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25% Off Select Titles for Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month!

April is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, so we're offering a special deal on some of our most acclaimed math and stats books until May 1st!

Indulge your inner numbers-nerd by picking up any or all of the following titles at a 25% discount with code MATH25:

Bayesian Statistics the Fun Way

Bayesian Statistics the Fun Way

This marvelously un-boring book lives up to its title, giving you a complete understanding of Bayesian statistics through simple explanations and intriguing examples. Find out the probability of UFOs landing in your garden, how likely Han Solo is to survive a flight through an asteroid belt, how to compare hypotheses or measure your own uncertainty, and so much more as you learn how to get the most out of your data.

>Math Adventures with Python

Math Adventures with Python

Deemed "an indispensable book for all," by mathematician Gabrielle Birkman, this highly touted bestseller will teach you how to visualize solutions to a range of math problems with the aid of the Python programming language. Learn to code while exploring algebra and trigonometry, then write your own programs to solve equations, automate tedious tasks, and make cool things like an interactive rainbow grid.

Statistics Done Wrong

Statistics Done Wrong

Critics have called it “...a vital contribution,” “...amazing, and accessible to amateurs,“ and have advised that “if you analyze data with any regularity… get this book.” We couldn’t agree more! This pithy, essential guide to avoiding statistical blunders in modern science will show you how to keep your own research error-free. Examine embarrassing omissions in academic papers, discover the misconceptions and politics that allow these mistakes to happen, and learn how to produce statistically sound research.

Doing Math with Python

Doing Math with Python

This project-based book provides a clear link between Python programming and upper-level math concepts, demonstrating how Python code can be transformed into a glorious mathematical stage on which to perform and problem-solve! You’ll delve into topics like statistics, geometry, probability, and calculus, discovering new ways to explore math while gaining valuable programming skills. You’ll learn how to write simple programs for factoring, solving quadratic equations, drawing geometric shapes, fractals and more.

The Manga Guide(s) to:

Calculus

Calculus

Follow along with Manga character Noriko as she learns that calculus is more than just a class designed to weed out would-be science majors. The Manga Guide to Calculus reveals why calculus is so useful for understanding patterns in physics, economics, and the world around us, with help from real-world examples like probability, supply/demand curves, the economics of pollution, and the density of Shochu (a Japanese liquor).

Statistics

Statistics

Think you can't have fun learning statistics? Think again. The Manga Guide to Statistics is an entertaining tutorial in everything you need to know about this essential discipline. Charming and easy-to-read, it uses real-world examples like teen magazine quizzes, bowling games, and ramen noodle prices to teach you serious educational content.

Use promo code MATH25 at checkout!

Tech Entreprenerd Tracy Osborn Wants Women to Know What They’re Worth (and Ask For a Raise!)

For Women’s History Month, No Starch Press is spotlighting the contributions and individual achievements that female authors have made in the world of tech and on our bookshelves.

Each week we'll shine your attention on just a few of these remarkable women in tech – along with a 30% discount on their books.

Use promo code WOMEN30 at checkout!

Hello Web DesignTracy Osborn

This week, the focus is on designer-developer-author-”entreprenerd” Tracy Osborn, who is program director for Tiny Seed, a year-long accelerator for bootstrapped businesses. She’s built websites and worked with startups for two decades, before launching her own (WeddingLovely.com), but eventually pivoted to helping other tech-based seed-stage businesses grow. All the while, she’s been churning out uniquely accessible “Hello” web-dev e-books for beginners (in addition to speaking about female entrepreneurship and design on the conference circuit).

Her first book with No Starch Press, Hello Web Design, comes out this month. Fortunately, she made time to talk with us about making coding tutorials more inclusive, her battles with social anxiety, finding joy in a career change, her biggest mistake, and how women need to face their fears in order to ask for the salary they deserve.

1) A decade ago you taught yourself how to code Python and Django in order to build the web platform for your former startup, WeddingLovely.com. Yet, much of the impetus for your Hello web-dev book series was the frustration you felt with all of the programming tutorials you came across in the process. What were the shortcomings that you identified, and how are the tutorials that you created in response different?

It all goes back to when I went to university — I originally majored in Computer Science. Growing up with the advent of the web, I always loved building websites (yes, those funky table layouts) and I thought my love would translate well to CSC. Unfortunately, the way that the university taught programming (and how most tutorials and resources teach programming) did not fit how my brain worked. It was very conceptual and theoretical, when I just wanted to build something and see others use it. Consequently, I thought I was terrible at programming and I switched majors to Art.

I realized later on when I learned programming in a way that worked for me (project-based, step-by-step building, reduced theory, a “win” at the end) that there was an opportunity to share how I learned with others who shared my struggle. Web development was first, but this way of teaching can apply to most beginner subjects — I believe theory can come later once you have a feel for how to do the basics.

Follow-up: Do you believe your approach to teaching design makes the craft more inclusive?

Absolutely. While my tutorials work universally, I find that folks who don’t identify as white and male are drawn to them more. And the more we can teach these beginner subjects to a wide range of folks, the more diverse these areas will be once folks get to intermediate and advanced levels.

2) Women suffer from social anxiety at nearly twice the rate of men. In fact, you’ve noted that it was your own social anxiety that, regretfully, kept you from utilizing the mentors, networking opportunities, and career connections offered by the San Francisco startup accelerator you took part in for WeddingLovely. Fast forward to today, and you not only speak at conferences all over the world, you’re the Program Director at a (different) accelerator program. How did you conquer your social fears, and what advice do you have for other aspiring female tech entrepreneurs who struggle with this type of anxiety?

Oh gosh, I am still working on this. I wouldn’t call my social anxiety conquered, but greatly reduced. I was able to identify my triggers — lack of confidence and feeling isolated and alone — and once identified, I was able to figure out tactics that would boost my confidence and surround me with folks I felt comfortable with. Speaking at conferences was huge for this, as being a “speaker” raised my confidence and gave me a set of other people at a conference (other speakers) that I could latch onto when I was feeling alone. It’s odd saying that one of my greatest tools against social anxiety is public speaking, but it really did wonders.

I’m aware this might not work for others (as public speaking is a whole other set of anxiety); for anyone else, I would recommend to looking at the past and identify those pain points and those triggers, as once you have a specific action that you can pinpoint (like lack of confidence), you can better form tactics to improve that area rather than working on nebulous “anxiety.”

3) Sort of along these same lines is the fear of rejection, or of the unknown, that seems to disproportionately affect women’s career trajectories, particularly when navigating the tech industry. In your case, you spent your entire life excelling because of your technical prowess – from a kid creating websites, to getting a BFA in graphic design, to running a web-based startup and selling programming tutorials. Then you shut down WeddingLovely in 2018 and went in a completely different direction, taking on a Program Manager role at TinySeed, where you work with people not computers. What led to the departure from your wheelhouse, and how does it square with your career trajectory up to that point? More importantly, what can other women facing a major change in their career path learn from your experience?

My joy comes from helping others, and every role I’ve had has had an aspect of that in some way: WeddingLovely, my goal was to help small and local wedding vendors receive more business; with my books, I wanted to help folks learn new skills that they could apply to their career. TinySeed is yet another way I can work with folks and improve their lives, as my day-to-day role is being the main person our founders interact with and I guide the direction of the accelerator program. I find that I feel the most fulfilled when I am able to improve someone else’s life in some small way, and I love that my day job now revolves around being a people-person.

Career changes are immensely difficult but I hope that any career change comes with a better understanding of what brings a person joy. It’s scary taking on something completely new, but I find that being stuck in an unhappy role or position is even scarier. Plus, if you’re like me, something completely new can be invigorating.

4) Changing tracks (no pun intended) let’s talk about women getting paid. The gender wage gap persists, with women still earning 22% less than men for the same work more than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act. The World Economic Forum estimates it will take 217 years to close that gap – which actually went up from 170 last year. One thing women can do to affect change is simple: Ask for more money. But the vast majority don’t. You’ve directly addressed this issue, noting that the scariest moment in your career was orchestrating a 55% raise. What advice do you have for women who can’t imagine taking a bold approach to salary negotiation?

The doesn’t-feel-great-but-it’s-true answer is “what’s the worst that could happen?” Ideally, the worst that could happen is a “no.” Folks fear that the worst that could happen would be a demotion or even having an employment offer rescinded or being fired — and in that case, I would ask those folks, “Would you want to work at this company if that is their reaction to you having this conversation?” Probably not. In fact, the most likely outcome is your manager coming back with a counter-offer. So it comes down to internalizing that the worst that could happen is finding out that the company you’re working for isn’t on your side and that you should find something different, the best that could happen is that you get your raise, and the likely outcome is that you get some sort of salary increase. Breaking it down like this makes salary negotiation easier to do (but unfortunately it’ll never be easy.)

For folks already in a role and wanting a raise, there is something you can do if you have the time. It can be immensely helpful to interview at other companies while you’re in your role and before you ask for your raise, as it gives you negotiation practice, and, if you get an offer, and real number you can anchor your salary negotiations to (not to mention, if you have an offer, it gives you something to fall back to if your current role does indeed decide to let you go.) This involves a lot of juggling, but the process of interviewing for another job can be incredibly helpful for boosting your own confidence.

5) Back when you were running a startup and heavily involved in the programming world, you wrote about attending conferences, events and meetups where you were, literally, the only woman in the room. Sure, we’ve seen positive developments – Crunchbase reports that the number of female founders doubled from 10% of global startups in 2009 to 20% in 2019. And yet there remains a huge disparity in access to venture capital. Fortune recently found that even though the startup world raised 13% more from VCs in 2020 compared to 2019, companies founded solely by women received less investment than in 2019, accounting for just 2.2% of the $150 billion raised last year. Does this track with your own experience as a female entrepreneur, and – now that you work on the investment side of things – what options do aspiring female founders have for getting a foothold in Silicon Valley?

Absolutely. I feel that diversity has made huge strides in technology in the last decade, but sometimes it can feel as though venture capital is still in the dark ages. Traditional venture capital revolves around folks looking for a pattern, and when you don’t look like the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, you have to work 10x harder to prove that you deserve investment.

One of my biggest mistakes when looking for venture capital when I was working on my last startup was not understanding that venture capitalists say they want to change the world and invest in those that are, but they also really need to see actionable ways you’ll be returning their investment multiple times over. I hate talking about money, and I find that a lot of female founders are the same — we want to talk more about the future and how our product will be but not about how the product is working right now (fit feels like bragging?) and how that directly leads to money money money. It’s gross, but folks who can lean into the gross can have better venture capital outcomes.

However, (and this is one of the reasons I work at TinySeed), I don’t want to encourage female founders to learn how to play the game if they don’t want to. Bootstrapping (growing your company without outside investment) or finding ways to fund your company with just an initial bit of money — like what TinySeed does — means more sustainable companies for folks who don’t want to do the VC rollercoaster. They don’t have to work 80+ hour work weeks, they can have families, side projects, other passions. I want more women to be funded, but I feel like we need more alternatives to just VC, as this will also increase diversity.

Software Guru Marianne Bellotti Doesn't Have Time for Big Tech's BS

For Women’s History Month, No Starch Press is spotlighting the contributions and individual achievements that female authors have made in the world of tech and on our bookshelves.

Throughout the month we'll shine your attention on these remarkable women in tech—along with a 30% discount on all their books. We'll also be posting a special Q&A on one new or forthcoming title each week.

Use promo code WOMEN30 at checkout!

Kill It with FireMarianne Bellotti

This week, the focus is on software engineer extraordinaire and legacy-systems expert Marianne Bellotti (@bellmar). Her new book, Kill It with Fire (April 2021), reflects her internationally known work on some of the oldest, messiest computer systems in the world, and is rich with historical contexts for advancements in technology, fascinating case studies, flexible modernization frameworks, and her trademark wit. Bellotti currently runs Identity and Access Control at Rebellion Defense; prior to that, she oversaw platform services at Auth0, served on a technical SWAT team in the U.S. Digital Service, and built data infrastructure for the United Nations.

Below, we talk with Marianne about following social science into Big Tech, why a learning disability became her biggest career strength, how diversity affects software output, and the best advice she ever got.

No Starch Press: You took a fairly unconventional path to software engineering. For one, you’re completely self-taught; and, even though you were a fairly prolific hacker in high school, you blew off Silicon Valley to travel, study anthropology, and pursue a career in international development. Eventually, of course, you did get lured into the tech industry, where you’re now pretty much at the top of your field. What led to the pivot?

Marianne Bellotti: I was very interested in social systems. Actually I still am! A lot of Kill It With Fire can be described as organization theory. So I didn’t really change my mind about what I wanted to do, stuff I wanted to do just moved into the tech industry. At the time I went to college, being in technology on the east coast meant working for the banks, or maybe a Fortune 500 company. There was no Facebook. There was no Twitter. Google was just a search engine. Ten years later, the data science movement was getting ramped up and all the interesting activity around social science was shifting towards the way the ubiquity of computers was changing how people organized and interacted.

NSP: Given that it’s often difficult for women to “make it” in tech via traditional means (advanced degrees, networking, etc.), is there something to be said – based on your experience – for going your own way?

MB: The biggest advantage I had making it in tech was actually an experience I had in grade school. When I was eight years old I was diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, which is a type of learning disability. I struggled in school a lot at first, and then as I found my rhythm I had to deal with the social stigma of having a disability. The attitude of people around me was that I couldn’t possibly compete with “normal” children and if I did better than the “normal” children it was clearly because I cheated. It broke my spirit for a while. I didn’t want to try, because what was the point? It was an awful time, but it came in handy when I entered technology.

Women in technology get treated exactly the same. Many people will assume you can’t possibly be as good as the men, and if you’re in the room it’s because you somehow cheated or because standards have been lowered. By the time I got into technology I had realized that those experiences I had in school were bullshit and I regretted giving up on myself. So when people tried to convince me I couldn’t be successful here because I was a girl, I didn’t internalize it. I just ignored it and kept going.

Some of the best software engineers I know come from non-traditional backgrounds. It’s not about degrees or credentials, it’s about giving yourself a chance. For some people the structure and credibility of a degree will give them the confidence to fight for a place in the room where things are happening. For people like me it was more about having other skills that could be super useful to gatekeepers. But one approach isn’t more effective than the other. You need to be resilient.

NSP: There’s a lot of talk these days about closing tech’s gender gap. After all, women make up less than a quarter of the technology workforce, and even fewer are in government tech roles. Are there solutions for making the field more inclusive, regardless of sector? And, as someone who’s literally written the book on the subject (Hiring Engineers), in what way can recruitment efforts or hiring processes help resolve this?

MB: I really believe that you don’t recruit diverse talent, you grow it. I think more engineering managers need to understand the dynamics of experience level. People assume that you should always hire the most experienced, most talented person you can. If you can fill a team with All Star talent, you should. But when you study how teams actually work, you learn that isn’t a recipe for success. All Star talent needs to own big projects. So if you fill your team with All Stars, they will end up burned out trying to run all the big projects they’ve started by themselves. My rule of thumb is when I need my team to deepen their expertise I fill out junior and mid-career roles. When I need to increase my team’s responsibilities, I hire senior engineers.

When junior roles are not an afterthought, it becomes much easier to plug in diverse recruiting efforts. I watch a lot of teams try to hire all senior, then someone comes through the pipeline who is just below the standard for senior and all of a sudden the team hires them for a more junior role that didn’t exist before. That’s a strategy that’s going to result in homogeneous teams, because the people who we see “great potential” in tend to be people who remind us of ourselves. So an equal candidate from an under-represented group doesn’t get a junior role created for them.

The other thing that kills diversity in recruiting is trying to hire and grow fast. It’s just math. Under-represented groups are going to be rare, if your goal is to hire the first qualified person who makes it through your pipeline, that person is probably going to be a white or asian guy. If you want a more diverse group to choose from you need to factor in some lead time to source candidates. Right now I’m working on finding leads for what I expect to be hiring in late Q3. I do a lot of my own sourcing. I don’t just sit back and wait for recruiting to send me candidates. (For that reason people who are interested in working with me should definitely reach out over Twitter and ask for a 30-minute coffee date! 😉)

NSP: To take this in a more granular direction, and one that speaks to your roots in anthropology, let’s talk about the gender gap in terms of Conway’s Law – the old adage that software mirrors the shape of the company that makes it (e.g., the org chart, team structures, etc.). Is there a parallel with how the lack of diversity in most tech settings is not only a matter of equitable representation but also one of technology’s impact on society being adversely affected by a perpetually male-dominated perspective?

MB: This is a super interesting question! We know from various studies that diverse teams make better decisions not because of different perspectives but because diversity makes people uncomfortable – it puts them on edge – which leads to more critical thinking. At the same time, I think the minority/majority experience does create its own set of assumptions that influence what problems you think need solving. It’s possible. And certainly it’s true that people from marginalized groups will see a different context around proposed approaches, particularly in civic tech.

NSP: You’ve talked about experiencing “imposter syndrome” early in your tech career – that little voice in our heads that says we’re not nearly as competent or talented as the people around us think we are. Struggling with feelings of professional inadequacy can either hold women back from taking on leadership roles in tech, or cause them to avoid/drop out of the field altogether. From an organizational standpoint, what can be done to better support and nurture young women entering the technology industry?

MB: I still experience imposter syndrome all the time. I find that the more of a reputation I develop as an “expert,” the more I enjoy playing the neophyte. It keeps me grounded by putting how difficult it is to learn things on display for others. It seems counterintuitive, but if I hid behind my reputation I feel like my imposter syndrome would get worse. By exploring things I don’t understand and being vocal about not understanding them, I feel much more comfortable with my place in the industry. For example, lately I’ve been learning program language design, and podcasting about my experiences trying to understand that stuff in a series called “Marianne Writes a Programming Language” – twenty-minute episodes of me missing lots of obvious things and needing experts to explain things multiple times just so that I know what to look up via Google later.

In general, I find that women tend not to believe any praise they receive for their technical skills. The best advice I ever got on this was from Mikey Dickerson. He interrupted me while I was in the middle of explaining how I wasn’t qualified for something and just said “you didn’t trick us, we know who we hired.” Pumping people up is the wrong approach. People need to feel seen. When he said this, it gave me a lot of confidence, even though it was a gentle admission of my flaws as a software engineer. And throughout my career, these moments of vulnerability have been the most valuable in fighting back imposter syndrome. When a very senior person confides in you that they don’t understand something, or are afraid to do something, it changes your perspective on your own self-doubt. I try to do the same for others. It’s not about being critical, it’s about breaking down the assumption that smart people are smart without trying.

Article-19 Activists Mallory Knodel and Ulrike Uhlig Reimagine the Internet

For Women’s History Month, No Starch Press is spotlighting the contributions and individual achievements that female authors have made in the world of tech and on our bookshelves.

Throughout the month we'll shine your attention on these remarkable women—along with a 30% discount on all their books. We'll also be posting a special Q&A on one new or forthcoming title each week.

Use promo code WOMEN30 at checkout!

Mallory Knodel How the Internet Really Works Ulrike Uhlig

This week, the focus is on two of the co-authors behind How the Internet Really Works (Dec. 2020), a collaborative work produced by Article 19 activists. Mallory Knodel is the CTO of the Center for Democracy & Technology, co-chair of the Human Rights and Protocol Considerations group of the Internet Research Task Force, an advisor to the Freedom Online Coalition, and former head of digital for ARTICLE 19, where she integrated a human rights-centred approach to communications and technology work for social justice movements. Ulrike Uhlig is a (comic) artist, graphic designer, front-end web developer, and Debian Developer. She works with non-profit organizations at the intersection of technology, arts and human rights.

No Starch Press: You both work in technology and human rights – and gender equality is one of the most fundamental guarantees of human rights. Given that ICT is an area where women commonly experience discrimination, exclusion and harrassment, what role does internet governance and/or protocol standards play in achieving a more equitable and inclusive global cyberspace?

Mallory Knodel: Gender discrimination is present in internet governance, too. That is to say that, while setting standards and building governance mechanisms presents the opportunity to provide guidance on best practice, efforts to address inequality are undervalued. Rather than getting trapped in the endless loop that starts and ends with the demographics of participant data, there are two things that should be ubiquitously understood by now: 1) inclusion is everyone’s responsibility, and 2) participation is, in some part, related to interest. I hope that my work on human rights and the public interest in standard bodies and internet governance is sufficiently interesting to attract experts who are also feminists, anti-racists, and social justice advocates.

NSP: Your work has brought attention to the theme of the “digital gender divide.” How does gender affect the way women access, use the web, and benefit from internet technology?

MK: The digital gender divide is the result of compounded inequalities that all derive from access to the internet. There is inequality in access to literacy, devices, mobile data, in-home internet subscriptions, information that is censored, paywalled, filtered, and blocked. On the other hand networked mobile devices can exacerbate stalking, police surveillance, harassment, and economic harms such as theft and private data brokerage. At the same time, the offline world of bookstores, government services and public spaces, is disappearing. For initiatives like e-commerce and remote jobs aimed at women to work, ubiquitous, cheap and quality internet access is a fundamental requirement.

NSP: “Alice & Bob” – fictional characters used in discussions about cryptography to make complex concepts more understandable – have been a popular archetype in CS since the ‘70s. But in How the Internet Really Works, you made a conscious decision not to use the “couple” for explaining cryptographic protocols and systems; instead, Alice talks about these topics with a friendly dragon. What inspired you to do this, and what was your intent by recasting “Bob”?

MK: I credit Ulrike with the creative side to our book. She was able to bring to life the everyday objects, characters and mythologies from technology and retell them through her brilliant illustrations of reimagined and more contemporary archetypes.

Ulrike Uhlig: While making the book, we’d come across a very interesting and well-researched work by Quinn DuPont and Alana Cattapan: “Alice & Bob. A History of The World’s Most Famous Cryptographic Couple.” There we learned, for example, that Eve, the person who listens to, and eventually tampers with Alice and Bob’s conversations has sometimes been depicted as Bob’s rejected ex-wife, and that Alice and Bob are not only longer names for representing “A” and “B” (in cryptographic transmissions) but we understood there was also an assumption of their role, related to their gender. We found this to be a bit too heteronormative. We want all sorts of people to be able to identify with our characters, and to, sort of, pass the (non-existing but self-imposed) Bechdel test for books.

However, when writing the text for our book, we noticed that there seemed to be one advantage to using gendered characters – it makes it a little bit easier to explain complex systems, because we can use two different pronouns so readers can more easily follow who is doing what. At first, we had the idea of simply inversing the assumption that Bob is a man and Alice is a woman, and wanted to call those characters “Aob and Blice.” Later we had the idea that Alice could just be talking to her friends, Catnip and Dragon – like, that we accidentally got rid of her assigned role as Bob’s partner. Finally we realized that we didn’t need to use gendered pronouns to make the text easy to understand, we could simply repeat the characters’ names.

Actually, creating the characters of our book has been a challenge for similar reasons. While we knew from the start that we wanted the main character to be a cat by the name of Catnip – an acronym for Censorship, Access, Telecommunications, Networks, and Internet Protocols – we initially thought our secondary characters would be the commonly used ones for explaining cryptography. When we did the first sketches though, it became clear that it would be hard to be inclusive and diverse using “human” characters. So we turned to the imaginary animal world to represent Eve, Mallory, and Catnip’s friend, Dragon. There is now only one human character in How the Internet Really Works who has a name: Alice. With the image of Alice, I encoded a bit of ourselves – women in tech – into the book.

NSP: Women were key to the development of computing in its early history. But in the decades since, they’ve been increasingly marginalized throughout the industry. Are there any notable actions being undertaken right now to help solve the persistent problem of gender inequality in tech and governance?

UU: That’s a good question. I have the impression that ever since I started working in tech, this question has been turned into all possible directions, with a bit of change, but not significant enough change that I would call it progress. I personally think that we need to open up the gender inequality discussion and talk about diversity. To me, this means first of all to question ourselves: How do we encode inequality in our systems? How do we (often unconsciously) reproduce patterns of classism, sexism, ableism, racism, and oppression? How are privilege and social reproduction part of our spaces, organizations, perceptions? Those questions are collective ones, not questions that can be solved on an individual level.

We can ask ourselves similar questions about the technologies that we produce. Technologies, such as internet protocols, are inherently political, as they shape how we interact with each other. How do we encode bias and power into those technologies and how can we do it differently? I would even dare to ask: How can we bring empathy into the technologies that we create? To that end, the Human Rights Protocol Considerations Research Group at the IRTF, that Mallory is a chair of, aims at researching whether standards and protocols can enable, strengthen (or threaten) human rights, and therefore gender diversity.

CS Curriculum Developer Sam Taylor Drops Some Knowledge

For Women’s History Month, No Starch Press is spotlighting the contributions and individual achievements that female authors have made in the world of tech and on our bookshelves.

Throughout the month we'll shine your attention on these remarkable women in tech—along with a 30% discount on all their books. We'll also be posting a special Q&A on one new or forthcoming title each week.

Use promo code WOMEN30 at checkout!

Sam TaylorThe Coding Workbook

This week, the focus is on Sam Taylor, M.Ed., a Bay Area curriculum developer, computer-science education advocate, and author of The Coding Workbook (Jan. ’21). While teaching STEM to middle school students, she taught herself how to code and build websites, then began blogging about what she had learned as a way to help other beginners with HTML and CSS. Those tutorials became the basis for her book, which guides grade schoolers and teachers alike through the basics and web development without the need for a computer or high-speed internet – resources that aren’t available in many low-income areas of the country.

In the following Q&A, Sam talks with us about the future of women in the technology workforce, making computer science (CS) more accessible to girls, the benefits of learning to code at an early age, and how the tech industry can work with schools to help close the “digital divide.”

No Starch Press: You started out in the teaching profession, a field in which the vast share of practitioners are women, then transitioned into the male-dominated tech industry. From that vantage point, do you feel hopeful that we will someday see the end of such stark gender imbalances in the workforce – particularly as it relates to STEM?

Sam Taylor: One of the first teams I worked on when I made the transition into tech had just one other woman and five men. At the time I didn’t realize that this was a common trend, until I started to make friends with other women in the tech industry. Luckily, even in the past few years, I’ve met and seen more and more amazing women take on various technical roles in the industry (software engineers, data scientists, product managers, etc.) or even just become more visible in the roles they’d already assumed! I have a ton of optimism for the female future of the tech workforce as we see more and more incredibly smart and diverse women taking on technical and leadership positions.

NSP: The number of women in computer science has actually decreased since the 1980s, when nearly 40% of CS majors were women. Today that figure has dipped below 20%. You yourself got your bachelor's degree in psychology and it was only later, while you were working as a teacher, that you learned to code completely on your own. Do you think more girls will pursue STEM careers if they are taught CS at an early age?

ST: As coding and technical skills become more in-demand, I think it is critical that we give as many young girls access to computer-science education as possible. That means creating clubs, after-school programs, and other opportunities to engage girls in STEM-related fields of study and show them all the career possibilities. Another important thing to do is expose them as much as possible to the many real-life role models they can be inspired by in tech, as well as everyday women making a difference in the world through their work in various STEM roles.

NSP: Most of the top 10 highest-paying college majors are in STEM. Research has even shown that one year after graduation, male and female coders were earning the same salary – meaning that more women in tech could help eliminate the gender wage gap. That aside, what are other benefits to be gained from girls learning to code?

ST: I think there are so many benefits to learning to code at an early age, such as learning how to collaborate with others, figuring out solutions to complex problems, and learning ‘how to fail’ and quickly bounce back through perseverance. Coding also allows you to explore your creativity in new and exciting ways! And to be honest, I just love to see and hear about women in tech getting paid what they’re worth, asking for and earning raises, and ultimately succeeding.

NSP: Technical knowledge and skills are now considered vital for full participation in 21st-century life, yet most states are only just now beginning to adopt CS learning standards – and with little in the way of federal support. As a professional curriculum developer and the new author of an offline coding workbook for grade schoolers, do you think the tech industry itself has a role to play in helping the public-education sector close its digital divide and ensure every student is taught essential computational skills?

ST: One of the results of the coronavirus pandemic is that more light has been shined on the digital divide – or, the divide in learning between those who have access to the internet and modern technology tools and those who don’t. I’ve seen different tech companies work to help get laptops, high-speed WiFi, and other resources into schools to help students who would otherwise lack those resources. But I think the tech industry can do more to support computer-science literacy in high-need areas by finding ways to provide mentorship, technological support, and just hands-on learning experiences in general – rooted in equity.

Celebrate Women in Tech with NSP

For Women’s History Month, No Starch Press is spotlighting the contributions and individual achievements that female authors have made in the world of tech and on our bookshelves.

Each week we'll shine your attention on just a few of these remarkable women in tech – along with a 30% discount on all books by our female authors.

Use promo code WOMEN30 at checkout!

The LEGO Architecture Idea Book

Alice Finch, The LEGO Architecture Idea Book

Scratch Jr Coding Cards

Amanda Sullivan and Marina Umaschi Bers, Scratch Jr Coding Cards

Make Your Own Puzzlescript Games

Make Your Own Scratch Games

Make Your Own Twine Games

Anna Anthropy, Make Your Own Puzzlescript Games, Make Your Own Scratch Games, and Make Your Own Twine Games

The Book of Audacity

Carla Schroder, The Book of Audacity

The Rust Programming Language

Carol Nichols (and Steve Klabnik), The Rust Programming Language

Computers for Seniors

Carrie and Cheryl Ewin (and Chris Ewin), Computers for Seniors

The Computer Science Activity Book

Christine Liu and Tera Johnson, The Computer Science Activity Book

Penetration Testing

Georgia Weidman, Penetration Testing

Coding Iphone Apps for Kids

Gloria Winquist (and Matt McCarthy), Coding Iphone Apps for Kids

Malware Data Science

Hillary Sanders, Malware Data Science

Make Your Own Pixel Art

Jennifer Dawe (and Matthew Humphries), Make Your Own Pixel Art

Your Linux Toolbox

Julia Evans, Your Linux Toolbox

The Ghidra Book

Kara Nance (and Chris Eagle), The Ghidra Book

The Book of GIMP

Karine Delvare (and Olivier Lecarme), The Book of GIMP

Mining Social Media

Lam Thuy Vo, Mining Social Media

Learn to Program with App Inventor

Lyra Blizzard Logan, Learn to Program with App Inventor

Kill It with Fire

Marianne Bellotti, Kill It With Fire

The Official ScratchJr Book

Marina Umaschi Bers (and Mitchel Resknick)The Official ScratchJr Book

The Official Scratch Coding Cards

Natalie Rusk, The Official Scratch Coding Cards

The Coding Workbook

Sam Taylor, The Coding Workbook

20 Easy Raspberry Pi Projects

Sara Santos (and Rui Santos), 20 Easy Raspberry Pi Projects

Hello Web Design

Tracy Osborn, Hello Web Design

How the Internet Really Works

Ulrike Uhlig & Mallory Knodel, How the Internet Really Works

Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy

Violet Blue, Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy