Never say “No”: Hands-On Learning Fuels TechGirlz Workshops

That’s the mantra of a self-taught techie Becca Refford, integral team player at TechGirlz and Chariot Solutions. Up until now, her learning was a result of saying “yes” to every opportunity, and absorbing the mechanics of things like website development, programming, infographics creation and more. In fact, on February 6, 2016 she led the TechGirlz workshop “Infographics – Proving Your Point With Pictures.”

Becca’s love for the intersection of technology and art kicked off a successful event targeted to middle school girls. While infographic creation was a new topic for TechGirlz, it is certainly one the group hopes to repeat. Her purpose for bringing this topic to the fore was the information glut on the web. “We’re visual creatures – infographics are a great way to share data in a visually interesting way,” Becca notes. The class itself was divided into research and design. Students leveraged Google Scholar to search for their chosen topic, then used Piktochart to bring their findings to life. They did this all with premium access to Piktochart, thanks to Piktochart’s representatives offering a 30 day free trial to attendees.

As an instructor, Becca said “The best part of the workshop for me was working with the girls individually to brainstorm topic ideas – it’s fascinating to hear what they come up with.” She learned about topics such as the pros and cons of drinking coffee, art from the 1800s and the particular way that Marvel releases their movies. “I’m learning while they’re learning.”

Moving forward, Becca would like to see more curriculum about the many aspects of tech – not just programming. (For example, TechGirlz’ upcoming workshops on smartphone photography and MATLab motion tracking.) She shared that if she could go back 10 years, she wishes she knew just how much technology lends itself to creativity. She believes that if young girls could see the endless possibilities to use tech to express themselves and solve problems, many more would consider a career in it.

From her youth, Becca was fortunate enough to be exposed to technology through her aunt, Stephanie Alarcon, who was an active member of Philadelphia’s The Hacktory. At 12 years old, Stephanie brought an old computer to her home and together, they opened it up to see how it ticked. Tracey Welson-Rossman, Founder of TechGirlz and CMO of Chariot Solutions, has also mentored Becca professionally and opened up many doors for her – and has earned the title as Becca’s “super hero.”

Mentoring is a key ingredient for young girls to pursue – and thrive in – technology leadership. That’s why Becca is doing her best to pay the guidance and support she’s received forward through workshops like these and her continued work with TechGirlz. To Becca and the TechGirlz team, it truly takes a village to spark awareness and interest in tech among girls – long before they begin to think about their career paths.

Written by volunteer Denise DiNorscia Williams