreneur – I make a living by working for organizations that I’ve founded. I’m responsible for paying salaries, carrying a commercial lease and remitting taxes, not to mention all of the fun stuff like making sure people love being HackerYou or Ladies Learning Code customers, defining and executing strategies,  and working with my team. I’ve learned a lot since August 2011, and certainly matured as a person, a woman and an entrepreneur. Looking over my updated post below, and comparing it to the one from 2011, it’s pretty interesting to see what’s changed. And what’s stayed the same.

So, here it is. A reprise of my post about dating an entrepreneur from about a year and a half ago. Would love your thoughts.

Date an Entrepreneur, Female Edition – A Reprise

(An update to my post from August 2011 that was based on “Date an Entrepreneur” by Bridget Porowski and “Date a Girl Who Reads” by Rosemarie Urquico)

Date an entrepreneur. Date a woman who spends her money on programming courses and productivity tools  instead of trips to the mall. A woman who doesn’t mind being told that her idea isn’t going to catch on. One who can scan the landscape and identify opportunities that other people just can’t or won’t see.

Find an entrepreneur. You’ll know she is one because of all the tabs she has open in her browser. She’s the one skimming industry blogs, the one who can’t stop thinking about how she could do more, be better. Yes, things with her business move quickly and yes, she has more ideas than any one person can reasonably handle. But that’s what makes her great. You see a woman writing thoughtfully on an empty page in her notebook, with a Google spreadsheet open and her iPhone out? That’s the entrepreneur. She can never resist exploring a new opportunity, but she’s learned by now that not every idea is ultimately worth pursuing.

She’s the woman wearing jeans while meeting with investors. Or customers. Or anyone, really. (Suits and blazers have seen nothing but the inside of her closet for years.) She’s on her laptop at the coffee shop down the street. Her coffee is cold because she’s kind of mentally occupied. Lost in a world where running a business and changing the world is really hard work. Sit down and chat. (She’ll give you a look because she’s working on some kind of deadline, as always.) Say something that will catch her attention (good luck), and if she seems engaged, ask her about what she’s working on. Let her talk about education, technology, and what she’s got coming down the pipeline. If you dare to interrupt her without a good reason, she’ll give you a look – but that’s just because most people don’t like being interrupted. Try giving her a problem to fix, but only if you really want it fixed and fixed right. Ask her for her help or advice if you need it – she’ll always help if she can. But she’s learned by now that she’ll be better able to help others if she helps herself first.

Let her know what you really think of [insert newsworthy startup story here]. Ask her for her honest opinion. Understand that if she says she likes calculus and video games and is learning Ruby on Rails at HackerYou she’s telling the truth – women don’t tend to exaggerate those things too much. Her economic predictions aren’t spot-on – but these days, whose are? It doesn’t matter, though, because she’d rather invest in people, like Katherine Hague, or in her own businesses. She’s obsessed with generating revenue and profit and does a great job of saving her piece of it. She knows that, in this day in age, she has to take care of herself. She’ll rub off on you, and before you know it you too will carefully compare grocery store prices by the ounce and stock up on household staples when they’re on sale.

It’s easy to date an entrepreneur. Give her Adafruit gift cards – and jewelry – for Christmas and her birthday. Enable her creative side while also making her feel special about being exactly who she is. Understand that, on your anniversary, she might be in New York speaking at a conference or in Halifax launching a new Ladies Learning Code chapter – and forgive her for it. She might be in San Francisco on the 14th, so don’t be shocked if she asks to celebrate Valentine’s Day a day later so you can be together. Let her know that you love the passion she has for what she does. Understand and trust that she knows the difference between the present and the future, but she’s going to change the world to make it reflect her vision for the future. Don’t try to stop her – there’s no point.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Don’t lie to her. Honesty has never been more important. Don’t be one of those people who just tells her what she wants to hear.

She’ll fail sometimes, and that’s okay. Because an entrepreneur knows how to create opportunity from failure. Because an entrepreneur understands that nothing truly comes to an end. That you can always create something from nothing. That you can recreate again and again and that there are lots of ways to create value. That life is meant to have a challenge or two. Besides, it’s a good reminder that she has to focus on being the best she can be – for herself first.

Don’t worry about whatever you feel you lack. Entrepreneurs understand that people, like companies, grow. She will help you realize your potential. She will study you more than anyone. She’ll figure you out. That’s when you’re really in trouble.

You’ll want to propose to her long before she’s ready. She’s got a world to change, she’s always saying, and she’s in no rush. You’ll try to very casually slip it in dozens of times, always somehow losing your nerve at the last minute. Eventually, it will happen – via Skype. When you least expect it to. And the seconds before she says yes will feel like hours. But if you’re lucky, she’ll say yes.

If you find a woman who creates, keep her near. When you find her up at 2 AM wrestling with a bug on her websites that she’s already been working on for hours, make her a cup of tea and grab your laptop or a book and sit with her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. And when she does, she’ll either be absolutely frustrated, finally giving in to her sleepy eyes, or she’ll be on cloud nine because she did it. Either way, in the morning, she’ll be back to normal, so be sure to appreciate those precious moments of emotion.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart doesn’t burst. Together you will create the vision for your lives. You might even have kids together. If you do, they’ll have strange ideas and even stranger imaginations. They’ll have the best lemonade stand in the city. (It’ll have a website, and probably an app.) She will introduce your children to Lego and math and consideration and beauty and generosity and building robots and cooking and JavaScript, maybe in the same day. You will love her more than anything and your relationship will always feel new and fresh, because ideas never get old. Because she’ll mess with your computer, but never your heart.

Date an entrepreneur because you deserve it. You deserve a woman who can give you the most vibrant life imaginable. Share your dreams with her, let her show you better ways of doing things and let her know you love her for who she is. If you want the world and the universe beyond it, date an entrepreneur.

This post is dedicated to Shawn Konopinsky, the best partner I could ever dream of. So happy that we both found entrepreneurs to fall in love with.