Kallee Buchanan on learning web development



Kallee Buchanan is an international award-winning journalist who has worked in radio and the digital space for more than a decade. In 2017 a free “Women in Code” event gave her her first taste of coding, and she’s been keen to learn more ever since. In 2019 she took part in a bootcamp to further develop her front-end skills. You can follow her on twitter and instagram at @Kallee.

I have a day job. It’s a pretty good day job, and I love it. I’m a professional content maker. Not a “one day I’ll be famous on instagram” content maker, but someone who has been writing, recording, filming and photographing stories for more than a decade. I have a body of work. So why did I all of a sudden develop an interest in coding? Long story. Lucky I’m familiar with those.

I remember in 1996 when my school (yes I’m oldish) got a network. The IPT (information processing technology?) teacher set it up and the only thing he put on it was MP3s of songs from the Simpsons. Seriously.

The school went CRAZY for it. Everyone was talking about it, playing the songs, singing them in class. I got a hotmail email so I could be on the network. Heady days. I liked the cut of his jib, so in my senior year I decided I would sign up for his classes. I spent two years attempting to build a texas hold-em style computer game. I don’t remember how or what I used, but I do remember being good at it. I topped my class. But no one ever said to me, hey, maybe you should study computers at University? The internet was still dial-up. We had no idea what was coming.


Flash forward 20 years and I’m loving my job, but there’s a part of me that is still a tech-head at heart. I love apps and science and solving problems, but my knowledge is all surface. I can make a UI work for you, but I don’t know how it works. And it frustrates me when I can’t make the machines do what I want. Along comes Coding with Grace.


A front-end dev in the country town I live in decided she wanted to give back to the industry she loved, so offered to teach women to code for free. HTML, CSS and Javascript for three hours one night a week. I loved it. Deep in my soul it clicked for me and I got a thrill of suddenly understanding something that previously wasn’t available to me. It was exciting and hard and fun and frustrating and not enough. I needed to spend more time, but I have a day job. I didn’t practice or focus like I wanted to. I learned enough to know I wanted to know more, but I had no idea what to do next. I mean, have you seen all the crap about learning to code on the internet?


Eventually I stumbled on the Institute of Code. I liked the intensive format, that it would force away the distractions and let me just focus on the code. It was the perfect setting for me to learn in. I found it challenging to prioritise the work because I was busy with my life, and there was no one around me to troubleshoot with. Once I got to the IOC, there were people everywhere willing to help, to challenge, to suggest and problem solve. I built two websites in 10 days, and developed what I think will be a life-long network of fellow devs I can call on. The sense of achievement was addictive. I also rewrote the lyrics to Macklemore’s thrift shop using coding terminology. I multitask.


I think the biggest challenge I faced was being ok with not knowing the answer, and turning to someone else for help. In my field of content making, using other people’s work is forbidden - your content must be your own. My github was private. I felt uneasy about using inspect element (can you imagine! Such a n00b) but coding is so collaborative, it’s a total mind shift and the community is incredible.


I still have my day job. I still love it. But now I’m hoping to work with small businesses, artists and charities in my little town to build them solid, functional websites that don’t cost $5,000. I want to bed down my skills, get good. Get clever. Use best practice. I want to fully understand front-end because I caught a glimpse of back-end development and it looks like that’s where the real party is at. I want to learn, practice, code, repeat. I don’t know if this will ever become my day job, but if I was going to pick a mistress to spend my nights with, coding is it.

And if you want to see the lyrics to the Thrift Shop spoof, hit me up in the DMs.