Courage in Coding: My Summer Inspiring Girls to Choose Tech

by Shashwati Keith

posted on 08-30-2016

I was fortunate enough to be exposed to tech very early in my life. I can remember an assignment in fourth grade where I wrote code to draw circles on a screen. I was good at math and liked problem solving, and I had role models in my family – my dad was an electrical engineer and my older sister was a software engineer. I had a clear path and it was an easy decision to pursue a degree in Computer Science.

Despite having a good support system, once I entered college it was clear that being a woman in tech was not going to be easy. To succeed, I had to overcome the awkwardness and self-doubt of being a female in a male-dominated field.

Getting to a career in tech comes with challenges for women. I’m grateful I was able to overcome them with support, but not everyone can. That’s why I was so excited to seize an opportunity to step away from my day job at Adobe and spend the summer teaching a group of 20 high school students in the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion program. For seven weeks, Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm, I got to be part of the solution. My job was to teach 10th and 11th graders how to code – many of whom had no prior programming experience.

In five short weeks, we taught them Scratch, Python, Robotics, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. For their final projects, they created websites to track fitness, manage stress and anxiety and increase awareness about social issues. One group even created a time-traveling game. Using the skills they developed over the course of the program, they were able to take an idea and turn it into a real product.

The curriculum for the Summer Immersion Program was very challenging and fast paced. Aside from learning different programming languages, we covered fairly advanced topics like Algorithms, Arduino and Object Oriented Programming. It was natural that some students felt unsure of their abilities and experienced the same kind of self-doubt that I experienced in college.

One of the great things about the Summer Immersion Program was that it introduced young women to coding in a supportive environment without the burden of dealing with gender-based bias. It was very different from the everyday reality of a typical high school student pursuing college admissions, taking standardized tests and keeping up with copious amounts of homework. For seven weeks, the students could be themselves and focus on learning. Regardless of their backgrounds, they were all girls who were learning how to code.

I am so proud of Adobe for giving us this very real way to work towards reducing the gender gap in the tech community. In addition to the time spent by mentors, speakers, program managers and teachers, Adobe also gave each student a laptop and a one-year subscription to Creative Cloud. With these resources, the students can continue to learn and improve their skills beyond the summer. Hopefully, it all adds up to a glimpse at an awesome career and the encouragement they need to make it happen.

You may also like:

Topics: Sustainability, Diversity & Inclusion