I’m always thrilled when I see a young person get interested in technology, doubly so when that young person is a girl. The sad reality is that the tech industry is not an arena that young women feel comfortable entering. I look around the table at a local tech meetup or conference and marvel at the disparity between the number of men and women present. I wonder what can be done to give young women an opportunity to experience the same sense of reward and accomplishment that I have felt as a tech professional.
TechGirlz provides that kind of an opportunity. When I learned about the camp and the chance to volunteer I didn’t hesitate to sign on. There’s a lot of desire to volunteer on the part of tech professionals but we often lose sight of volunteer opportunities during our busy schedules. Having the camp reach out to us really made it easier to say yes.
The format of the camp is what really impressed me. When discussions are had about teaching young people about technology, too often it focuses on the need to teach kids to code. Yet building software involves more than just programmers; it involves designers, product owners, marketing, quality control and a slew of other roles. TechGirlz exposes the girls to every aspect of the development process, from inception to release. Not everyone is going to be as excited about programming as I am, and it was nice to see that each girl was engaged in her own way to the development process.
One of my favorite moments from the two (very busy!) days that I was involved was when the girls saw their idea become a real, working app. There was a real sense of accomplishment in each of them. Not only did they get to see the app come together, it was their app, something they thought of and brought into fruition. The experience of volunteering wasn’t just something that felt like I was doing a good thing. I genuinely had fun, and given the chance to do it again I’d be there in a nanosecond.
Andrew Larkin is a software engineer and web developer at Comcast.