PyDev of the Week: Shannon Turner

This week we welcome Shannon Turner as our PyDev of the Week! Shannon is the founder of Hear Me Code, a free, beginner-friendly coding class for women in the Washington DC area. She has several interesting projects over on Github that you might find worthy of checking out. Let’s take some time to get to know Shannon better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I have my grandma to thank for my career path — she loved playing video games. As a kid, I would watch her play, and sketch out the game on paper and show her. I’d say “Wouldn’t this be cool if it were part of the game?” and she loved that – but told me that I had to get very good at computers if I wanted to make that happen!

Why did you start using Python?

I was teaching myself how to code after six years of not doing any coding at all, and I had forgotten pretty much everything. It was frustrating trying to learn it all again, and I wanted a language that would be easy for beginners. I found it so much more intuitive to pick up than a lot of other languages I had done in the past, and from then I was hooked!

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

Python is my favorite, though I’m also fluent in HTML, CSS, Javascript. I’ve dabbled in PHP, Java, Perl, C++, and Visual Basic, but I don’t use them much.

What projects are you working on now?

Lately I’ve been learning how to do virtual reality with Unity, which has been a fun long-term project.

Which Python libraries are your favorite (core or 3rd party)?

I use Django for all of my websites, including Watch This Instead, a website that tells you if a movie has passed the Bechdel test, and Let’s Go, a list of 6000 museums across the US that you can search by location and category.

What inspired you to create “Hear Me Code”?

I was tired of going to tech events and being one of the only women in the room, and tired of being talked down to and not taken seriously. I felt like I didn’t belong. So did a lot of other women I talked to, and I thought since I was self-taught, I could teach others as well, and create my own group where women could learn and grow together. So I started teaching classes with four women around my kitchen table and never thought it would grow like this.

Can you describe the impact that “Hear Me Code” has had in the DC area?

Since starting Hear Me Code almost four years ago, it’s grown to 3000 women in the DC area. For many women, this is their first introduction to coding. Hear Me Code focuses on leadership development and turning students into teachers, and over 100 women have become teachers and teaching assistants. Dozens of women have credited Hear Me Code with providing them the skills and experience that they needed to land a better-paying job in tech.

Are there plans to expand the project beyond DC?

I’m keeping it local! Organizing a group like Hear Me Code takes an enormous amount of my time and energy, and it’s an all-volunteer effort that’s on top of my regular day job.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

One project I had a lot of fun with was creating Budgie Cam — I have a Raspberry Pi and camera attached to my pet parakeet’s cage, and whenever I send a text message to a special phone number, it takes a photo and sends me a picture of my bird. It’s instant gratification, and helps me not feel as homesick when I travel.