“Just how becoming good at something takes work and time, the glass is only half empty if you let it appear that way.” - Robin Shum
Meet Robin Shum, a high school senior from New York. Aside from coding, Robin is a Girl Scout who enjoys baking, cosmetics, jewelry-making and is the Treasurer of her school’s Olympiad team. Robin loves to code because of the creativity is fosters. She hopes to use her knowledge of coding and technology to start her own cosmetics company that is eco-friendly and non-toxic.
Learn more about Robin in our Q&A below.
Q&A with Robin Shum:
What was your Girls Who Code experience like?
was the best summer experience I ever had; I think I felt genuinely happy every single day of those seven weeks because I was surrounded by new friends who encouraged and supported each other through our struggles of learning how to code. I never realized how creative the field of computer science could be!
So, coding is creative?
Creativity isn’t just in physical art. You can be creative with code. When you code, you solve problems. There are many ways to code a solution to something and you can personalize how you want to solve it.
What was your dream job growing up?
I wanted to be a fashion magazine editor-in-chief. Fashion is so creative and I wanted to control the direction of creativity in fashion by being an editor-in-chief.
What’s your dream job now?
I want to be a software engineer or CEO of my own company.
What type of company?
I’ve been interested in cosmetics and how most of them have toxins in them and fantasize about starting a cosmetics company that is eco-friendly and non-toxic. The summer before I attended , I interned at a Chemical Engineering lab where we worked on applying a non-toxic surfactant to oil and water with the potential for use in cosmetics. That sparked my interest.
Right now, I’m actually working on my girl scout project in cosmetic awareness. Part of the project is creating a database that holds information about non-toxic products. You can check out the project .
Were you always interested in computers?
I was always fascinated by computers. I discovered computer science in high school because my sister was majoring in electrical engineering. When we were younger she would teach me quick codes on the keyboard. My sister actually found the Girls Who Code opportunity and was too old to apply but thought I might like the opportunity.
What was the hardest part of learning to code?
It was difficult to grasp the very concept of coding at first: how can words typed into a little box tell the computer what to do? Once I understood the proper syntax and what each command did, though, coding became less intimidating.
Have people ever stereotyped you because you’re a girl who codes?
In my experience, the hardest part about being a woman in particular is that people don’t expect you to be interested in computer science, though that just may be because I don’t spew tech knowledge at school.
Why do you think it’s important to teach girls to code?
Generally speaking, girls in my generation and prior generations haven’t been introduced to computer science at an early age while many boys have. Our lack of exposure shows in the statistical demographics of tech companies. So, it’s important to teach girls computer science so we can reach gender parity and remove the “boy’s club” label on tech companies. No one should be afraid to go into an industry because there are no role models who look like them.
Has coding made you feel more confident?
Learning to code made me see that coding is not as intimidating as it seems. I’ve learned to just give things a try and even if I fail, it doesn’t mean that I’m not good enough to code. Becoming good at something takes work and time.
Has this mentality helped your perspective on failure?
Definitely. Failure is all subjective. I think I felt like the biggest failure when I was rejected from my “dream school” on March 31st. My initial thought was, “Oh my goodness, my life has amounted to nothing.” What had I done wrong? I indexed my extracurriculars, grades, essays. In retrospect, I realize how ridiculously dramatic I was being. A few days later, after I got that dramatic response out of my system, I realized a few things: although this one thing didn’t work out, I didn’t magically forget how to debug code, make jewelry, or research toxic cosmetics. It took lots of work and time to learn those things, and my one setback wasn’t going to make those achievements disappear. My life was still something, I was okay! So what if one thing didn’t go the way I planned? That’ll probably happen a lot more in my life. I could view my rejection as being labelled “Not Good Enough for Princeton,” but that self-pity won’t get me anywhere. College rejections–and failures in general–don’t determine anyone’s self-worth. Instead, I view the acceptance I did receive as a new, exciting opportunity and move on from there: I’m going to college, going to live in a new place and learn new things! The glass is only half empty if you let it appear that way.
Want to learn how to code like Robin?