Last weekend, I attended my first annual CFG conference and in the words of Mirela Iclodean, it was super-mega-extra-cool.

Shef-team.py (Darren and Tania), CEO of CFG Amali de Alwis and Head of Communities at CFG Philipa Tucker.

A short story: how did I get involved?

Two years ago, I was just going into the second term of my second year at university. At the time, I was in the midst of trying to secure a placement year because I felt suffocated, drained and uninspired by my degree, I wanted to build upon useful skills that I could take into the future.

I knew that staying in the academic cycle wasn’t where I wanted to be.

Around the same time, an exciting project was given to me that allowed me to show off some of my self-taught coding skills. I built a responsive website for an Organ Donation project as part of my Anatomy module. I’m thankful for the project in many ways because various opportunities jumped out from it, but the most valuable and important to me was that I remembered how writing lines of code made me feel (like a superhero 🀩)

One evening when I was fixing up my next WordPress theme for this blog, I received an email from the Department of Computer Science on open applications for an all-female coding course. I was hesitant because it had said “beginners” I felt like my coding background (since I was 8) was a little ahead to be a beginner, I almost didn’t apply.

But it sounded so cool.

I mean like, growing up I was always in my room, learning and failing to build a website alone. Code First: Girls offered a space for me to learn and fail again with actual humans helping me, i.e., the superhero instructors (rather than me searching endlessly on the web) and of course, other students.

So I applied. Got a place and learned so much more than I thought I ever would – my web development skills were a little rusty but the course sharpened it! I managed to leave knowing about this thing called GitHub, what frameworks are and a little more about Javascript. I developed excellent skills from the course that I could (and HAVE) apply elsewhere for sure, but it became a lot more to me.

It was the first time I became fully aware of the diversity problem in tech – I guess I always shrugged it off as the usual because I grew up to be socialised to “hide” my abilities in fear of being made fun of by mean kids at the playground. Once this awareness hit me, I was fuelled more than ever to help in any way that I could.

After all…

I signed up to be a course ambassador, and now I assist with the organisation, delivery and teach the Web Development course. I never thought I would be doing ever because I lacked so much confidence in myself.

Code First: Girls gave me this confidence in my technical and non-technical abilities. In fact, I’ve found myself saying “yes, I can. Hell yeah, I can” a lot more than “I’m not good enough.” Also, gifted me to be part of such a welcoming community where I can be 100% myself and meet the most inspiring people who share the same quest. And after meeting some at the annual conference last Saturday, I can confirm it’s all pretty rad.

#CFGConf17 πŸ‘©πŸΌβ€πŸ’»πŸ‘©πŸ»β€πŸ’»πŸ‘©πŸ½β€πŸ’»

Twitter UK

Despite being up quite early to catch the train down to London, I was full of energy for the conference: to learn from attendees and speakers and finally meet the CFG family.

Meeting Clara (Software Developer @ Sky), Linh (Software Engineer @ ASOS) and Aliza (Programmes Associate @ CFG, Ambassador @ Campus London and overall rockstar) 😍

Once I arrived, I automatically felt so at home and motivated by the incredible women around me. Conversations I had throughout with super driven and ambitious women fuelled my own. πŸš€ It felt surreal meeting all my online Twitter friends in real life – it was like we just picked up our digital conversations and carried on πŸ’–

Photo by Eleanor McHugh.

Talks & Discussion panels
The conference was packed with thoughtful talks and discussions from a range of talented people in the tech industry talking about topics ranging from ethics of AI, drones, memory, building up a personal narrative, and programming language “Go”. You can find the list of speakers here.

Speaker panel

Anna from LinkedIn’s talk on branding, digital DNA and building a compelling LinkedIn profile was my favourite. She gave some great practical tips on things I could be doing to help make my LinkedIn profile better such as writing more humanely and not like a robot to detailing experience, the power of enriching media and making use of an empowering network (such as CFG!) and connecting with purpose.

Digital DNA by Anna from LinkedIn

Her talk also gave me the confidence to approach my networks (previous and current colleagues) for recommendations (which I later actioned on Monday.) I also took note of using LinkedIn as a tool to research people ahead of a meeting!

Announcing winner of the Twitter contest

Twitter contest
Throughout the conference, Bank of America ran a competition for best tweet answering the question, “what’s the best careers advice that you got today?” Being a huge fan of little Twitter contests (remember Monster Confidence Conference?) I took part and ended up winning second place!

Northern Code First: Girls community
I think the best part of the conference for me was meeting the CFG community and being able to talk about the Sheffield community (#ShefCodeFirst) with people knowing full well what I was talking about! We’re officially loud enough on social media 😝

Concluding the day: “I don’t want to leave.” πŸ˜†

I left the day with more friends and was empowered more than ever to pursue a career in tech as CEO Amali said, “there is enough room for you here!”

Jenny Brennan, Engineer at Twitter, concluded the conference with:

I thought back to the incredible army of potential junior Developers back in Sheffield. There have been numerous examples of students who joined us at the Code First: Girls course (with little to no knowledge of how to code) and have gone on to become developers and engineers!

Overall, it was a fantastic event, and I’m super excited for the next one! I’ve been radiating the positive messages from the conference to the #shefcodefirst courses in Sheffield (two weeks left until we’re done for A/W 2017!)

Thank you to all the sponsors, organisers and everyone that came to say hello and making it a lovely event. I’m so proud to be part of such a positive community that opened up so much opportunity for myself and others by allowing us to realise our potential. πŸ€—



A post shared by Pauline P. Narvas (@paw.lean) on

Want to get involved either to take part in one of the Code First: Girls courses or join the team to help teach girls critical digital skills? Find out more here! Let’s close that gender gap πŸ’ͺ🏼

I write about this wonderful community a lot, here’s some posts I’ve written on Code First: Girls:

3 responses to “#CFGConf17”

  1. YES to closing the gender gap! I love your involvement with these programs and conferences. I teach 1st grade and I want my girls to know they can do ANYTHING they want to. It’s so important to have strong role models in EVERY field. I love that women are becoming a driving force in this industry! GET IT!

    Susie | http://milehighdreamers.com

  2. AWESOME! πŸ˜€ It’s so brilliant that you had a great time and were able to meet so many people that share similar interests. I am so glad that you decided to take part in the course because you have gained SO MUCH. I hope that there are other girls out there who will be inspired to take part and feel very much the same. <3

  3. It sounds so wonderful! It just sounds like a giant family getting together! =3

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