Heather Payne: Ladies Learning Code

Heather Payne: Ladies Learning Code

Heather Payne was photographed by Jon Lim at a Ladies Learning Code workshop

Heather Payne was photographed by Jon Lim at a Ladies Learning Code workshop

It’s about time we featured a woman TOtechninja! Which reminds me. Why do so few women apply to our tech jobs? Heather Payne might ask the same question. She founded a wildly successful non-profit initiative right here in Toronto called Ladies Learning Code.

Heather Payne is making real progress towards getting Toronto women involved with technology by offering extremely affordable tech training that provides women with a friendly place to learn the most in-demand tech skills like CSS, WordPressHTML5Ruby and Python.

How Ladies Learning Code Got Started

Payne tells the story on her LinkedIn profile:

Back in May, I was in Los Angeles on business when I came across an event listing for an Introduction to Python workshop – intended for women. I signed up, attended the full-day session and had an incredible time. So much so that I thought to myself, “If this is what computer science class had been like for me when I was in high school or university, maybe I wouldn’t have been so turned off.” Upon my return to Toronto, I wanted to continue learning, and loved the idea of doing so with other women. After searching for an organization offering workshops geared towards women – and finding nothing – I wrote a blog post and sent out a tweet. It was a call-to-action for Toronto’s women. I received a dozen emails from people interested in joining a group, so I put together an event: a brainstorming session to help us determine what this group would look like. When 85 women (and men!) signed up, I knew we were onto something.

My Ladies Learning Code Experience

This is me at the Ruby workshop in March

I spent a wonderful Saturday learning Ruby with Ladies Learning Code instructor Dessy Daskalvov  (@dess_e). About 40 of Toronto’s finest coders voluteered to help us ladies (and a few lucky men) learn the basics of Ruby coding. The instructor-teacher ratio was about 4-1. I had so much fun learning Rudy at the workshop that I spent the next day playing with it online at http://railsforzombies.com/.

I’m really looking forward to attending my third LLC workshop on June 16 to learn how to make our website mobile-friendly with HTML5. That is if I can land a ticket. The workshops are so popular that they often sellout in minutes.

Donate a Laptop

Want to help out? Girls Learning Code Needs Eight Laptops

This summer Ladies Learning Code is running a two week Girls Learning Code Summer Camp and they are looking for some laptops.

More About Heather Payne and Ladies Learning Code


Kunal Gupta

Kunal Gupta

Mobile Media Visionary, Champion of Young Entrepreneurs

Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar Mobile and Founder of the Impact Entrepreneurship Group

Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar Mobile, Founder of the Impact Entrepreneurship Group

While he was a still a student at University of Waterloo,  Kunal Gupta co-founded two organizations that are still going strong today:

  • Polar Mobile, a mobile app development company that has created over 1200 apps for clients like the Wired, GQ, Glamour and CBC Sports.
  • The Impact Entrepreneurship group which he formed to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship among students. The annual Impact National Conference brings together 500 high school and university students from across Canada.

The Idea that Sparked a Mobile App Empire

While Kunal was still a student at Waterloo University, Kunal had an idea:

“The idea was to leverage software and the promise of Smartphones to create a platform that made it easy to publish content to a connected device. “This was before the iPhone existed, a year before anyone really knew what an ‘App’ was,” Gupta says.” From this post by Erin Bury on Sprouter.com

The Idea That Sparks Countless Young Entrepreneurs

“With like-minded peers, I started an organization called Impact with the vision of getting young people excited about entrepreneurship.” Kunal speaking to Erin Bury in this post on Sprouter.com.

Key Accomplisments

  • Co-founded Polar Mobile as a part-time job while a he was a student at Waterloo University
  • Developed a global brand for Polar Mobile, 1200 Aps and 11M subscribers
  • Has a team of 50 mobile developers based in Toronto
  • Founded the Impact Entrepreneur group to create a new generation of entrepreneurs
  • Recognized as a Global Citizen by the United Nations, Alumnus of the Year at Shad Valley and Ernst & Young’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year

Kunal is Toronto Tech Royalty

Kunal has been featured numerous times on Techvibes.com. The image for this post is from this post by Dan Verhaeghe.


Edward Yao: TeamBuy.ca

Edward Yao: TeamBuy.ca

Picture of Edward Yao from Techvibes

Edward Yao, Teambuy Co-founder

I discovered Edward Yao when I saw him pitching Teambuy on the Dragons Den. Here is another example of how age is no barrier to success in the Toronto tech community. He co-founded Teambuy.ca in 2009. Then in 2011, at age 24, he was honoured as one of Canada’s Top Young Entrepreneurs by the Fuel Awards.

Success came quickly for Edward Yao and Teambuy, but this is no overnight success story. Their success seems to be a combination of a viral business concept, hard work, and not accepting the first offer that was tossed to them on the Dragons Den.

Rapid Rise to Success

  • Teambuy was launched in Oct. 2009 by Edward Yao and Andrew Hutchings
  • Featured on Dragon’s Den in 2010 where they turned down an offer from Kevin O’Leary for $150,000 for 51%, then accepted 35% at $150,000 from Jim Treliving.
  • Raised 7 Million in July 2011 and 5 Million in Feb. 2012
  • According to a post on Techvibes, TeamBuy.ca is the third most popular daily deal site behind Groupon and WagJag.com

The Genius Solution

How Teambuy.ca Works

Take Away

How did TeamBuy go from startup to household name in only 2 years? Here it is in Edward Yao’s own words:

It takes a lot of hustling. You need to be putting in more work and more time than anyone else. The nice thing about our business model, and it doesn’t come across very often, is that it’s inherently viral. It’s 50 to 90% off on things that you use and consume like products, travel, spas and restaurants. So it’s not as hard for me to convince you to come and use TeamBuy as it would be if I were to start a juice company and say ‘hey try our juice, its comparatively priced but you should try it’. So we grew really quickly and a benefit of that is we secured funding and we used that capital to grow even faster. Source: QA with President and Co-founder of Teambuy Edward Yao

Liam Kaufman: Understoodit.com

Liam Kaufman: Understoodit.com

Screen capture from Understoodit.com

View the video at UnderstoodIt.com

I just discovered a Toronto techie (aka TOtechninja) that created an app that definitely falls in the “Why didn’t I think of that” category. Maybe that’s how you know your app idea is a good one. It just seems so obvious after it gets built. Like it should have always existed.

That’s how it is with the UnderstoodIt.com app released this month by Liam Kaufman.

We’ve all experienced it. Sitting in a classroom as a teacher explains a critical concept and you completely miss the point. You look around at other students to see if they’re getting it, maybe roll your eyes or shrug your shoulders. But the teacher doesn’t notice.

Liam Kaufman developed a brilliant app to address that problem. With Understoodit.com, students can anonymously click a “Confused” button to let the prof or teacher know that they need more explanation. Then when they get it, they click “Understood”. The prof tracks the understanding level of the class in real-time and adjusts the content of the lecture accordingly.

The Inspiration

Toronto-based software developer Liam Kaufman came up with the idea for Understoodit.com in December 2011 while studying computer science at the University of Toronto. “I didn’t want to look like an idiot by saying I was confused in front of two hundred classmates,” he said. He created a prototype on his own time and showed a professor, who eagerly agreed to test it in his first-year computer class. Source: http://blog.understoodit.com/


Every cloud has a silver lining. And by silver lining I mean an opportunity to create a cool app.

If you’re struggling with something, chances are that lots of other people are too. A TOtechninja looks for a way to harness smartphone communication power to slay the problem with a killer app. Ayyy-YA!

Let’s think of an example. Hmmm… Say I’m shopping at Loblaws and I need to find some French’s Onion Rings to make my grandma’s green beans casserole recipe. Why don’t they have an app to hook me up with the nearest store clerk that knows the answer? Someone should build that.

Find Out More


Ahmad Nassri

Ahmad Nassri

Ahmad NassriAhmad Nassri is a #TOtechninja because…

He’s a creative technologist, disruptive thinker, restless problem solver and one of most socially networked tech ninjas in Toronto. Ahmad has worked as lead developer at Kobo, RIM, Viigo and Right Sleeve. Plus he’s started two online businesses.

Code in Chaos logoCode in Chaos

Ahmed started Code in Chaos, a Toronto-based web development company that specializes in Web and Mobile application development.  He’s an open source evangelist and fan of the Ubuntu OS.

Mira Vitae

MiraVitae.com example

Screen Capture from MiraVitae.com

Ahmed also co-founded and architected the framework for  Mira Vitae, an innovative story-making website. People can collaborate with friends to tell stories via their social networks. This is a great way to record and capture your memories from big events like weddings or a trip.

Here’s how they describe Toronto on the Mira Vitae Careers page:

The Mira Vitae team calls downtown Toronto home.  It’s a reserved city, out of the spotlight of the big start-up hubs, but with one of the most supportive, and collaborative tech communities you’ll ever find.


  • Ahmad proves that age is no barrier to succeeding in the Toronto tech community
  • It helps to work with a few startups and learn the ropes before you start your own
  • Be generous with your tech ninja knowledge – we love the “Ask us anything” contact page on Code in Chaos.