Ava, left, and Tavia Turner were able to learn from each other during the Women Code Cayman course. - Photo: Kayla Young

Tavia and Ava Turner do not always have a lot of free time to spend together.

With Tavia in her first year studying computer science at the University College of the Cayman Islands, she finds herself occupied these days with schoolwork.

So when her mother Ava shared an Instagram post about a free class for women interested in computer coding, the pair jumped at the chance to enrol together.

“It was a way to show her what I do every day and also, some mother-daughter bonding,” Tavia said.

The two received certificates of completion Wednesday evening from the 12-week Women Code Cayman course, put on by Cartan, the Ministry of Community Affairs, Walkers and Cayman Enterprise City.

Tavia sees the skills she learned as a way to drive her interest in graphics, animation and game design.

Ava hopes to use her coding skills to build web pages to support her work in accounting and business development.

“I did computing many, many years ago, before [Tavia] was born actually. So having her teach me, help me along was wonderful. I enjoyed it and I learned a lot. I would encourage anybody to sign up for it,” Ava said during Wednesday’s reception at South West Collective.

Women Code Cayman founder Brandon Caruana of Cartan said he hopes initiatives like this one will broaden career opportunities in Cayman beyond traditional industries such as law and financial services.

Before he took on the course, Women Code Cayman had been a weekly meet-up group. Caruana, a software engineer, gave structure to the concept by designing the curriculum for the 12-week course.

“There was an unreal amount of support. At the beginning I was getting 10 or 12 emails a day [from] people that were interested,” he said.

He is now preparing for several follow-up courses, including Youth Code Cayman, a week-long summer programme, another women’s course and a course open to men.

“The idea is to have [multitude] of these courses. We want to do cryptography or crypto. We want do AI and machine learning and just kind of outline what this stuff is,” he said.

The courses were held weekly at Cayman Enterprise City’s Strathvale House. CEC’s chief executive Charlie Kirkconnell said the turnout hints at widespread interest in tech education in Cayman.

“The way the programme has worked out, the level of interest has been much higher than I think any of us anticipated it would be. So, apparently, there are a lot of women on island who are very interested in coding and technology in general. With that higher-than-expected level of demand, it tells us there is something there,” he said.

To attract more women to the male-dominated tech industry, Kirkconnell said they aimed to create a course that was friendly, inclusive and conducive to learning.

The openness of the programme allowed women like Veronica Arboleda, a full-time mom, to explore the possibilities in tech.

“I think it’s so important that we understand the digital world that our children are exposed to,” she said.

“Taking this class, it has been fascinating understanding what is behind a website or a blog, and how you can build one of them.”

Now that she has finished the course, she hopes to build her own website to support a small business she is developing.

Minister of Commerce Joey Hew attended Wednesday’s reception. He said the programme taps into the interests he has observed in young Caymanians.

“It became very clear to me that our young people in Cayman are not just going to be satisfied with an office job, a lawyer or doctor, or the hospitality industry, but they want to participate in some of these technologically-based industries,” he said.

“So it’s also part of our role to help encourage and develop these industries locally, and afford opportunities and training for our young people.”