If you’re learning to code, then you’re already part of a special, motivated community that recognizes how important digital skills are to a successful career. The next step? Connecting with other techies in the community. Taking your learn-to-code journey offline and joining meetup groups can expand your circle and push your career to the next level. At a meetup, you may get advice from other women who have walked in your shoes, find freelancing opportunities, uncover a resource to get unstuck, or even be introduced to a potential employer.
I’ve compiled 13 groups that you should join right now to grow and strengthen your network. If you live in a medium or large city, you should be able to find a local chapter. If not, you can start one! I know countless stories of new coders founding chapters of Meetups to establish a local community. You don’t have to be an expert to get started, and in fact, founding a local chapter as a beginner will set you up with connections and resources most beginners probably wouldn’t have.
Girl Develop It is a non-profit organization committed to providing easily accessible coding education to women. GDI has chapters in over 30 North American cities and is only growing as they continue to offer workshops, classes, and a network of partnerships with companies and coding bootcamps.
RailsBridge was started as an effort to combat a lack of diversity in the Ruby community in San Francisco. RailsBridge runs free weekend workshops for women in HTML, CSS, and Ruby on Rails across the U.S. and beyond. Workshops range from one-offs to regular meetings as well as events in conjunction with tech conferences. All of their output is open source.
3. Rails Girls
Rails Girls is an international organization, started in Helsinki, offering 2-day workshops in cities all across the world with the intent of empowering women to create new web applications. Rails Girls events are hosted through partnerships with local companies, and they also have online guides and materials available.
Founded in 2006, GeekGirl is premised on the idea that some women just want to learn to code in an open, casual environment where no one has to feel bad about what they don’t know. GeekGirl offers bootcamps, seminars, conferences, and more fun fare like brunches and dinners.
Ladies Learning Code is a Canadian non-profit that offers workshops for women, as well as co-ed kids workshops, across 19 cities in Canada. They boast an impressive number of scholarship opportunities and a 4:1 student to mentor ratio. Events vary from single-day workshops to camps lasting multiple months.
CodeBuddies is an online web development community that is both free and open-sourced. Their focus is on virtual learning via Google+ Hangouts using audio and screen sharing. Hangouts are generally 1 to 2 hours long and based around specific topics that are proposed by CodeBuddies members.
With over 20,000 members in over 15 countries, Women Who Code runs initiatives like technical study groups in various coding languages, career development, and efforts to increase the presence of female speakers and judges at tech conferences and hackathons. They are sponsored by companies like Google, Nike, and Yelp.
As the name suggests, PyLadies is an international organization committed to increasing female participation in the open-source Python community, welcoming all skill levels as long as you love and work with Python. They sponsor events like hackathons and conventions in locations all over the world.
Who says coding is all work? Loosen up with Beer and Code, a Meetup organization for coders who like to have a cold one while they work. Events take place in local taphouses and bars in Seattle, Omaha, and Lincoln.
10. Black Girls Code
Black Girls Code is committed to getting more women and girls of color involved in digital spaces by increasing access to STEM education for young women. BGC has chapters across the United States that run hackathons and workshops and partnerships with coding schools for scholarships and tuition assistance.
11. Ladies Who Code
Ladies Who Code is based out of London and New York, offering day-long conferences and speaking events. Their events bring together women of different backgrounds and skill levels to foster ideas and innovation.
12. Hear Me Code
With a 12-lesson curriculum spread over 12 months, Hear Me Code is committed to free, open-source, beginner-friendly coding classes for women in Washington, D.C. Women programmers of all skill levels are encouraged to participate and make use of resources like lessons, practice exercises, and study groups.
Frustrated by the lack of women at technical conferences, Girl Geek Dinners was started to create a welcoming, diverse community for a new generation of technologists. Join their community, sign up for a brunch or dinner, or even start your own chapter in a new city!
What are you waiting for? Join one (or all) of these groups, recruit a friend to attend with you, and start expanding your tech network!
Pro Tip: Don’t wait to be a coding expert to join a meetup! There are meetup groups and events for all technical levels – plus, you may just find a future mentor or the perfect partner to pair program with.
And if you’re feeling nervous about your offline meetup, I have just the solution: invite a friend from work or volunteer to help with the event. When you volunteer, you get the opportunity to meet the team leaders and connect with other attendees.
Liz Eggleston is a co-founder of Course Report, the online resource for potential students researching coding bootcamps. When she’s not obsessing over bootcamps, Liz is eating and blogging about breakfast tacos and searching for the best Pilates class in NYC. Catch up with Liz on Twitter @coursereport.