Written by volunteer Alison Perch
At TechGirlz, we believe early engagement with technology can help solve the gender gap in STEM fields. For TechGirlz volunteer Anita Nichols, childhood exposure to tech led to a lasting interest in computer science.
“I always felt attracted to computers. My elementary school offered programming classes for grades 4 and up. I eagerly waited until I became a ‘big kid’ and could take my first programming class,” Anita says.
From that point on, Anita was hooked. She took additional programming classes in elementary and high school, then majored in Computer Science in college and moved on to graduate coursework. She started out with a focus on OmniMark CGI programming, JEE Entity JavaBeans, and Oracle 8i database development.
Today, Anita is a senior lead web developer/programmer. As a Full Stack developer, she works with a number of web technologies, from customizing Drupal/SharePoint instances with PHP/.Net/CSS to creating custom C# .Net interfaces and overseeing custom Java/JSF projects. She is also developing an interest in IT project management.
Anita, who recognizes the importance of early exposure to technology, decided to share her passion for tech with the next generation.
“My mother was a strong activist who inspired me to give back. I wanted to participate in a program that shared the joy of technology I had at age 8 with other kids in the same age range. The TechGirlz [volunteer] coordinator was very responsive and helpful, and I loved how invested the parents appeared in their daughters’ futures,” Anita explains.
As a volunteer instructor and teaching assistant with TechGirlz, Anita has found that girls harness technology in different ways. While some are interested in programming, others find value in design work and project management.
“I’m always pleasantly surprised when the most reluctant attendee enthuses about continuing with programming or begrudgingly admits she enjoyed the class,” Anita says.
TechGirlz supports young women locally and around the world, which is important to Anita. As a woman in tech, she occasionally encounters people who make assumptions about her technical know-how.
“Every now and again, I might deal with someone who assumes, based on my race and gender, I do not possess the lifelong capabilities that I have. But, I use that more as a measure of what that person is,” Anita explains.
Anita wishes more people knew about TechGirlz, noting that there are opportunities for sponsors, participants, and volunteers. She is constantly impressed by her fellow volunteers’ dedication and technical prowess.
For those interested in volunteering, Anita says simply: “Do it. Seriously. Do it. It’s a great experience.”
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