After starting her BeCode journey as an office manager at our Liège and Charleroi campus last October, Sarah discovered a strong interest for the magic world of IT and a passion for knowledge transmission. The start of the Hackeuses Club in Charleroi was the perfect opportunity for her to combine her two driving forces by becoming a coach for this very special training. Are you curious to learn what led her to this position and how she is experiencing her coaching adventure? You will find out in her interview!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
“I’ve had a bit of a winding road. I’ve always been a little bit dreamy, creative. I didn’t really feel comfortable with the conventional school system. I didn’t see the point of getting good grades, I didn’t understand the pedagogy. So it was very difficult for me. I finished high school not knowing who I was, but people around me were sure they knew what I was going to become.” 

“I went on to study architecture, but maths made it a nightmare. I also had a rebellious side, which didn’t help me work on it. So I tried my hand at industrial design, but I was frustrated that I didn’t have more theoretical courses about design. It was suggested to me that I should study art history, which I had already fallen in love with in high school because I was in the Latin-Greek option. It appealed to me a lot to study images and how to communicate an emotion. So I did my master’s degree in art history. I wanted to prove to all the people who humiliated me or took me for an idiot that they were wrong about me. My university studies proved to me that with perseverance you can do it. So I am very proud to graduate with honours. It was a real personal victory. The same thing happened when I was selected to join La Cambre. It was a great achievement for me.’ 

“It was at La Cambre that I realised that I was into web design because I was in a typography section. I didn’t find myself in the cultural field, so I wanted to reorient myself with a first web development training that wasn’t very good. I looked into web design and UX/UI design. I almost worked as a web designer, but the crisis didn’t allow me to realise this project.’

“So I joined BeCode to do administrative work. At first, it really was to pay the bills. Even though I’m grateful to have had this job, I wasn’t blossoming in it. Thanks to the Hackeuses Club, I had the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and pass on my knowledge. It suits me because it breaks the codes of this educational system that I find horrible. That’s my story.” 

What made you want to work at BeCode ?
“The team. This job was clearly to pay the bills at first but I needed to feel good about the company. I fell in love with the team. I get on very well with my colleagues and it gives me a lot of energy, especially during this period of coronavirus: being able to laugh, cry, support each other, and dream of projects for BeCode. That’s what I like about BeCode.’

What’s your favorite aspect of your job as a coach?
“Being a coach at the Hackeuses Club gives meaning to my life. Coaching is not just about putting the learner on the path to a certain knowledge. It’s about being there for the learners and contributing with your personality to the well-being of these people. It’s not a question of a framework or a programming language, it goes beyond that. And the role of the coach is to bring a little light into their training. And that’s what I like.”

Can you tell us about the Hackeuses Club?
“The Hackeuses Club is a pilot project aimed exclusively at women. The project started from an observation: the important divide between men and women in digital professions. The problem is not necessarily that men have a macho behavior. It’s more a question of preconceptions. We can say to ourselves “Damn, there are a lot of men, it won’t work for me because I’m different.” The idea of the Hackuses Club is to overcome those preconceptions.” 

‘The training lasts six weeks. The first two weeks are devoted to discovering the digital professions in the broadest sense. It is obviously not possible to discover all the professions, especially at a time when we sometimes invent our own profession. I made the choice to tackle the design aspect, while integrating the fields of communication and digital marketing as well as code and development. The rest of the training is introductory. I strive to give the essence of a creative process: how a designer should think. And then a development part: grasping the logic and essence of things.”

“The objective of the Hackeuses club is on the one hand the discovery of the professions and on the other hand a human experience where my objective is that women come out grown, confident and ready to make the choices they want to make and assume them.” 

How is the atmosphere of the group?
“I’m very proud of this atmosphere because as a coach, you are the architect of the group’s atmosphere. Why? Because you are responsible for the selections: you choose your group. It’s about thinking in terms of dynamics. I wanted a group to be like me: a lively group, uninhibited, where we drop the masks to expose ourselves, where we trust each other.”

“I was given carte blanche for the training, so I selected lots of icebreaker activities to

make them laugh. Laughter is important. For example, at the selections, each one had to tell an anecdote of the biggest embarrassment in their lives. We did some other really funny activities to get to know each other.”

“So the atmosphere of the Hackeuses Club is completely offbeat. Everyone can and should express themselves. There’s a lot of trust and love. It’s a little cliché, but it’s really very positive.”

We’re halfway through the training, how do you feel about it ?
“First of all, I’m very proud of them and the work they did. To do all this in six weeks is a real challenge because I am a demanding person. In our society, in order to help people, we tend to lower the level of requirements to give people the feeling that they can do it. I think the opposite: if the bar is set so high, it will remain so. To me, it’s not about touching the bar, it’s about getting as close to it as possible.” 

“So I’m proud, because whereas some of them used to almost stutter when they had to speak, they now know how to express themselves orally during presentations. They are motivated, they do good work, they have good thoughts. So I am proud, and sad, because the training is already coming to an end. I dream of being able to continue coaching after this experience and contribute as a junior designer. I hope to get my chance to work with these colleagues that I love.”

According to you, why is it important to encourage women to start a career in the ICT field?
“For two reasons. First of all, I’m not a gender expert, but I’m tired of the world thinking in terms of gender. When I see a person, I don’t see a gender, I see a soul. So for me, it’s important to tell women that if they want to go into IT, they should just do it! What matters is their dreams and their skills.”

“On the other hand, I think gender is a matter of sensitivity. So it’s in our best interest to mix all the sensitivities to get a nice mix. As Kant says, senses are what allow us to judge,  construct and analyze our knowledge and perception. In a certain situation, each of us will capture different elements and thus have a different point of view. That’s why I directly invited male speakers in the Hackers Club. I didn’t want us to stay only between girls.”’

How could we encourage more women to do that big jump and start a career in this field ?
“I think there are two challenges that need to be overcome and that don’t only impact women but are more difficult for them to face. First of all, the access to trainings. At BeCode, we are the only ones who do not judge the person’s background. When you look at the websites of other training programs, they ask for a level that is very scary, and this is wrong. The problem is the communication regarding the access to trainings in the IT professions.”

“On the other hand, there is this cliché of the geek with greasy hair who talks like R2D2. It’s a big cliché, but it shows that the question is not only how to train, but also how to be with people, how to establish tolerance. For me, the real question is: why should I be afraid of the other person? So as a coach, I have to build tolerance.”

How do you feel as a woman in tech?
“I feel great. I feel very integrated into the coaching family. Our coaches are beautiful people who transcend the male-female stereotypes. I am proud as a woman to contribute to this team. I also feel recognized and supported by my male colleagues. My mentor is a man. It’s neat that the team is proving to learners that it’s not a gender thing.”

What piece of advice would you give to someone who’s hesitating to start a training at BeCode?
“I would advise this person to come and meet us at an info session. For us, info sessions are an opportunity to meet each other. At BeCode, people are their own teachers. So it’s good to take the time to find out who’s behind BeCode, how it’s going and if it’s consistent with the person’s plans.”

If you had to summarize BeCode in one word?
“Unexpected, because my journey at BeCode was completely unexpected. If someone had told me that I would become a coach, I would not have believed it. I have also made important encounters that are changing my life in a positive way. All this just happens to be happening at BeCode.”

Would you like to add something?
“Yes, I would like to tell the BeCode management that they can be proud of their coaches because they not only coach the learners, but also the team members. I hope that BeCode will do everything to recognize and preserve these people who do everything to put people at the center of the project.’