Topcoder and Girls Who Code Discuss the Growing Role of Women in Technology

June 24, 2016 Jennifer Odess

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Supporting the next generation of technologists, promoting women in technology, and advocating for women in the workforce, are 3 pillars of my career journey. So, when I was asked to speak to a group of talented young ladies at the first ever Florida Tech’s weVenture Girls Who Code Club – I was obviously thrilled!

On the heels of an extremely emotional week for the Orlando, Florida community there was a shining light on this program and what it stands stood for. Ignorance and terrorism will not bring Orlando down #OrlandoUnited #OrlandoStrong.

When I first entered the new state-of-the-art Melrose Center at the Orlando Public Library I could feel the energy. I saw all of the ‘Girls’ (16 in total, ranging from 12 – 16 years old) buzzing around, working on their respective team projects which would be presented a few hours later. This camp was the first of two summer camps hosted for free by weVenture Girls Who Code Club for the Summer of 2016.

Throughout the 5-day camp, the girls were put into teams and asked to collaborate on a problem they would like to see solved through code. Around 30 ideas were collected and the final 3 chosen to be featured projects were clever, meaningful, and fun. The teams were asked to present their projects and the results were astonishing, especially considering many of these young ladies taught themselves how to code (in Python) in just 5 days with no prior coding experience.

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The presentation I was asked to deliver was the final presentation of the week. The intent = inspirational… The title = The Untraditional Path To A Tech Career…  My goal was to remind these young ladies that they can be anything they want to be. That just because their degree is one thing and their resume says another, doesn’t mean they can’t still pursue their dream job. I drilled home the notion to “be your own advocate”, to “be willing to take calculated risks”, to “be irreplaceable”, and to “be confident”. In a sea of many men in the technology industry, these girls have a chance to be different, stand-out, go against the tide, and be the future tech leaders of our country.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such an influential program, seeing the potential these young ladies have for a bright future in technology is humbling. The call-to-action here is very real, and having the opportunity to bring this topic to the forefront of conversations is a critical step in our path to change, our path to supporting the next generation of technologists.

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weVenture powered by Florida Institute of Technology, launched Girls Who Code Club, a community-based affiliate of the national non-profit organization Girls Who Code which seeks to inspire and educate girls and equip them with the computing skills to pursue 21st-century opportunities. For anyone interested in participating in the second camp of Summer 2016, August 8th – 12th, weVenture is still accepting applications, find more details and apply here.

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