“Make it fun. Create something you enjoy with code!’ - Cassie Mahakian
Meet Cassie Mahakian, a thirteen year old coder, tennis player, musician, and self-described “girly girl.” Cassie recently won the and is looking forward to studying engineering at Erie High School in the fall. Want some words of wisdom from this awesome young #GirlBoss? Read the interview below!
Q&A with Cassie Mahakian
What was your dream job growing up?
I was very interested in music and wanted to do something around that.
Do you still want to work in music?
Yes! I’d like to combine engineering with music. Currently, I play the piano, guitar, and clarinet.
When did you start coding?
Why did you join Girls Who Code?
I had been doing Scratch for a while, but it was hard to find fun places to learn to code. interested me because it’s a whole class of girls supporting each other and cultivating knowledge. It’s a comfortable place to learn.
Through your Club, you won the Samsung App Challenge. Congratulations! How did that happen?
Last year, two girls I code with told me about a challenge where we could create an app wireframe and compete for a prize. We kept working on it and came up with an idea - MusikLearn. It enhances brain function for students through digital word games and music. The app targets students with dyslexia and autism but works for any student. Depending on the subject area and disability, the app helps students learn new concepts by connecting those ideas to sound and music.
What was the hardest part of learning to code?
It’s just getting started, especially when you’re learning a whole new language. It’s also hard just being in the minority - there just aren’t a lot of girls in most classes.
Is that why it’s important to teach girls to code?
I think it’s important to give everyone the opportunity to learn to code. Some girls might want to know how to code, but just think they can’t do it because of what other people say.
What advice would you give to girls who are interested in learning how to code or who are struggling to stick with it?
For girls just starting out, I’d say just go for it. No matter what happens, you’ll be learning something amazing. For girls who are struggling, try to find a way to make it fun. Just make something you enjoy with code. Starting out with a really hard program can be hard and not very fun.
Want to participate in a Girls Who Code Club like Cassie?
“The idea that you can create this invisible thing that didn’t exist before in the form of music really haunted me as a child. I thought of it as a powerful way to shape my universe.” - Simonne Jones
The poet Henry Longfellow described music as “the universal language of mankind.” Many studies have since been done to prove it. However, in today’s technology-filled world, code is quickly becoming the next universal language.
We had the opportunity to interview Simonne Jones, who combines both in her work as a singer/artist/engineer/physicist/composer. She began writing music when she was 10 and started college when she was 15. She’s gone on tour with Jared Leto and to Africa as an HIV research volunteer. She’s one of our favorite #girlbosses.
If you ever thought you weren’t analytical enough to code or weren’t creative enough to be an artist, Simonne is proof that STEM and music aren’t mutually exclusive. Not surprisingly, her new single, out today, is titled ““ and pairs techno beats with physics metaphors. Often tying arduinos into her work, we can’t wait to see what the live performance of “Gravity” looks like.
Get familiar with Simonne, learn how technology has helped her build and develop her career, and find out what technology she can’t live without in our Q&A below.
Q&A with Simonne Jones:
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am an artist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Los Angeles. Now I live in Berlin.
Were you always interested in music?
I started learning piano when I was 3 and composing music on the piano when I was 10. At the time, I was mainly interested in classical music and wanted to become a classical pianist. I always wanted to compose my own work and I loved to invent. The idea that you can create this invisible thing that didn’t exist before in the form of music really haunted me as a child. I thought of it as a powerful way to shape my universe. When everything in my world was falling apart, I always had this magical musical universe to play and exist in that was impenetrable. Music was the only thing in my life that I was unable to stop doing.
After I graduated from college, I moved to Berlin. My first music job was playing during the Diesel runway show at fashion week. Eventually, I started playing more local shows and got invited to different festivals in Europe. People starting writing about me organically and more people started coming to my shows. I started getting asked to collaborate with well known producers and musicians and began composing music for theater and orchestras.
When did you become interested in computer science?
My sister got me interested in computers and engineering. She used to build battle robots when she was a teenager and compete in robotic competitions. I was more interested in the bio medical side of science growing up and even shadowed surgeons at UCLA to feed my interest.
As a summer job in college, I taught STEM to inter-city troubled girls. I noticed how inspired they were by my excitement in physics and engineering because I made it accessible to them. I would give them basic physics lessons and we would build planes or take apart computers. Sometimes, we would build radios and I would also teach them basic HTML to help them build their own blogs.
How do your passions for computer science and music tie to each other?
After moving to Berlin and deciding to commit my life to music, I needed something to fill the scientific void. So, I started taking apart machines and building costumes and sculptures with LED’s. I also started building midi controllers and basic on off switch signal converters as drum triggers that I put in the surface of my guitar. I learned a lot from people that I met in Berlin who were interested in DIY engineering and eventually got an arduino as a birthday present. I decided to integrate arduinos into my work. Now, engineering is a way for me to relax.
How do you find engineering relaxing?
When I need a minute away from music, I get together with my friends and do simple and fun projects like building a hologram out of a CD case. Right now I am working on a midi-controlled Tesla coil. It is not for anything in particular, but it’s fun.
Has technology informed how you make music?
I use computers to program my music. Technology is essential to my creative process. I originally performed solo using loop devices before I had a band. That helped to open the doors to experimenting with my productions. Being a recording engineer has been really helpful in creating productions without being dependent on someone to help me record. Ironically, being able to produce my own music has made my collaborations even stronger because I know how to communicate what I am doing in technical terms and communicate the right engineering tasks needed in order to achieve a sound or effect I am trying to create.
What is the most exciting thing about what you do?
Watching something you create touch other people in ways that you didn’t expect is the most exciting thing about my job. Also, being in front of a large body of people singing your song, or swaying to something that you wrote is a really powerful feeling.
When I was on tour with Jared Leto from 30 Seconds to Mars, he would play for around 12,000 people a night and by the 3rd show - even as the opening act -people were singing the hooks of my songs. It was a wonderful feeling and definitely unexpected.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
It’s the feeling of being around a large amount of people constantly, yet feeling alone. It is paradoxical but if you meet hundreds of people at a venue on repeat every day, you lose of sense of intimate connectivity and you feel like you can’t relate to any one. I’ve had to sacrifice every bit or normalcy in my life in order to have a career in music, I don’t have a normal schedule and I don’t have normal relationships with people that I love.
What would you love to see your work achieve?
I would really love to do a philharmonic tour around the world.
What have been greatest lessons learned in your career?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is understanding the magnitude in which your thoughts are powerful. What you are thinking about and how you feel about that thought changes the way you perceive and interact with the world. Each of us has the power within us to create our own destiny.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Take light issues seriously and serious issues lightly.
Did you ever encounter people who discouraged you from your path because you are female? How did you over come that?
Gender aside, people will try and discourage others from doing things that go outside the norm because they are afraid of the unknown in the form of diversity and change. Whenever I was strongly discouraged from a path that made me excited about my existence, that was precisely the moment where I realized I am doing something important and right. Being an outlier is essential to innovation.
Do you think technology has harmed or helped the music industry?
Technology has helped my career because of what is possible as a producer on a computer in comparison to 10 years ago. A composer inexpensively has every instrument known to man on a computer and quick access to limitless library’s of sounds to construct songs.
Technology has demonetized the music industry in many ways like streaming and being able to generate high quality recordings without having to pay to rent an expensive studio. Even labels are feeling the demonetization by technology because artists no longer need them to provide a bridge to a listener. Consequently, many artist that would never see the light of day have been given a spotlight by the audience that organically demands them through technology.
Many producers that I know feel daunted by the enormous amount of creative possibilities that music technology provides and often try to limit their writing to simple instruments. I am somewhere in the middle.
What are the 5 pieces of technology you rely on every day?
Interested in learning how to code like Simonne?
“Take on the world with open arms, and take on code with an open mind." - Ariana Campbell
Meet Ariana Campbell, a 17 year-old from New York. Through the mentorship from her Spanish teacher, Ariana joined our movement of Girls Who Code and is now determined to pay it forward by using code to unite the world and inspire other girls to learn how to code. When asked her favorite piece of advice, she replied with, “Sleep when you’re dead.” We can’t wait to see what great things Ariana creates in her lifetime! Read more about Ariana in our Q&A.
Q&A with Ariana Campbell:
What does the Girls Who Code movement mean to you?
Prior to Girls Who Code, I had no interest in the tech world…at all! After I was immersed into programming, critical problem solving, team building, etc. I learned to love coding. I always dreamt of a way to empower the minorities of the world by connecting them socially, economically, and politically. With Girls Who Code, I know that’s possible for me.
Our community of has exposed me to many denominations of people, giving me greater insight into other cultures. Not only has that positively impacted my thoughts in regards to my future, but it has liberated me from the close-minded views I accumulated from living with one culture.
Do you think coding is hard?
Coding is not hard. Coding is not boring. Coding is revolutionary and it helped me further my connection to the rest of the world. Each alumni of has learned to appreciate the art of coding and apply it to their daily lives.
So, you think coding is creative?
What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be a forensic scientist and help the police or FBI with their investigations.
What do you want to be now?
I aspire to become a child psychologist or a programmer.
What do you want to create with code?
I want to create a website or a game that targets the future of our society to unite as people, not divide by race or income.
How does coding tie to your other passions?
I play the violin and love music. Like code, music connects people in a universal way. Maybe I will be able to incorporate music and code into my career.
What made you apply to the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program?
My Spanish teacher wanted me to do it. She could tell that Girls Who Code would be a life-changing experience for me.
Is your Spanish teacher your role model?
Yes, Ms. Navarrete is my role model. When I entered her class, I was skeptical that I would do well in Spanish. Through her perseverance and dedication, though, learning Spanish became a breeze. Not only did she constantly put in extra work to ensure that I was on top of my game, she also inserted herself into various aspects of my life, shaping me to be the well rounded student I am today.
Additionally, my mother is my greatest role model because she is an individual who has never allowed the adversities of her life get in the way of caring for her two children. Even when she is tired, she always exerts the last bits of her energy to keep both my sister and me going. She is one of the few people who I know will always believe in me, regardless of the route I take.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from your mom or Ms Navarrete?
Because of both of these women, I have manifested my own advice: "Sleep when you’re dead” and “regardless of your interests, always pay it forward.” Seldom do we think of the things that we can accomplish when we are complaining, but if we think about life as a finite period, we will undoubtedly motivate ourselves to work towards our ultimate goals and leave a legacy. I do not believe in letting life pass me by; and one of the greatest ways to combat that is by paying it forward. Acquisition of knowledge is the only way to diminish ignorance and stereotypes, but if no one is willing to teach, who will learn?
What advice would you “pay it forward” to a girl to inspire her to learn code?
“Take on the world with open arms, and take on code with an open mind.” If you truly want to revolutionize the world with code, you need to learn how to accept the world as it is, first. You individual cannot improve something unless you truly understand the inner workings of it, and that applies to both the world and code. Lastly, pay it forward, because doing so makes all the difference…
Has coding made you more confident?
I joined a coding program at my school called Code Scholar.ly and I am the only girl. Without the tips, lessons, and explanations I received from , I would never have had the confidence to join because I would have thought that coding is not a field that people like me join. Also, it is cool to know that people do not think I am a coder; I like surprising the misinformed.
Interested in learning how to code?
“When I was a kid I loved playing video games. I always wondered how they worked. Now, I’m finding it exciting to see the truth behind my speculations, and it’s even more exciting to discover that I can create the games that I used to play.” - Trisha Cox
Meet Trisha Cox, a 17 year-old from Davis, California. A dancer, musician, Girl Scout and now coder, Trisha believes that she can save the world with her coding superpower.
Q&A with Trisha Cox:
What did you want to be when you were 7. What do you want to be now?
I wanted to be an astronaut. Now I want to be an engineer. It would be really cool to combine both.
Were you always interested in computers?
When I was a kid I loved playing video games. I always wondered how they worked. Now, I’m finding it exciting to see the truth behind my speculations, and it’s even more exciting to discover that I can create the games that I used to play.
What made you decide to apply to the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program?
I really wanted to do something different with my summer and had an interest in technology. I gained a lot of hard and soft skills through the Summer Immersion Program.
What advice would you give another girl to inspire her to learn to code?
Sometimes you need to ignore social stigmas. For instance, coding. Coding is really cool even if it’s not always perceived that way. It’s like having a superpower.
How does coding give you a superpower?
Coding is artistic and lets you create whatever you want. I could create a life-changing invention through code that could affect millions of lives.
What’s the hardest part of learning to code?
The hardest part is also the most rewarding part: it’s working through bugs in your code. The feeling you get when you work past a problem or a bug is amazing and you feel like you’re on top of the world!
Has coding helped you work through hard things in your own life?
Yes, it helped with perseverance in school work. I feel more confident now. I’ve also been able to work through a lot of my shyness in school and am no longer afraid to share my ideas!
What else do you like aside from coding?
I like to dance, play music and do community service as a Girl Scout. All of my extracurriculars benefit from me knowing how to code.
How has coding helped your extracurriculars?
Coding complements my artistic side because coding is also creative. I can make anything that I imagine appear on a screen using only letters and symbols. There’s just as much freedom of expression and practice involved in writing code as there is in playing a musical instrument.
Trisha was part of our #AskAGirlWhoCodes live stream.