“I let my failures go and then I got a different perspective” ~Alexis Olaes
At sixteen years old, Alexis Olaes resides at , a shelter for homeless and at-risk women and children. She is one of twelve girls who participates in Brookview’s , where middle and high school girls learn to code while also increasing their confidence and preparing them for the future. The goal: to equip the Club’s students with skills that will allow them to lead choice-filled lives and prevent future homelessness.
The lessons are paying off. Alexis is already learning to make websites, video games and apps. Plus, her confidence is growing. She describes the impact that learning to code has had on her, “This program is great because girls get to connect with each other while they learn how to use technology. I let my failures go and then I got a different perspective of what is possible.”
When asked what advice she would give to a girl who is just starting to learn to code, she replied, “I would tell her to never give up. And that life is hard, but it can get better.”
if you would like to donate to or get involved with Brookview House and if you’d like to help bring a Girls Who Code Club to your community!
Are you new to the tech scene and still trying to understand the lingo? It’s okay, we’ve all been there. It’s hard to immerse yourself in a new culture without sounding like you’re completely lost half the time. Read this guide to start sounding like a pro:
Now that you know the lingo, join a and start using some of these terms!
REMINDER: this Sunday is Father’s Day. There are many reasons to be thankful for our dads, but one of the biggest reasons is for his support. Being a girl who codes can sometimes be an uphill battle and having the support of our and in addition to our girls who code BFFS and mentors is a game changer. So, thank you to all the Dads out there for giving us life and giving us support!
At The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria, Andrea Chaves and Brittany Greve are introducing girls to computer science through dance in their Digital Dance Project. The project incorporates multiple aspects of technology and dance to make a piece of art. Over the course of two weeks, students worked in groups to choreograph the dance, animate the set design and code Sphero robots to accompany dancers on stage. In doing this, Andrea and Brittany hope that students will experience technology in a new light and see the endless opportunities available in the computer science field. Check out the photos below to see how the project came to life!
Spheros in the dark!
Interested in joining a Girls Who Code club? !
How much do you want an autonomous car? Us, too!
Meet Sarah Houts, a research scientist at who works on their automated driving team. Growing up, Sarah wanted to be an astronaut. She loved science fiction and the idea of exploring unexplored terrain. Her father encouraged her to pursue her interest, so she ended up majoring in Aerospace engineering in college and then pursued a graduate degree in engineering. Both required her to learn to code.
Through her studies, Sarah moved from space exploration to underwater exploration, creating an autonomous underwater vehicle. “It was really awesome because the sea floor is the last great unexplored place on Earth.” she explains.
Sarah moved to Ford’s Automated Driving team earlier this year because she wanted to apply her technical skills to tangible parts of peoples’ lives. Her job is figuring out how the autonomous vehicle is located in the world. We have major job envy.
Sarah spoke to us about the technology that she relies on every day in her technology-filled life. Check out her Friday faves below.
1. My Smart Phone: I don’t use it very much as I’m not an extensive user of apps. However, I pair it with my FitBit and try to keep track of how many steps I’m taking every day. I also recently found out that I’m pregnant, so I’m using my phone to help with my pregnancy.
2. GPS: I look up directions before I leave work to find out the fastest way to get home.
3. My Computer: I use it all day at work to do what I do.
4. My TV: When I’m home, my husband and I like to watch TV. There are a lot of things that get used to figure out what we’re going to watch. For example, we use Netflix to figure out what I like based on their suggestions. It required a lot of effort from engineers to create the algorithm to suggest what I should watch. I love how they break their suggestions down into categories. They always know what I want to watch; it’s every category that I like right in front of my eyes!
5. Electric Car: I’m figuring out what type of car to buy right now. As I’m in the industry, it’s interesting to decide what features matter to me in my daily life.
5:01 pm: Nap time’s over. Time to get up and go win a !
5:03 pm: What do I wear? I want to feel comfortable, since I’ll be up all night, but I always feel most confident when I’m more dressed up. I should probably try to fit in though, right? No, if I’m going to do this, I’m doing it my way. I’ll just wear my usual hoodie and leggings.
5:30 pm: Laptop, charger, phone, charger, glasses, blanket, water. All packed.
6:00 pm: I guess I should’ve left sooner. It looks like the best tables are full. Well, I’ll just find a group that needs another person. Hmm… who looks friendly? Or at least willing to take in a stray? I hope I find a group – it would be so embarrassing if the guy with the microphone has to announce to everyone I’m looking for teammates. Oh awesome, that guy’s waving me over.
6:15 pm: They’re nice, and our project idea is awesome! It always seems like judges prefer the projects that are made up of complex code and solve real problems. Games can be cool, but I think our application has a better shot at winning. Oh, are those snacks?!
7:20 pm: It probably would’ve been a good idea to review Java before this. Well, I’m remembering the syntax slowly and all object-oriented languages are pretty similar.
8:43 pm: Why can’t I find the bug in my code? I’m positive I wrote this function correctly, so the logic is correct. It must be a syntax error. I can’t find it. Ugh, time for a Chipotle break.
10:58 pm: Yes! We’re making such great progress! I’m even helping out the guys with their code. I wonder what the other teams are coding? I hope our project is impressive enough. I feel confident about the code, but is it really scalable? Is it profitable? These are all considerations that need to be mentioned when we present. Well, focus on one thing at a time. The pitch is the last part of the project to deal with.
1:15 am: I would kill for a coffee right now.
1:17 am: Oh good, I see a mentor heading towards me! I could definitely use some help :)
1:52 am: Wow, that mentor was awesome! She was so sweet and helpful. It’s hard to believe she gets to code for a living. It would be like solving puzzles as a job! Ok, focus. Time to finish this Class and move onto the main one.
3:42 am: Come on, you can do this! Just stay awake. Stay. Awake. Ok fine, maybe a ten-minute nap won’t set me back too much.
4:12 am: I should’ve set an alarm. Well, now it’s time to start working on the interface. The guys made some great progress, so I think we can finally get started on the front-end.
6:21 am: Almost done! It’s not beautiful, but our project functions perfectly. I hope the judges care more about the complexity of the code than they do about the interface.
7:15 am: Neither of these guys looks particularly excited about pitching, but I’m happy to do it! Now I’ll get to present and defend our project to the judges. Ok, power stance. Stand up straight. Smile. Pitch time!
8:30 am: I think that went well! One of the judges asked some tough questions, but I think I defended our project confidently. They seemed impressed I was so comfortable with the code… I’m not quite sure if I should their surprise as a compliment or an insult, but either way I’m glad they liked the presentation. At least the hard part’s over – now we just have to wait.
9:42 am: While I love hearing the other groups’ pitches and I’m super impressed by everyone’s projects, can I go home and sleep now?
10:25 am: Did I just hear that correctly? Maybe I’m so exhausted I’ve started hallucinating. No, it looks like I’m right – we won! I don’t even feel tired anymore. Sure, you can take my picture.
10:42 am: It feels like I’m sleep-walking back to my dorm. This was so much fun, though! I can’t wait for the next hackathon.
11:00 am: Zzzzzz
Want to meet some awesome female coders and create your own hackathon team? Join a!
By Lucy Berman
Picture Credits: ,
Meet Margo Hayes, a and a professional rock climber who is taking bravery and problem solving to new heights. She started rock climbing at the age of 10 and loves the physical and mental challenge that comes with it. “Every boulder climb is like a puzzle to me and it’s fun to be able to solve it.” says Hayes.
As a member of the USA National rock climbing team, Margo spends a huge portion of her time training, traveling, and competing. We interviewed her about the technology that keeps her connected while she’s on the road. Check out Margo’s Friday Faves below.
1. My Digital Camera: I love images. Ever since I was small, I was interested in art and photography. The thing that’s so special about the digital camera is that it’s so easy to use and you can see the results right off the bat. Every image is a quick moment in time but it can have an entire story behind it. That’s what’s really special about being a photographer. Everyone sees that moment but - as the photographer - that moment in time can be really personal.
Photo credit: Eddie Fowke
2. My iPhone: For so many reasons. There is so much technology attached to it. Once again, the camera. The ability to text and email in the same piece of technology is also so convenient. With the amount I travel for rock climbing, I have contacts around the world and have many different ways to contact them. There’s wechat in Asia and WhatsApp in Europe. Facebook is also really incredible because you can message people all around the world just from your iPhone!
Photo Credit: Uli Fernandez
3. Instagram: It’s really amazing because everyone shares things that they want the world and their friends to see. You can also search for different locations. For example, if I’m going to climb somewhere, I’ll search the hashtags and the locations and see what’s been posted about that location. Again, this is a visual technology because I’m a visual person.
4. FitBit: I wear a FitBit, which helps when I’m training for a competition and a climb. It’s really fascinating to challenge myself through technology. I’d like to know how it works.
Photo credit: Three Peak Films
5. Netflix: I’ve always loved movies and it’s awesome to be able to instantly watch something and have access to so many videos across the web and the world. It’s something that I use on a weekly - sometimes daily - basis.
6. Duolingo and Quizlet: Because I have the opportunity to travel around the world to climb, I want to make sure I’m learning the languages of the places I go. I’m using Duolingo and Quizlet to learn French right now!
We asked our and teachers why they became teachers who code. This is what they told us:
Top Ten Reasons To Be A Teacher Who Codes:
Sounds pretty good, right?
Interested in being a teacher or know someone who might be? Go to and we’ll send you information on how to get involved!
What stops people from creating art? Fear and access.
What stops people from learning to code? Fear and access.
Many people assume that STEM is not a creative field, they get overwhelmed by the concepts, the numbers and overall idea of what code OR what STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) is. We sought out to change that by creating a mural that shows what STEM is and how it’s affected the evolution of our society with one of our .
Kweku Vassall, a Georgia State University Master’s Student with a background in design, lead the charge and we interviewed him about the process.
Q&A with Kweku Vassall:
Tell us about the project.
The project shows the path of STEM from the past, to the present, to the future. We used a steam engine train to represent the evolution of STEM. The “A” in “steam” on the mural represents the creativity that is present throughout all areas of STEM.
Were there some roadblocks to getting started?
The girls had an idea in their head that if they’re not drawing or painting all the time, they’re not artists. It mimicked how the girls were introduced to coding.
So their fear of learning to code was similar to learning to be artists?
Yes. Originally, they were intimidated by learning to code and didn’t understand how they could use text to make something appear visually.
How did you encourage the students to face their fears?
It came down to humility, respect and consistency. At first, the fear of art created a wall. However, once we got down to talking about the fear and then continually practicing it, they moved from being intimidated to being comfortable. Especially with students who are exposed to art for the first time, there’s an initial fear. Once art became familiar, though, the fear disappeared.
Aside from the fear of doing it, what are some other similarities between code and art?
Learning to code and learning to be an artist requires an understanding of communication. What do you want to communicate? With code, you have a very distinct language or message system that processes information in one space and allows it to be translated into a different space. In art, it’s very similar in terms of how we communicate what we’re thinking visually so that other people can understand it. With the mural, we wanted to use symbols that show the link between STEM and art.
How did you come up with the concept for the mural?
We had a brainstorming session. During the session, we identified a sequential narrative: moving from past, to present, to future. That’s what the steam engine train represented. It was interesting taking our ideas and translating them into a vision.
What did you learn from completing the project?
We can use these skills - art or code - to shape how we want things to be. It’s just about how we communicate. I also feel really fulfilled being part of the project; we achieved everything that was set out to be done.
Check out the STEAM Mural!
Thank you to the following artists for helping create this mural: Jenny Nguyen, Corniyah Bradley, Chaide Wynn, Maya Bailey, Shantearia McCoy, Jarvious Jones, Treylon Wofford, Indya Armstrong, Khalliday Muhammad, Jasmyn Collier, and Ashley Sheats.
Special Thanks to & hosts: Megan Smith, Jared Ariche and Dr. Tene Davis.
Interested in learning how to code?
A recent showed the largest pay gap in the U.S. exists among computer programmers, with women making on average 71.7¢ to every dollar her male counterpart would make. The pay gap among programmers ranks slightly above chefs (71.9¢), dentists (71.9¢), and C-suite professionals (72.3¢), according to the report. As someone who is passionate about getting girls to pursue careers in computer science, these findings are disappointing. For years, jobs in computing were seen to have one of the smallest pay gaps in the country, one of the reasons being inherent to the industry. Though there’s competing information about how big the pay gap in computer science is, we can all acknowledge it’s there and it’s a real issue. I applaud companies that have taken steps to actually do something about it. This year to employee salaries to make sure women and men are paid equally. Transparent salary policies are a step in the right direction, but they don’t address the many factors that contribute to this issue before a woman has landed her first job.
To close the pay gap, we need to address the barriers to getting top paying jobs much earlier. When you have a disproportionate amount of men at the top making salary and promotion decisions, there’s a far greater chance you’ll see unequal salary and promotion policies in the organization. Addressing the issue in the workplace helps, but if we really want to fix it we need to start in middle school.
was founded in 2012 to close the gender gap in computer science. To see how we could intervene programmatically, we first had to figure out where any why these drop-offs were happening. What we discovered was the gender gap in computing doesn’t start when a woman lands her first job or when she goes off to college — it’s starts in middle school. Poor media portrayals and a lack of role models are largely to blame for this. If you need an example of why, just turn on any show portraying computer scientists and you will typically see a nerdy guy in a hoodie, typing away in a basement. We still live in a world where math and science are ‘for boys’. Girls are picking up on these messages and are opting out at a very young age.
Girls Who Code addresses these barriers by offering for girls ages 13-17 through our Clubs and Summer Immersion programs. We teach girls-first, project-based computer science curriculum in a highly collaborative environment. We foster a sense of sisterhood amongst the girls and introduce them to mentors working in positions they aspire to be in.
By the end of this year we’ll have taught over 40,000 girls in every state across the U.S. That’s four times the number of women currently graduating with a degree in computer science. My hope is that by the time our girls enter the workforce they will not only feel equipped for a job but prepared for a career in a traditionally male-dominated field. Addressing the gap early on in a woman’s life is the key to prepare her for equal opportunities in her field.
Interested in supporting the Girls Who Code movement?
“From a young age, the toys we play with and the cartoon characters that we watch define what it means to be a girl or a boy. There’s a pink aisle and a blue aisle, the princess aisle and the builder aisle. That’s why girls don’t have the same role models and don’t build the same skills that boys do. I started GoldieBlox to change that.” ~Debbie Sterling
Meet Debbie Sterling, one of our favorite girl who codes role models! Debbie created to disrupt the pink aisle and create the role models she didn’t have as a young girl who was interested in engineering but didn’t have the opportunity to explore it. Through characters and content that are cool, interesting, smart, and relatable, she’s helping to debug the gender gap in STEM. Read more about Debbie and GoldieBlox in the Q&A below!
Q&A with Debbie Sterling:
Tell us your story as a woman in STEM.
I grew up in a small town and had a very average childhood at a public school. My big break was when I got into Stanford, which was a total reach for me.
My high school math teacher suggested that I take engineering when I got to Stanford - I had no idea what engineering was at the time. Nevertheless, I signed up for mechanical engineering 101 my freshman year. It turned out to be completely different than what i pictured.
How was it different?
It was an outlet for creativity and collaboration. It was a blend of all the things I had always loved: inventing and creating things, tinkering and a blend of art and science.
What happened next?
I declared engineering as my major. As a woman, I was in the minority. In fact, I don’t remember having a single female professor. Typically, when I was on group projects my ideas were ignored and I always felt like the dumbest kid in the room.
When I graduated, it was one of the proudest moments of my life because I set out to do something and stuck with it even though it was really hard. Graduating with an engineering degree from Stanford made me feel almost invincible and upped my confidence because was hard AND because I did it.
What inspired GoldieBlox?
Years after graduating, I was complaining to my girlfriends about the lack of women in engineering. I attributed my interest in engineering to growing up as a little girl playing with all of my older brother’s toys. His construction toys helped me develop spatial skills and taught me about building from a young age.
I always wondered why those were my brother’s toys and not my own. That’s when the lightbulb went off. I realized that from a young age, the toys we play with and the cartoon characters that we watch define what it means to be a girl or a boy. There’s a pink aisle and a blue aisle, the princess aisle and the builder aisle. That’s why girls don’t have the same role models and don’t build the same skills that boys do.
I started GoldieBlox to change that.
Can you explain the difference between computer science and engineering and why it’s important for engineers to know how to code?
Computer science is a branch of engineering. As an engineering major, I studied mechanical engineering and product design. I took a couple computer science classes in college, but one of my biggest regrets is not taking more computer science classes. In fact, I just recently started teaching myself to code.
Why are you teaching yourself to code?
We were spending a lot of time and money our website to make it a place where kids will want to go. The external agency we were using for web development was so expensive and I thought “I wish I could build this myself because I know exactly what I want it to look like.” Now, on weekends I spend some of my free time doing online tutorials so I know the basics.
Hows that been going?
It’s really fun! You can get so lost in coding; suddenly 5 hours go by and you’re so immersed that you had no idea how much time passed! It’s also really satisfying when you build something that works. It’s one of the best feelings!
It’s awesome that you’re the founder & CEO of a company and you’re still finding time to learn new things!
It’s never too late! I have a friend who was doing a job she didn’t love so she decided to go to a coding boot camp. Now, she’s a full time developer.
What has coding taught you about failure?
One of the things I had to learn early on to be successful in engineering is that I don’t need to do everything alone. That’s always been helpful because I’m a social and collaborative person and will raise my hand when I need help. I don’t think you need to be ashamed to admit you don’t know something.
Tell us about the creative process you go through making your amazing videos for GoldieBlox!
We have so much fun! Our creative process is that we bring a bunch of creative people together and go out to a fun restaurant or somewhere that people feel free and open to share crazy ideas! When everyone feels really comfortable, we start throwing out crazy, out of left field ideas and usually one of those ideas might actually trigger THE idea.
Have you found ways or strategizes for getting an idea to become a product?
One video we made - probably our most famous - was the .
We wanted to make a Rube Goldberg machine out of princess toys, similar to music video. So, we started out by trying to get in touch with someone who worked on that project. As it turns out, I had actually spoken at the same conference as one of the engineers who built it. He knew about GoldieBlox and wanted to help!
Next we needed a house. So, we looked on Airbnb and found a great house to rent in Pasadena. After that, we needed to get a cast with next to no money. So, we reached out to fans of our product to be in the video.
It’s very overwhelming if you look at the whole thing all at once. As an engineer, though, you learn to take a complex problem and break it down into simple, manageable steps. That’s what we did for that video and what we do for most of our products. It works out when you take it one step at a time.
Interested in learning how to code?
My dad has been in the tech industry since I was a little girl. I thought he was superman in disguise as my dad and often referred to him as a “computer genius.” Genius was the key word.
I scored far higher on my math SATs than my verbal SATs but always thought of myself as a creative and humanities type of student. I could never be a “computer genius” like my dad. When I placed into an honors math class my freshman year of college, I thought that there was no place for me in the class as an intended performance arts and journalism major.
Some - or many - years have passed and I am one week into learning to code. With technology as a professional and personal lifeline, I feel an obligation to learn.
These are the top ten ways I rely on technology day-in and day-out:
and many many more…
I’ve not yet become completely reliant on Siri but I anticipate her playing a larger role in my life in the coming years. As much as I try to cut technology out of my life, the reality is that it’s not going anywhere and I need it to function on a daily basis.
So, back to learning to code…
As I start my journey into learning to code, the image of my father as the “computer genius,” is at the forefront of my mind. Of course my father is a genius in my opinion, but do you need to be an actual genius to learn to code?
The answer is no.
All you need is a willingness to try and a good sense of humor.
It’s beautiful, right?
Okay, so it’s not that beautiful but I created it just by typing 15 lines of letters and numbers, known as code. These lines all are very specific directions for the computer. It’s like giving the computer a recipe to make, but this recipe has no shopping or clean-up involved. While it doesn’t result in food, it does result in an image that you can share with you family and friends.
Creating this not-so-beautiful snowman with code was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I felt smart, capable and challenged. I can’t wait for my next lesson and to one day have the ability to create something that will make my daily life easier.
We’d love to hear about your experiences learning to code, bust myths you’ve heard about coding and answer your questions about what it’s like being a girl who codes. Email us your questions at email@example.com!
And if you’re interested in learning to code,
“Tech is not a meritocracy but it comes closer than any industry I know. We can do better, we should do better and Girls Who Code helps us do better.” - Craig Newmark
Meet Craig Newmark, founder of c and a connector of people doing good work through c.
Craig went to college to study physics, but got a couple of degrees in Computer Science instead. He’s worked at IBM, GM, Bank of America and Charles Schwab.
craigslist was born in 1995 as a simple email list that shared information about events in San Francisco. Today, craigslist is one of the 10 most-visited English language web platforms on the planet.
Read on to learn more about Craig “Not A Girl Who Codes” Newmark.
Q&A with Craig Newmark
Let’s address the elephant in the room. You’re not a girl who codes.
No, I’m not a girl - but I’m a nerd - who codes. Seriously, the stereotypical nerd with the plastic pocket protector, thick black glasses, no social skills. But, I am a supporter of Girls Who Code.
Why do you support Girls Who Code?
The real reason most simply put is that it feels fair to help address the gender imbalance and Girls Who Code does that so well.
Why do you think the gender imbalance is an issue?
Tech is not a meritocracy but it comes closer than any industry I know. We can do better, we should do better and Girls Who Code helps us do better.
The American economy and the global economy need more people who can do software.
Some people want to code and don’t have a knack for information technology. Some people do have a knack for information technology and don’t do it. Girls Who Code let’s you find out if you have a knack.
What advice would you give a girl to inspire her to learn to code.
Find yourself a good teach yourself to code book. Start it and see if it feels right for you. If you’re more of a risk taker, sign up for an introductory course.
Were you always interested in computers?
In 1969, my high school had an IBM1620. You’ll have to what it looked like.
Were you hooked from there?
I knew I was good at working with computers. I was still under the illusion that I would become a physicist, though. When I got to college, I realized I could become a third rate physicist or good programmer. So, I learned coding in the early 1970s and graduated with a couple of degrees in Computer Science.
How did you create craigslist?
Over 20 years ago, people had helped me adjust to life in San Francisco. So, I decided that I should give back and started a cc list of arts and tech events around San Francisco. People started to ask for more, so I added jobs and things for sale. Next, I added apartments because I could see the shortage then. That was in 1995 and I kept doing it.
How did the cc list evolve?
The list broke at 240 email addresses so I had to start a LISTSERV. I had to give it a name and thought “SF events.” As a nerd, i was very literal. My friends had already called it “Craig’s list” and told me that had become the brand. Next, they explained what a brand was.
I realized that I could write software that could turn emails into HTML. So, I did that and created an instant site. I just kept plugging away. Whenever a task would take longer than I liked, I would write some more code.
It was just me for 3 years.
The milestone was in 1997. There were 1 million page views per month, which was big back then. Microsoft Sidewalk approached me to run banner ads. I could have lived just on that one customer alone because I lived pretty modestly. I said no because I figured I was making enough money coding and didn’t like banner ads. Something I learned in Sunday school was to learn when enough was enough. There’s nothing altruistic about not running banner ads, I just did’t know what I would do with that much money. No one needs a billion dollars.
A couple other things happened around then. People were asking me if they could pay me for posting job ads and wanted to join me to run the site on a volunteer basis.
So, In 1998, we added a set of volunteers, which didn’t work. Then, in 1999 I made craigslist into a company without the investment of VCs or bankers. I created a company out of craigslist with almost no monetization, that’s still true today.
Over that year, I realized that I wasn’t the best manager so I promoted Jim Buckmaster to run the company in 2000 and I just did customer service. These days, I still do lightweight customer service but spend my days in public service and philanthropy through c.
craigslist is the brandless brand. How were you able to get away with that?
People want something that gets the job done and gets out of the way. Fancy does not improve peoples’ lives. Also, a lot of functionality has been added that people don’t notice. Such as, the new views of listings.
Now you mainly run c. What are the focuses of that organization?
We focus on veterans and military families, peer to peer giving, voting rights, trustworthy journalism, women in tech and other organizations that really have their boots on the ground.
I want to treat people the way I want to be treated, which means giving people a break. I have a sense of the give and take of life, which are part of my core messages.
What are your core messages?
Connect with Craig: