Sheena O'Connell

GitHub: sheenarbw

Sheena is very mysterious, mostly because she struggles to write about herself, especially in the third person. After graduating as an electrical engineer at Wits, she pursued her passion for software development. She has worked in many different fields from gender equality, to fin-tech and lots in between using a broad range of technologies and practices. She is currently the CTO of Umuzi, a rapidly growing non-profit organisation dedicated to unlocking the career potential of high value youth.

Accepted Talks:

Beginning an open source journey - how we used Python to survive as a code school and help other code schools

Umuzi is an NGO dedicated to finding high potential youth, teaching them mad skillz, and placing them in good jobs. When the COVID hit the fan (wow, what a scary thought) we had to react quickly. Our training was orignally done in person, we had about 250 students sharing an office and kitchen, and our breakout rooms were cosy to say the least.

When COVID landed in SA we acted quickly to get our students set up to work remotely. Simple things like checking attendance, runnning workshops, and making sure people's learning needs were met became non-trivial. What we needed was a learner managment system, but nothing out there fitted our needs.

And so we built.

Of course we built in Python, by leveraging well established tools like Django, DRF and Airflow we managed to do more than just stay afloat. We built a self-driven, collaboarative and agile to the core learning platform that helps our students stay on track, and learn like real dev-teams work. Our sweet-like-candy syllabus-as-code approach to course design let us unlock all sorts of efficiencies - and all the goodness of git of course.

And it turns out we aren't unique in our needs. And so the African Coding Network was born.

Basically, we want to help as many people as possible so we opened the flood gates. Our tooling and syllabus is now 100% open source, and we are actively working to recruit entire code schools across Africa to join our network. We want to let as many people as possible leverage our tools and hard won learnings.

We already have students from as far afield as Nigeria working through our courses and interacting with our local students. We've also managed to use the platform to run an end-to-end learner selection bootcamp in order to find geeklings worth investing in. We won the most scalable solutiuon prize in Ashoka Skills Innovation Challenge. And we have a growing list of schools ready to get onboard.

In this talk I'll share some tails from the trenches, and a few of our plans.

And yes, we teach Python too ;)