In 2011, Melissa Sariffodeen had quit a job in accounting and had set out on a path to learn some digital skills in order to be competitive in the current job market. She was surprised by the limited avenues for accessing this education. In hopes of addressing this issue, Melissa and three of her friends hosted a brainstorming session to explore this idea. What was supposed to be a few people chatting in a coffee shop turned into an 80-person session. That session also highlighted the gender gap in the technology sector in their hometown of Toronto as well as the lack of introductory-level opportunities to learn to code. Melissa and her friends took what they had learned and set forth to create a path for women who wanted to explore this industry. Ladies Learning Code was born and the team launched their first workshop in the spring of 2011, it sold out in a day. The hunger for this type of programming was obvious.
Melissa launched Ladies Learning Code chapters all over the country and now in 2019, there are 36 chapters cities. Since that first workshop in 2011, Canada Learning Code, no a nationally registered charity and has hosted over 2800 educational events, reaching in excess of 106,950 learning across Canada.
“At Canada learning Code we believe that digital skills are tools of empowerment. The world is changing com and we want Canada to be ready. We’re here to make sure that all Canadians – Particularly women, girls, people with disabilities, Indigenous youth, and newcomers to Canada have access to the knowledge they need to prosper in our digital world.” (Canada Learning Code, 2019)
Melissa’s vision has also expanded. The organization began as Ladies Learning Code with a goal to get more women into the tech sector but it has evolved over the years to a place where all Canadians are included. Creating a space for “all Canadians to have the knowledge to create not just consume technology.” Canada Learning Code now has programs designed for women, girls, kids, teens and teachers. They even have a mobile computer lab that travels coast to coast bring tech education to rural communities without access to a chapter, called the CodeMobile.
Over the years, Melissa’s passion for the integration of technology and education has resulted in partnerships with the Google, Microsoft and Government of Canada. Melissa has met with education officials across Canada to bring awareness to the need for the inclusion of digital literacy into the k-12 curriculum.
Melissa’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissasariffodeen/
Melissa’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/melsariffodeen
Melissa’s Instagram https://www.instagram.com/melsariffodeen/
Sariffodeen, M. [TEDx Talks]. (2017, Jan 18). The Kids Will Be Alright | Melissa Sariffodeen | TEDxYouth@Toronto. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IRoTk-iKPE&t=405s
Sariffodeen, M. [Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics]. (2017, Mar 25). Melissa Sariffodeen explains how to hack your future. [Video file] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6EdrW4wH-s&t=57s
Canada Learning Code: About Us (2019) Retrieved from https://www.canadalearningcode.ca/about-us/