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Katka Nagyová
April 16, 2015

Meet Melanie Thewlis

Artist, teacher, web developer and political scientist Melanie Thewlis does it all. She will combine some of these skills and teach a 5-week-front-end-web-development-course at betahaus. We wanted to know more about this smart and versatile young lady, so we asked and she answered. Read up!

Can you tell us about your background?

I grew up in Melbourne and moved to Berlin five years ago. I don't have a classic computer science background - in fact I wanted to be an artist, and I studied art for six months after high school.

I didn't enjoy the course though, and swapped to studying history and political science. Through this time I was continuing to paint, and my partner and I decided to move to Berlin. We trained as English teachers, and I taught English to international students for about a year while we saved to come to Germany.

How did you end up doing web development?

When I arrived in Berlin I thought of myself as a painter/illustrator. My plan had been to pursue art and support myself teaching English.

I was still working in a marketing role for my family’s business back in Australia, and as a part of that I started to do work on their website. My first job took me about 100 hours and I earned €200, but I slowly started building up a freelancing portfolio and at one point I realised I was lying awake at night thinking about my latest website and not about my latest sketch, and I would wake up itching to start coding, not to pick up a paint brush.

In 2011 my partner Paul Zubrinich and I founded Little Web Giants, an online marketing and web development consultancy. Since that time I've built around 50 sites as sole or lead developer, working on a really wide range of projects.

For the past three years I have also been studying Creative Computing through Goldsmiths in the UK. Although most of the subjects don't have a direct impact on my day-to-day work, it's been a good process to go back and study a lot of foundational concepts in a theoretical way after building up a practical working knowledge of web development.

And what inspired you to start teaching it?

There were a lot of things I really enjoyed about teaching English – putting together the lesson plans and coming up with fun activities that really explain or cement a concept, seeing students collaborate and gain confidence in new skills, all of those aspects I really loved.

So when the opportunity came up to put together a front end course at betahaus I was really excited. I felt it would be satisfying to put together a lot of resources that I could have used when I was first starting out, and I was excited by the challenge of designing lessons and activities to convey the various core concepts we are going to cover.

You're an active member of the female tech community in Berlin, do you have any tips for girls/women who want to get into web development and coding?

I love coding, and I never expected to end up where I am now, so I would encourage anyone who's curious to give a try at least once. But particularly to women and girls I would say to just dive in and give it a go. I think you learn best by doing, so certainly online courses like Codecademy or Team Treehouse are really valuable - but I think nothing is as effective as setting yourself a goal and doing whatever it takes to get it done. The first thing you build will be a total embarrassment. That's great - next time you'll do it faster, better and more elegantly.

The other thing I would suggest is to get social with your coding as soon as possible. Join one of Berlin’s many, many meetup groups, from Rails Girls Berlin to Open Tech School, and start learning from others. It's such a relief to be able to just lean over and ask for some advice from the person sitting next to you. You will learn much faster and it's a lot of fun. This is one of the main reasons I think the Geekettes are such an awesome organisation – their female only events created a really safe space for me to get out there and start experiencing all the amazing things on offer in Berlin's tech scene.

There's no doubt that tech is a very male dominated field, but I've met many female developers with really diverse and fulfilling careers in tech. There's also a huge demand for skilled developers – so for women considering a career change, web development and programming in general could be a really great option.

You'll be holding a 5-week Web development Course at betahaus starting in February. Could you tell as a bit about your teaching methods and the knowledge the attendants will gain by taking this course?

Yeah sure, so the focus will be on front end web development. That’s the content of a website and how it’s presented to the user – text, images, graphic styles, animations and so forth. The great thing is that with front end skills alone you can build a simple multipage website that you could use to showcase a portfolio or promote an event. So that’s what we’ll be working towards building over the five weeks. As I said, I’m a big believer in learning by doing, so the course will have a real emphasis on doing useful stuff right from day one.

I think there will be a mix of needs from the group, and I’ve tried to come up with something for everyone – In the mix there will be plenty of social coding, group work, and peer learning, as these are really important aspects of developer culture. I’m also enjoying coming up with activities involving Lego to help explain things like debugging and control loops – because why should kids have all the fun? We’ll be using professional tools such as CodePen and Browserstack, running though coding exercises, and then putting it all together for a final project. I’m really excited to see what everyone comes up with!

Now for all of you who are curious about the course and want to meet Melanie in person check the course HERE!

interview by Hana Hariri

Join the people of betahaus here! 

Probably the biggest benefit of coworking is community and events. Now we know it may not be the first thing you’re looking for as you seek out your next office space, but bear with us.

Imagine using your lunch breaks to chat with someone in your industry. Meeting freelance developers at after-work beers. Networking with investors at BETAPITCH. Pitching at our weekly betabreakfast and getting support and feedback on your new ideas.

betahaus has spent the last 10 years cultivating a community of people who we genuinely like working with. And when you join, your team will become a part of it, too.

" People matter! Community was always what we were all about. ‘’

In June we launched #PeopleInbeta - our monthly blog post series in which our Content Manager - Vihra interviewed teams and freelancers from the betahaus community to present the variety of creatives we have in ‘haus, to understand their missions and get some useful advice for our audience. We talked on topics such as sustainability (with PlanA) , decentralized digital identity (with JOLOCOM), curated music experiences (with Bespoke Sounds), freelance photography (with Sara Herrlander), full-stack development (with Obst Digital), design (with LAUDO) and much more.

Interview with LAUDO at betahaus | Neukölln
Interview with Obst.Digital at betahaus | Neukölln

"The Summer is the best time to host Backyard sessions and BBQ’s’’

In the summer, we launched a couple of new events in Neukölln like Freelancers, Unite!, The Backyard Sessions and My friend’s BBQ. 

Freelancers, Unite! developed as our productive coworking session with freelancers from in and outside the ‘haus. Once a month, we picked an important freelance topic (such as taxes, time-management, etc) and invited experts to give us insights on the topic. We saw so many new faces and had the chance to come back closer to where we started from - the freelance, grassroots culture. 

Freelancers, Unite! at betahaus | Neukölln

Another event, which started in July (and turned out to be our favourite events) were The Backyard Sessions. Organised by our queen of Neukölln - Robbin – the Backyard Sessions are our creative evenings with live music jams, movie screenings and cocktails. 

The Backyard Sessions at basement.berlin
Movie Screening at basement.berlin

This last event was hilarious because for quite some time, nobody knew exactly who organised it or invited them. The friend was throwing a BBQ for the community in the garden and this led to all our members joining and staying after for a beer or two with us.

‘’My favourite moment this year was the second friends bbq which was actually cancelled because of the rain forecast. But despite the bad weather, people show up and it turned into a super nice intimate evening with Elizaveta and Paul giving a garden concert.’’ - Robbin (Community Manager, betahaus)

''In July, it was great how the casual after-work BBQ turned into an impromptu acoustic blues jam session with Elizavetta Barsegova and Paul, who have the voice of an angel. Actually, all of the My Friend's BBQ's and Backyard Sessions were AWESOME.’’
- Paige (Head of Marketing, betahaus) 

The Garden at betahaus | Neukölln
My Friend's BBQ at betahaus | Neukölln



"As a coworking space, you have to give stage to important topics.’’

This year we released a new event format in Kreuzberg called ‘’The betaSalon’’. It's an open panel discussion which aims to give stage to important topics and give free speech on them. The fist one we did on the EU elections, last month we talked about changemakers, but our favourite one for this season stays ‘’Mother + Founder’’ where we partnered with FemGems podcast and recorded a live podcast episode for them having Madeleine Gummer von Mohl (betahaus co-founder), Kristine Zeller (co-creater of ooshi period underwear) and Luisa Hoffman on the stage.

betaSalon at betahaus | Kreuzberg

"We should fight for a more human-centered tech development’’

Every September, our co-founders take part in the Techfestival. in Copenhagen, spending a few days disconnecting from the daily life and focusing on creating a better, more human-centered tech future. This year the think tank which included our co-founders Madeleine and Max came up with the TechPledge. The Tech Pledge was made to emphasize the need for a new direction in tech. Similar to the Hippocratic oath for doctors, the Tech Pledge is a promise to make tech a force for good and ensure responsible and sustainable tech leadership. It’s a commitment to driving a new direction in technology.

Techfestival. 2019 in Copenhagen


"Startups are transforming European football as we know it.’’

One of the most exciting projects for betahausX this year (which is also continuing in 2020) is their new startup challenge called The Werder Lab - a global startup competition that aims to reimagine the way clubs like Werder work with athletes, fans and partners.



"You should leave time for the things you love most’’ 

This year couldn’t end without us having our favourite events - the end-of-the-year holiday party and the BETAPITCH Global Finals. On the 6th of December we saw the 9 finalists of the regional BETAPITCH competitions pitching in front of our jury. Congrats to Troy from Hamburg for winning the big prize.

We finished the year at our Holiday Party celebrating anything and everything at betahaus | Neukölln together with our members, friends of friends and our favourite artists from Passiflora LIVE, Tapete and Kotoe.

Love at The betahaus Holiday Party 2019


Thank you for being with us in 2019. It's been a crazy big year for us and it wouldn't been possible without your support, trust and the hard work of our amazing team. Have an amazing holiday time and we'll see you again in 2020.

With love,
betahaus

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