Written by volunteer writer Diya Rao
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitalisation. Utilising this, how do we continue our mission of inspiring middle school girls to be the next generation of women working in tech?
Alicia Park, National Outreach Manager for TechGirlz, sat down with Bob Dirkes to talk about this on Episode 33 of “Technologist Talk,” part of a profile series complementing the WITS 2020 Virtual Summit. Alicia, a trained educator and a crucial member of our team spoke about the importance of volunteering and using digital means to make our programs accessible virtually to many, on the podcast produced by Creating IT Futures, CompTIA’s tech workforce charity.
Due to Covid-19 precautions in place, TechShopz has moved to virtually provide hands-on workshops and instruction webinars. Alicia said that “tech shops are the backbone of the TechGirlz mission, volunteers are its heart”. As Alicia explains:
“Not only are they able to share their knowledge of the topics that they are teaching to the girls, but they’re also sharing their inspiring stories into tech. “
She also adds that besides learning the day-to-day application of the gadgetry, it is the human interaction that is vital in inspiring the girls to explore careers in tech. She elaborates that in order to retain the ‘human touch’, they ensured that the virtual workshops mimic the same feeling as in-person workshops by using video platforms.
In answer to Bob’s observation regarding TechGirlz having reached new scale, Alicia says
“We have and being able to reach those girls in different areas that we may not have had consistent or any in-person workshops yet, to have those opportunities for those girls is definitely the excitement point for me.”
With bringing these virtual interactions, TechGirlz has been able to reach a wider audience in the country and seen an uptick in volunteers in California, specifically in the Bay Area.
Alicia emphasizes that Mentorship is one of the most important qualities in a volunteer,
“The more that they’re inspired by these mentors or volunteers, the more likely they are to continue to want to learn and join other TechGirls workshops. So having a teaching background is not necessary as long as you’re willing to jump in and share your knowledge of the technology you work with every day in your job.
She also explains that the person doesn’t necessarily have to be a techie to volunteer. The most important quality is aligning with the mission of supporting the girls to gain valuable skills and explore a career in tech.
She finally says that a lot of volunteers who graduate middle school return as instructors during their high school years, leading to an exciting cycle of peer-to-peer mentorship.
“We have a large amount of teen volunteers that get involved as alum of TechGirlz, but also just girls that maybe hadn’t heard or experienced TechGirlz. But they themselves are interested in technology and have taken courses through different programs and they want to get involved.”
The TechGirlz mission is carried forward by it’s amazing volunteer community. We welcome volunteers who are inspired by the TechGirlz mission. Volunteers can also help as a lead instructor or teaching assistant to bring more tech education opportunities to middle school girls. Or consider sponsoring TechShopz or donating to TechGirlz. Learn more about these options by visiting TechGirlz.org!