Welcome to our first GDI Fellow!

In 2023, GDI began its inaugural fellowship program, designed to bring community members into leadership positions to develop new class ideas and workshop formats. This fellowship will enhance our course offerings and expand the lens which informs how we engage our ever-growing community. Our first GDI Fellow is student turned instructor, Faraja Thompson.

Read her story here...

New Beginnings
by Faraja Thompson, GDI Fellow 2023

January is a month of new beginnings, as numerous famous folks have been quoted and paraphrased. Well, for me, this particularly rings true. I am extremely excited to annouce that I have been selected as the first Girl Develop It (GDI) Fellow! 

About GDI

GDI is a non-profit organization committed to creating a welcoming, inclusive, and empowering software development environment through live online classes geared toward women and non-binary adults. GDI also offers career cohorts and virtual community events, such as panel discussions, job fairs, and hackathons. 

Getting Involved and Transitioning Careers

In late 2021, the idea of learning computer programming, and possibly doing related part-time work, began to take shape in my mind. At the time, I was a seasoned public school teacher. I started out my coding journey by learning the basics of HTML, CSS, and Javascript through a Coursera specialization. I then solidified the basics by building a couple of projects and by participating in some Girl Develop It (GDI) cohorts, as both a teaching assistant and a student beginning in April 2022. 

Before I knew it, I found a virtual home in GDI. I attended more and more classes and events, including the very first GDI job fair. I even had the opportunity to instruct the Introduction to HTML and CSS course last September! At GDI, I made (and continue to make) wonderful connections with women already working in the tech industry and with new friends on similar journeys to my own.

Meanwhile, I participated in a 12-week programmer retreat at the Recurse Center, learned Javascript and Python, and created some intermediate-level projects. I began reasoning that in 2022 I would be able to retire from teaching with a partial pension, that most of my major bills had been either paid off or reduced, and that I had about three and a half months' worth of savings banked. Maybe I should pursue a second career as a software engineer?!

Updates on My Journey

Fast forwarding to the present day, I officially retired as a teacher on September 30, 2022! In an effort not to dip into my emergency savings, I entered the world of retail, as a cashier and then a coordinator, for about seven weeks, until the extended holiday hours got the best of me. Those weeks of retail work, along with my pension checks, did successfully help me to avoid using my savings, to date. I also had a great time connecting with customers, and I met a couple of dear new friends through the retail experience. Unfortunately, the erratic schedules involved with working retail did not leave me much time to continue studying coding, so I am a bit rusty.

The GDI Fellowship

Beginning this month, I have officially started my GDI fellowship! This position offers me the opportunity to continue developing my technical skills, while taking a leadership role in building and supporting the GDI community. I will be able to actively engage with instructors and students, and to contribute ideas for GDI class and program development. My very first assignment was to write this blog post, so be on the look out for future posts highlighting my fellowship experiences, GDI programming, and people within the GDI community!