Founder: Crack That Code
ET: The ride so far:
Faiqa: I didn’t always plan to become a software engineer. I went into LUMS with my Major undecided. But after CS 101 I knew programming was my calling and for a long time, I did not doubt that. At that time there was only one girl with me amongst 20 boys who were majoring in CS. What I loved about programming was the challenge it presented in finding a solution to the problems. After I graduated I worked a little in Lahore then moved to Karachi after my marriage and then started work as a junior Java coder. I loved the job, however I was unable to stay in the position as I ended up pregnant with a horrible first trimester.
This was a turning point for me in my journey as suddenly my priorities changed and even though I loved what I did I did not find it worth my time for me to continue as a programmer. The thought of long hours away from my children, for this field did not bring me satisfaction. So I decided to take a step back. I ended up taking a 5-year break from working or studying.
After the long break I actually completely changed fields. At this point, I was feeling very lost. I was going through a difficult time in my life and ended up going to the field of psychotherapy. I began a 3-year diploma to get trained. And even though at first glance it seems like that training has nothing to do with coding classes with kids in them, but without it, I would not have been able to come up with this idea.
Over the 5 year break, I had discovered I had a passion for coding and child development. Once my training as a therapist began I was able to see a niche for combining both my passions and hence founded Crack That Code. This was two years ago..
ET: The main hurdles setting up?
Faiqa: I feel the biggest struggle I have faced and am currently facing is bringing awareness to this niche. To me, it is a mission to train children how to code, to introduce them to the programmers way of thinking. It is not just about learning the languages to code. It is about being able to see a problem and find a solution. It is about being able to think outside of the box, to come with alternative ways of dealing with a problem. It is about being resilient enough to not give up when there doesn’t seem to a way out.
I personally have felt this “programmers way of thinking” has helped me in so many different ways in my life, and it’s this I aim to instill in the children in my classes. Perhaps the only hurdle I am facing is that parents currently just see coding as just another technical skill their children need, or in some rare cases, want. Many see it as just another after school activity. So I have been working on bringing awareness about the depth of the learning that comes with coding
ET: What made you decide to go back to coding?
Faiqa: I think it was just the realization that I don’t need to be a full-time programmer to remain in this field. There’s so much more to it and there’s always a way to find a path in this industry that suits you. I found a niche that allowed me to come back to something I was so passionate about and at the same time let me play my tiny part in shaping the next generation.
ET: You spoke about taking a break to look after your children, so when you did step back into work; how did you manage your work-life balance?
Faiqa: I think for each person it is different depending on their circumstances. For me, I can find balance as I can schedule classes around my home life. When I give my children time, it is all focused on giving them the quality time they need from me. It’s okay if my house is a mess or there is only one dish on the table. Prioritizing myself and my childs upbringing has helped take the pressure off of things that in the larger scheme of things are irrelevant. My in-laws and husband have been a great support in this regard. Not to mention my friends. Pre-Covid, my friends and I had provided ourselves with a circle that when someone needs time to do some work the others would step in to pick up the slack. They have all been a great support in allowing me to find time to work.
ET: A bit more about Crack That Code if you please?
Faiqa: I have currently been teaching children the basics of coding using the Scratch programming platform. It is an easy pick and drop block programming. It allows children to focus on putting the algorithms together using basic blocks already provided.
Over the last two years, I have created a foundation course using Scratch which covers the basics of all languages. For me, once you learn basic coding, you can then adapt and learn different languages a lot faster. They all have variables, loops, if statements, logic, [AND] and [OR], for example. I introduce children to these concepts in an easy way so when they move on towards written code they are already familiar and comfortable with them.
From there, I make them test out these concepts on their own; learning to put together algorithms without having someone telling them what to do. I have them focus on learning to tackle problems themselves, building their confidence in their coding abilities.
ET: Would you like to give any advice for women who want to learn to code?
Faiqa: There are so many online options for women who want to learn new languages and learn to code. However, I have a few curriculums in the making which are specifically targeted towards women. In the coming months InshAllah I will be launching courses that not only teach women to code but also help them design their projects from beginning to end including documentation.
ET: Your message for ElleTech
Faiqa: I feel there has been no better time for women who are passionate about the tech industry. With covid allowing us to work from home so many doors have opened for us; you can now sit in the comfort of your home with your children around you while you get your work done. Just don’t let the fear of how you will manage to hold you back. Have faith in yourself and you will find a way