Entrepreneurial group teaches female tech graduates how to code for free and set up their own startups.
The famous towering building, One, Canada Square in Canary Wharf is associated with highfliers and knowledgeable businessmen.
But high above the London skyline, level 39 of the building has played host to some intrepid young ladies who are just getting their feet on the business ladder.
Code First: Girls, is an entrepreneurial group for female graduates who want to get more involved in the tech world. The Wall Street Journal described the group as "an attempt to redress the tech gender imbalance." As part of the Entrepreneur First umbrella group, it helps to teach girls coding and then set up their own applications and startups.
Last year, Entrepreneur First created 11 startups that have been valued at $32m in just under a year. Alex Bentinck, co-founder of the not-for-profit group realised that less than 20% of applicants were girls.
Thanks to the creation of Code First: Girls, that figure rose to more than 40%. "Code First Girls has grown into a thing much bigger than we ever imagined. It allows girls to try coding and see if it is for them. It’s the environment of being able to learn with girls in tech see tech as more than just a boys club," said Bentinck.
The free, nine week programme teaches female graduates the basics of programming – a vital skill to help them build their own tech startups or to get into working in a startup. It is estimated that by 2020 there will be 1.4m computer jobs in the US versus only 400,000 computer science students. This is a big hole to fill, and it would be great if it could be filled by women, as well as men.
Every girl came to the programme for a different reason and left with the skills to be able to help them along their chosen path after university.
Nadia Odunayo wanted to take an entrepreneurial route out of university, but was lacking in vital tech skills. Despite co-founding the publication StoryGraph with a friend, she was forced to rely on someone else to build the site.
"When I heard about Code First it was the perfect thing for me to do, to enable me to be competitive in the tech startup world and to manage my own projects.
"At the same time as doing the coding course, I was also working in my college at the University of Oxford in the academic office, on widening participation initiatives. I also had to do a project there, so I combined the two by making a schools based access project. I made this application aimed at 12-15 year olds such that they could log super-curricular activities they did.
"Some of the resources that I’ve linked to have been things like learn how to code online so it is showing people in that age group what they can do and enable them to start to learn to code early."
Pooja Thackrar launched a startup four months ago and had trouble speaking to developers and trying to describe what she wanted done.
"I wanted to learn to code so I could understand the language and learn how to speak to them and therefore I found out about CodeFirst, applied and started," she said.
"I did quite a similar project based on my startup so I could better understand the thinking behind it. My startup is called My Blue Tasks; it’s an online platform that lets you instantly book household services. Within that you can put your postcode and the service you want, such as cleaners, painters, handymen, and the date and time you want it. The app then searches our back end database.
"So for the project I learnt how to build was to create a postcode search where it was two ends to it: the customer coming into it and the backend for the provider. When the two matched up, it displayed a result with the provider and the skills they have. So it was quite open in terms of a market place for anything."
Entrepreneur First has already produced some great startups and Odunayo, Thrackrar and their peers look set to follow in their footsteps with some really innovate tech companies.