Code Sisters: Closing the Gender Gap

I am happy to announce that Saturday, May 23rd will be the OFFICIAL kickoff of “Code Sisters,” a monthly, structured tutorial/workshop session for women learning to code. Each month, from 9:00 am to noon, we will teach a beginner level web development topic in a workshop/tutorial format. After a lunch break, there will be time for practice, project work, and mentoring.

These sessions are geared to help participants procure valuable skills, as well as gain the confidence to form their own software projects and join the hacker community at large. We expect women who complete these courses will be able to share their own software projects at events like the weekly Hack Nights that Gangplank hosts on Wednesdays.

In the meantime, the more advanced or adventurous have an open invitation to Hack Night and the “Code Purple” lounge, where Code Sisters and their “bros” can network, connect with mentors and project partners, and practice their skills.

If you know of a woman who might be interested in the group, please let her know about it. If you have skills and knowledge you want to share, please contact Ariel Strong <> or one of the people listed below.

We are actively looking for mentors – male or female – and would welcome your input and help as we put together future sessions.

Help from the Pirate Ship

From talking to ‘Plankers the last two months, I’ve gathered lots of ideas on how to structure an initiative to get more women into coding or just tech in general. I’ve heard many (sometimes opposite!) opinions on how to approach putting a Gangplank group together and lined up a number of potential mentors.

Thank you all. I appreciate the input, especially how to decide on a language and start learning as well as links to resources that we can use.

In fact, the response was so positive with so many good ideas, I wasn’t sure where to begin.

Opening up Code Sisters (unofficially operating at Gangplank since January) to a wider audience seemed like a logical place to start, but we needed a more structured format.

The dilemma was solved on Saturday, April 25th, after a Railsbridge Workshop for women hosted by Infusionsoft. Five Gangplankers attended the introductory Ruby on Rails event – Catherine Leyen, Eileen Kane, Ariel Strong, Trish Gillam, and Christopher Murray (who provided extraordinary technical support!).

There was consensus among Gangplank’s attendees that the format used for Railsbridge would be a perfect fit for Code Sisters’ purposes. The environment was nurturing and proved fruitful for learning a new skill. All of the women left with a decent understanding of the Ruby framework, thanks to the support of the team of volunteers, mentors and organizers who worked with each sub-group of the 50+ attendees.

On top of having a solid structure, Railsbridge provides their coursework online for free. It covers a variety of languages (Ruby on Rails, Javascript, CSS, HTML) and we intend to take full advantage. Soo…

The Shape of Things to Come…

This is only the beginning. We really don’t know how things will take shape, and we will adapt as we go. We want you to join us in this adventure and maybe eventually even steer the ship. In the spirit of Gangplank, we will be dangerous. Yaarrrgh!


The People That You Meet Each Day

I spied him over the top of my monitor. He’d walked in well enough, but I could tell by his confused look that he had no idea what to do now that he was inside. This happens frequently. I’d seen that befuddled look on the faces of Gangplank newcomers countless times.

As a Gangplank veteran, I consider it my duty to make visitors feel welcome. Plus, I needed a break from writing marketing copy.

“Today’s subject is Software-defined Networking, boys and girls!” I’d loudly announced to the 15 odd entrepreneurs working out of Gangplank as I arrived earlier. (The crowd had returned my excitement with odd looks and loud groans.)

“Hi, how’s it going?” I asked as I rose from behind my monitor and walked towards the visitor. Perhaps he was an entrepreneur, looking for a home.

He tells me his name, Todd. He wants to know how much is it to use a computer here. He’d like to download a large file that someone sent him via email.

“You don’t pay anything to use the facilities here,” I tell him. “At least not monetarily.”

His confused look returns.

“Walk with me,” I tell him, laughing to myself. “We’ll get you squared away.”

We walk past the hot desks, large tables with office chairs where anyone who wants to can come in, set up a laptop and get some work done.

“There’s no charge here,” I repeat as we walk. “Because payment is in social capital.”

“Uhhhhhhhh-huh,” he says, in that tone that says “I have no idea what you are saying.”

We walk past the 3D printers that line the back half of the main Gangplank workspace. I continue giving Todd an introduction.

“Basically, if you find Gangplank is a space you like working from, and the people here a community you find valuable, all that is asked to use Gangplank’s resources is that you find a way to contribute something back. What you contribute is up to you.”

He’s not from around here, he says. He’s passing through town on tour. Just wants to use a computer, “How much?” he asks.

I shake my head and chuckle.

We continue straight down the hall, past the free library, buzzing conference rooms, and podcast studio. Finally, we arrive at the Gangplank computer lab. He seems a very nice guy, about 50 years old I’d guess, wearing glasses, a gently worn pair of blue jeans, and respectable short sleeved dress shirt.

I help him log on to one of the eight iMac computers in the lab, all freely available to the public. I make small talk while he accesses his email.

“So what is this file?”

“It’s a pilot for a TV show that I’m in. ” he says.

“Uhhhhh-huh” I say using the same tone he had earlier. An actor, just about to make his big break. Yeah, right.

Todd downloads the video. Over the next 45 minutes I am amazed and delighted at his talent. As we watch, we talk about life, swap stories about our kids, and generally just get to be pals.

The people you meet at Gangplank are random and diverse – and always interesting. I love this place.

Todd Oliver, nationally known comedian, ventriloquist, and past performer on America’s Got Talent.


GP Brownbag: Chad Smith & Open Forum

When you think of animation, most likely the first image that pops into your head is either a Disney or Pixar character. Ever since that black and white mouse came onto the screen as Steamboat Willy, animation has taken a place in our minds as an entertainment medium.

Yet, there is so much more to the animation field than we are aware.

Chad Smith of Being Studios, will be our featured speaker for Wednesday, June 30th’s brown bag presentation. Smith has recently taken up residence at Gangplank and has already created a series of hilarious cartoons based on the regular activities taking place inside our walls.

More than that, Smith will be talking about the many opportunities available in the animation field, and how businesses can use the medium to tell their stories. Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about animation will be answered, and perhaps you’ll even end up as part of Smith’s Gangplank cartoon collection.

Something a little different

Some of you may recall that a few months back, Derek held an informal discussion about the future of Gangplank after a brown bag. We are planning on making this a regular occurrence, to hear your thoughts and share updates about Gangplank. These open forums will take place the last Wednesday of the month, before the brown bag presentation.

This open forum is for the curious, new members and Gangplank veterans alike. Want to know what Gangplank is? We’ll cover it. Want updates on the move? Come and ask. The open forum will begin at 11am. Stick around to catch the brown bag.

Jay Roger’s Brown Bag

Local Motors CEO and Co-Founder, Jay Rogers, was kind enough to come share his vision of the future of the car industry with us last month. Rogers explained the traditional model of car building and how that model is no longer sustainable. He shared the history of Local Motors, as well as how open-source car design localizes a vehicle and involves the purchaser in the process. Below is his presentation for your enjoyment. Local Motors will be hosting an Open House for their new factory in Phoenix at the end of July. Check back for details about the event.

Jay Rogers

Why you shouldn't miss Hacknights

Hacknights were started to provide an opportunity for like-minded individuals to connect, share ideas and launch new ventures in the community. Every Wednesday around quitting time, a hodge-podge of developers, bloggers, artists, techies and entrepreneurs are thrown together in one giant room – and crazy things happen.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to attend a Hacknight, here’s a taste.

Last night, more than 40 people showed up to Gangplank for Hacknight. Our first ever roller-hockey game was played in the loading area behind the building. Josh Strebel of acted as videographer, riding around on the new Gangplank bike shooting the bloody battle. Injuries were sustained, with the ConreyHurstCharland team pulling off a 3-1 victory. Who says girls can’t play?

In the midst of the game, lots was going on inside Gangplank. Nicholas Dibiase and Brandon Franklin struck up an impromptu jam session, playing percussion and guitar for attendees enjoyment. Also on the music front, Stern Savage stopped by to drop off a sneak preview of his mixtape, to be released July 31st.

Hacking activities were in full swing as well. Heat Sync Labs set up a lock picking table, with various levels to challenge Hacknight attendees. Nick Hammond managed to pick all the locks, save the hardest.

And of course, what’s a Hacknight without a ridiculously awesome YouTube video about college sports?

Even with all the distractions and activities, Hacknights main draw is the amazing conversations between people. Artists, musicians, dating advice bloggers, marketing consultants and coders discussing sports, differences between the sexes and getting to know one another. These initial meetings are the stepping stones that create projects and passions that move the world.

Why miss out?

Linchpin Meetup Recap

Last night, 40+ people assembled at Gangplank to discuss the book Linchpin, written by marketing guru Seth Godin. The book discusses the idea of making yourself so good at what you do that you are indispensable, and that causing disruption by rapidly eschewing traditional models for new ones is a worthy endeavor.

The Linchpin meetup, put on by Tyler Hurst and Stealthmode, broke attendees into groups to discuss key concepts from the book, including overcoming fear, qualities of leadership, our current education system and the importance of learning to lose. Each group presented on their topics with a discussion portion following each presentation.

Many of the participants had recently left Corporate America and were starting ventures of their own. Their interest in attending the event stemmed from wanting to meet others that were in a similar positions for encouragement, ideas and general networking. Throughout the evening connections were made, relationships were formed and attendees walked away with some insight into their own status as a Linchpin, and where they might improve.

For coverage of the event, as well as an interesting take on startups in this economy, check out ABC 15’s video. Also, listen to Gangplank Studio episodes 35 and 36 to hear attendees discuss what the word Linchpin means to them.

Gangplank Jr Fire Fighters

Gangplank Junior spent a morning with the fine men and women from the Chandler Fire Department.  They went through the training facility and got a glimpse of what it takes to be a part of fire company.


The got to operate the equipment that paramedics use on the scene of an accident as first responders.  They operated and toured both an Engine and a Ladder truck.  It was impressive to see the rigorous training that the fire fighters go through on a regular basis.


We look forward to doing something similar with the Chandler Police Department in the near future.

St. Mary's Foodbank Food Drive Numbers

Today’s mail contained a thank you letter letting us know that your contributions helped feed 2,826 families in July. At a time when the economy was at it’s very bottom you helped many make it through. This holiday season will be one of the roughest on record for many families. Please continue to support St Marys and donate throughout the holiday season.

Where Awesome Happens

First in a series of mind blowing cinematic wonders;

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Have you been to gangplank yet?

Unwitting accomplices in order of apperance: Jimmy Jeffers, Matt Gist, Byron Bowerman,Justin Crossman, Beau Fruschetta, Dan Ritz, Chris Chandler, and Jade Meskill

Some images © AcmePhotography