Empower

Girls Who Code Mentoring with Accenture

No, I don’t really code. I can do the bare minimum for front-end web development, but it’s not what I prefer to do. Still, I wanted to volunteer with Girls Who Code because I think back to my younger self and I wish I had more opportunities and encouragement to explore tech.

I taught myself basic HTML and CSS when I was young and on MySpace, and I didn’t think much of it. By the time I entered high school, MySpace was no longer cool and Facebook seemed like the lackluster social media for grownups. (No more sparkly layouts and embedded songs? What’s the point?! Truth is… Facebook has always been lame.) My perspective was limited, and my interest in coding ended there.

In undergrad, I tried a computer science class. I couldn’t stand it. I was in a group with the only other two girls in class, and it was impossible to force enthusiasm among us. Python was the bane of my existence that semester. It wasn’t that I struggled to do well – I just didn’t enjoy it.

In grad school, I participated in a hackathon on a whim. I was the only girl among a group of coders, and as the business school “hustler” (compared to hacker and hipster – aka developers and designers, respectively), I felt like the odd ball out. My team was a finalist and pitched our idea to IBM while onstage at Lollapalooza. I had never felt so energized, and I started to realize the potential for working in tech in a way I had never experienced. Like with any startup, even the best founders and coders need a team!

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Two years later, I love working in tech and wish I would have pursued it sooner. Alas, I volunteered to be a Girls Who Code mentor, even as a non-coder.

Accenture partnered with Girls Who Code for a 7-week Summer Immersion Program. Based out of the downtown office with some of the best views in the city, it’s a pretty sweet summer “camp” for high schoolers. Each week had a different focus from web development to robotics, and the session culminated in a final group project of their choosing. They got exposure to so many elements of the tech world by practicing new skills and from listening to guest speakers.

Each Monday, I shared lunch with two of the girls and learned about what they were working on, what they liked and didn’t like (they didn’t like Python either), but mostly about the college application process and what it’s like in college. Only one of the girls knew she wanted to pursue computer science, and I loved that the other was open to learning new skills even though she was considering the medical field. I enjoyed getting to know the girls and trying to share some of my wisdom.

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Some of the workshops were canceled due to protests in downtown Chicago, but I helped with one of the workshops on social media. Can I first say how OVER I am warning the youths to be cautious on social media? “Don’t post pictures of you drinking on Facebook!” … um, they don’t even have Facebook. They’re digital natives and inherently ~social media savvy~, so instead of stifling their exploration, I think we should encourage content creation versus consumption or censorship.

If people are going to be on social media anyway, wouldn’t you rather them create content (videos, blog posts, jokes, recipes, poetry) than mindlessly scrolling and getting FOMO from looking at everything else posted? When they’re sharing their own ideas, they’re being leaders, not followers. When they’re censoring their ideas, they’re enforcing the idea that their thoughts and opinions are not worthy of others. Still, if they make some mistakes as they go, they’ll learn from them — it’ll build character.

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I told my story: I wanted to work for a fitness startup called CHAARG, and I applied multiple times to be an intern. After two years of determination while growing my Instagram following in the CHAARG community, I finally joined as a blogger. From there, I quickly moved up to Blog Manager and then Media Manager, getting to work at 1871 and managing their partnerships with brands such as Nike, Victoria’s Secret, and CLIFBAR. Right before I finished my MBA, I connected with Accenture’s Tech Garage at 1871. I joined two weeks later, and now here I am! If I hadn’t built my personal brand through social media, I would not be working at Accenture today.

They setup their LinkedIn profiles, and I helped them write power statements to introduce themselves. It was interesting to see them frame themselves based on their family and environment, not who they are and what their passions are. After some mock interviews, I loved seeing the light bulb moment when girls realized something else they could add to their LinkedIn. Even if they’re young, they’re not void of passions in life – they just may not think they’re worthy of sharing yet.

So, what career/life advice would you give your high school self?

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Girls Who Code is specifically building a pipeline of young women to work in computing. It has reached 10,000 girls through specially-designed after school clubs and summer immersion programs.

Fast facts:

  • On current trends, women will hold only one in five computing jobs in the U.S. by 2025.
  • The computing industry’s rate of job creation in the U.S. is now three times the U.S. national average. This rapid expansion of the computing workforce means that computing skills – with coding at the core – are the most sought-after skills in the American job market.
  • Not having friends in a computing class can reduce by 33% the likelihood of a girl studying the subject at college.
  • Just 17% of parents and young people working in computing believe this kind of work can change the world.
  • Worse still, 66% of computing teachers say that they would rather be teaching something else.
  • 81% of high school girls who studied computing over the summer were interested in studying computing at college, compared to 52% of those who only studied computing at school.
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