“If you know how to code, you don’t have to say ‘I Wish.’” - Olivia Shannon
Meet Olivia Shannon, a New Yorker who loves gaming, Netflix, boxing, horror movies, writing, art and music. She learned to code and is planning to major in computer science to enhance all of her passions and ensure that she never has to say “I Wish” about any of the things she’d like to create. Through code, Olivia has learned to embrace her failures as a way to better herself.
Read more about Olivia, her mentors and how she’s combining her passions with code in our Q&A below.
Q&A with Olivia:
Tell us about your Girls Who Code experience.
It may sound cheesy, but changed my life. When I started the , I expected to spend 7 weeks competing with 40 other girls in a field that I wasn’t totally sure I would excel in. I was scared to fail, scared that I wouldn’t make any meaningful friendships, and scared that computer science just wouldn’t be for me.
And were your fears realized?
The friendships I made during those 7 weeks are ones I still happily maintain today, and each of them was built on helping to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down through petty competition. The program taught me not only to accept failure, but to embrace it and use it to better myself. It shifted my whole mindset from avoiding obstacles to facing them head on.
Do you think learning to code in a different environment would have changed your experience?
My high school is really competitive and failure isn’t accepted as okay. Girls Who Code taught me that it’s okay to fail. If your best is failure, that’s fine, too.
How has accepting failure helped you?
It’s clearly apparent in the way my grades have skyrocketed since attending the .
What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be an artist growing up, I even dressed up as Georgia O'Keefe, my favorite artist, for career day!
What do you want to be now?
Now, I want to be the founder of a start-up and help make way for other women to join the ranks of this century’s computer science pioneers as well.
Do you think coding is artistic?
Yes, that’s why I am applying to major in computer science. I can use my passion for art and writing and have a dynamic and competitive career.
What was the hardest part of learning to code?
I was terrified that I’d have to compete with everyone else in the program, and that I wouldn’t be good enough. But everyone was happy to help when I asked questions, and it was okay to mess up. I learned that when you’re programing, you’re going to make a thousand mistakes before you get it right.
Why is it important to teach girls computer science?
As with anything, diversity breeds ingenuity. Having only one, small demographic in a field creates a smaller range of perspectives. But when people of different genders and cultures get involved, innovative solutions come up.
Has coding made you feel more confident?
Coding has given me so many opportunities that I feel like I can do anything! In the past two months, I’ve made websites, apps, and even helped design the at his fashion show. There are so many options out there for programmers because the skill is in demand. It gives you the freedom to explore what you want to do.
How does code tie to your other passions?
I love gaming, watching horror movies, watching Netflix, reading and writing. I also love music and have a pretty varied taste - I’ll listen to anything from classical to pop punk. Code has created - or enhanced - all of these things.
I also box to stay active and use Nike Running and Fitbit to track my workouts. Based on what my app is telling me my body is doing, I’ll change my workouts.
You’re heading to college in the fall. What are you most afraid of in Freshman year?
I am a pretty quirky person. I’m scared to meet new people but I also love putting myself out there.
What are you most excited for?
I can’t wait to live in a dorm and have a roommate and take whatever classes I want! If I want to take a philosophy class as a computer science major, I can do that. I can expand my own learning as I see fit.
Who are your role models?
, who was one of the first actresses and was a pioneer of wireless communications.
What advice would you give to a girl to inspire her to learn to code?
No matter what you’re interested in, knowing how to code will make it better for you and make it more fun. Code can enhance whatever your interests are. If you know how to code, you don’t have to say “I Wish.” You can create things without having to wait for anyone else.
Interested in learning how to code?