IT'S A COMMUNITY: Graphic artist Morgahna Godwin has found Coding with Grace a chance to learn and share her IT knowledge with others in Bundaberg.
IT'S A COMMUNITY: Graphic artist Morgahna Godwin has found Coding with Grace a chance to learn and share her IT knowledge with others in Bundaberg. Eliza Goetze

Free mentoring program teaches women tech tricks

"A SHIP in port is safe, but that's not what ships are for.”

It's a quote made popular by one Grace Murray Hopper.

She was a US navy admiral and computer programming pioneer of the 20th century, and has both a guided-missile destroyer and a supercomputer named after her.

Across the Pacific and decades later, a Bundaberg couple inspired by Grace are encouraging women to get out of their comfort zone and dive into the world of computer code.

Coding is what goes on behind the scenes of every computer program you've ever used - or any app on your mobile phone.

To some, terms like HTML and CSS might seem like a foreign language, a series of 1's and 0's on a black screen, but Leslee and Nic Ryan are aiming to demystify the topic with Coding with Grace, a free mentoring program for women who want to learn how to create computer programs from scratch.

Mr Ryan is leading the classes, putting his knowledge as an actuary - calculating risk for insurance companies and corporations, and now working for a Melbourne start-up - to use spreading the joy of code.

"It's the ultimate superpower,” Mr Ryan said.

"I'm not wearing underwear on the outside but I feel like superman when I'm coding.

"Code has been good to me, so I want it to be good to everyone.”

The workforce is changing, especially in places like Bundaberg, he said.

"Manufacturing, mining, agriculture; there's going to be less people doing that sort of stuff and they're going to be displaced. They're going to have to find other things to do.”

CODING WITH GRACE: Leslee and Nic Ryan.
CODING WITH GRACE: Leslee and Nic Ryan. Eliza Goetze

From websites and marketing to databases, even journalism, "everyone can find their niche; they can combine their interest with code and create wonderful things”.

"The only thing stopping people at times is having a fixed mindset.

"Anyone can learn anything they put their mind to.”

And the couple want their two young daughters to grow up with the power of knowledge.

Mrs Ryan, a small business owner, is taking part in the inaugural ten week course with the aim of being able to teach in the future.

"There's inequality in this field - and I also feel that we fear it,” she said.

"I think there's this veil over it and we don't know what's behind, and we're scared of it.

"If we can pull back that veil and show women it's not that scary and you can learn it, they will want to do it.

"Once they get past that initial hurdle they'll find it's amazing and they'll keep learning.”

She had tried learning code a few different ways and "didn't get anywhere, they jump in too quick”.

"We finally found some resources that worked and with Nic's help, now I can put together a website.”

The couple have Bargara businessman and internet expert Luke Baker helping get the classes off the ground.

A University of Canberra report last month placed Bundy at the bottom of a list of 25 Australian cities in terms of "knowledge capital” - and Mr Baker believes "we should be up the list, punching above our weight...And why shouldn't women lead the way?”

Morgahna Godwin, a graphic artist who moved to Bundaberg six months ago, said she got a kick out of joining the classes to share her own expertise as well as expand her knowledge.

"I already know some code,” she said, "but I'm already learning more from Nic, and sharing what I know with the group as well.”

Having lived in New Zealand and more recently Melbourne, she said, "I've never been anywhere with a community as incredible as Bundaberg.”

Coding For Grace meets every Thursday night from 6-8pm at the Generator, upstairs from the post office on Bourbong St.

The classes run on a ten week rotation with the next round set to begin in October.

It's free and you can bring your own computer or, if you don't have one, the Ryans can provide one through a contact who rescues old school laptops destined for the recycling heap.

Email to get on board.

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