Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. This week, Glenna Buford of COUP did us the honors of speaking with us about her work as an iOS engineer and her passion projects #girlsgamesworkshop and Women Who Code.
Hi Glenna! Straight off the bat: Can you explain what you do at your job as an iOS engineer for COUP?
Sure! I joined COUP in June, and the iOS team was in the final stretch of rewriting the app to improve stability. I was relatively new to Apple’s programming language Swift, so I spent a bit of time coming up to speed on doing things the Swift-y way and relearning some of Apple’s UI frameworks I hadn’t used in a while (because in games we use game engines for layout, not the built in iOS Frameworks). But, after a few weeks of digging into the new code base and working on smaller tasks, I was pretty much up to speed. We were working on the last remaining features of bringing the new app up to par with the currently released version. I’ve worked on various features including our sign-up flow, a little revamp of our network stack in preparation for a new internal app, as well as squashing a few bugs ;).
In short, mostly coding and reading design specs 🙂
Before COUP, you worked at @Wooga and co-founded #girlsgamesworkshop there. What made you go ‘this is something that we need to do for young girls’ and what can they learn at the workshop?
Besides the obvious? 😉 This is actually something I’ve been passionate about for a long time. In university, I studied math, and I can remember running a program where we visited local high schools and middle schools to do a fun and interactive math lesson to try to inspire kids to be more interested in math. Then, enter my computer science career, and I’m usually the only woman on my team or in the engineering department. I think the workshop was just an outlet for us (all of the volunteers and people who support the workshop) to introduce games as a career option to girls when they are still impressionable, and haven’t written programming or games off as a “boys thing”. When I had the chance to create this workshop, I was really excited to give it a go. I found a wonderful group of volunteers, Wooga was very supportive, and the tech and games scene in Berlin really got behind the concept.
At the workshop, we teach them about game design — what makes a game? How does one win/lose a level? How do you progress? What are the key game mechanics? Are there characters? — questions like that. After they’ve got the basics down, we give them some mobile devices to play around with different games installed and do research on the different types of mechanics we just discussed. Then we pair them up into teams and they start designing their own game on pen and paper. Next we give them a brief introduction to Scratch — we’ve learned over the course of the workshops that we’ve run not to hand out the computers before we’re ready for them to play, otherwise they will go wild — we are always very impressed at how curious the girls are and how they try without fear of failure to do things in Scratch.
We introduce basic programming concepts to the girls with fun interactive and amusing tutorials (e.g. making a cat “meow” in a loop 10 times…) our team of volunteers has built. And after we give a small overview of basic programming concepts, we let them run loose on programming their own games they designed earlier. Usually, they get about 2.5-3 hours to program on their own game, and at the end of the day they get to demo the game to their parents. I think all volunteers will tell you that we are always very impressed with the games the girls come up with and how far they get in programming their game.
You’ve been director of Women Who Code Berlin since 2016. What’s the initiative about and how can women benefit from it?
Women Who Code is a global organization aimed to help women excel in technology careers. This can mean anything from helping women at the start of their technical careers, to providing coaching and training for women already in technical careers. We want to see more women in all levels of technology careers, from junior positions to management to C-level. We have networks all over the globe, and I help run the network here in Berlin.
We currently offer two varieties of regular meetups in Berlin — Hack Nights and Talk Nights. At Hack Nights, we create a sort of co-working space where people who are working on side projects can come together and work in the space. This is especially good for beginners who are learning to code, as they can come and work on their projects and if they need help there’s usually someone in the room that can help them. Talk Nights are more like a mini-conference. We have 3 speakers present on any kind of technical or soft-skills talk relevant to technology fields. We’ve had talks ranging from Natural Language Processing to video encoding to augmented reality to dealing with and preventing burnouts.
Through Women Who Code, people can get a sense of community and, one of the most important things I think is, see women in technical roles of varying levels. We foster the building of relationships and mentorships for newbies and senior level women in technical and management roles. We also provide women with opportunities to attend conferences with financial support.
Thanks for your insight, Glenna!