Great developers give back!

Jennifer Wadella

Jennifer Wadella

“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing nothing for nobody.” ~ Malcom Bane


A few weeks back I was at Iowa Code Camp, a great conference that I have written about previously.  The first speaker I saw speak was Jennifer Wadella.  Her session was called Mentoring-The Future of Technology Education.  The title of this session lead me to believe it was about how to mentor new employees.   Her topic was discussing future employees through her work in CoderDojoKC.  Jennifer is a raw speaking talent with great passion.  She loves what she does and it shows!

Jennifer shared with us what has worked for her building up the CoderDojoKC program.  She uses different resources to reach kids of all ages.   This includes using a programming language called Scratch that is designed for kids by MIT.  Her overall goal for the program is to just expose kids to development.  This can help open their eyes to a possible career path.

 Jennifer’s 3 Tips to making a mentoring program work

Great Location

You need an easily accessible location with lots of room and of course Wi-Fi!  Some possible location ideas are a business conference rooms, a local school, or a co-working space.


Mentors can be found and your place of employment or from local development user groups.   She shared some good rules to have for your mentors, we will cover that in a minute.


Getting the word out to schools, co-workers, churches and organizations can help you build your attendee list.  She recommends using Eventbrite to track attendees.

The CoderDojoKC program meets at Google Fiber in Kansas City.  They have a big space for them as well as pretty fast Wi-Fi(who would have thought!).  Although they ask people to bring their own laptop, they do have a few on loan that people can use if they don’t have one.  They were donated by Google.

Jennifer also had some good rules to use for the mentors.

  1. Don’t touch the keyboard, let the kids do the typing

  2. Don’t directly answer the question, give them guidance

  3. Try to get the kids to mentor each other

  4. Show them you don’t know everything

Just listening to Jennifer talk about this you could feel she was really into this and cared deeply.  She shared how to do this you really need to have thick skin.  Some parents had berated her as she wasn’t doing this during the week when they could actually come.  I guess you are going to make someone mad even when you are helpful.

How do you think developers should give back?  Have you ever done anything like this?

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