Girls Who Code + Isobar: Lessons Learned

For the second year in a row, the Isobar Women’s Community was fortunate enough to host the Girls Who Code (GWC).  It is a truly amazing group that introduces young women to technology and works to change the perception of what it means to work in the field.

After last year’s amazing event in Chicago, we were excited to expand the event nationally across multiple Isobar offices and meet the girls in other cities.  With the help of the GWC management team, we were able to successfully gather in Boston, New York and Chicago. And what an event it was.

Our Women’s Community shares the mission of breaking barriers and squashing stereotypes. As we planned for this event, we wanted to make sure that we were able to give something to the girls: whether it be a changed perception, general knowledge of what is possible or the confidence that if we could do it, they could do it.   Each visit included demos, tours and workshops designed to share an overview of the disciplines responsible for the work that we produce. For example, one of the sessions included a user experience and design activity aimed at understanding the groundwork for the development of a mobile application.

As the day progressed, Isobar became more and more impressed with the girls in the organization.  The questions they asked were astute, their knowledge and usage of technology was impressive and the participation and outcome of the workshops,legit.

Here is some of our first-hand feedback from the event leads in each office:

Suoyang Hou, Chicago:

First and foremost, I was surprised to find out that all of the 21 GWC participants that visited our office were born after 2000. The idea that they are growing up with smartphones, social media and the ability to Google anything both excited and worried us. How could we make an event both engaging and challenging? We wanted to make sure the girls left with the feeling that working with technology is exciting, approachable and filled with women just like them; that a typical programmer isn’t, as one of the GWC girls put it, “some guy who lives in the basement.”

The most interesting thing we learned that day was how quickly they understood design and technology. During the workshop exercise, it quickly dawned on us that they were able to design something so intuitive because they are growing up in the “App Generation.” They are uniquely poised to carry the baton into the future. What a fantastic program – one we wished existed when we were in High School!

Anne Keane, Boston:

There were two main things that I took away from the GWC event. First, these girls asked really good questions. Some of my favorites I heard during the workshop included, “What is the target audience?” and “What devices and languages should this support?” Pretty impressive when thinking through the design of an app! During the demos, they inquired about how these projects came about, and were interested to find out that, sometimes, we create things purely to see what is possible. I hold such value in the thinking behind the question, and this was an impressive group!

Second, I was reminded how lucky I am to work with such talented colleagues. The women I stood alongside with have fascinating backgrounds and experiences. Being able to step away from project work to take time for an event like this allows me to have a renewed appreciation for the people I get to call my teammates. We all left feeling energized, reminded of yet another reason why we do what we do – because it’s fun to work with women in technology!

Monika Pandit, New York:

It was a complete thrill to have the students from Girls Who Code visit the New York office.  It was the first year that our office hosted the event, which made it all the more special for us.

From the outset, the girls were very enthusiastic and eager to be there and have the opportunity to learn more. Most of the students were rising seniors which means that very soon, they will be in college. I was pleasantly surprised by how much they already knew about technology. This could be partly due to the fact that the information is easily accessible to them.

During the field trip, the students participated in a mini-workshop on user experience and design. After which they were asked to take the lessons learned from the workshop and create a sketch of a mobile application that would help them organize their day.  In short, it would act as a student coach for them. They were also asked to define the user interactions in the application. They had a lot of innovative ways to break down and solve the problems using technology. It was extraordinary to witness their skills to critically understand, analyze and create an application with so much depth. Most impressively, they knew the importance of collaboration and teamwork and how to get the best out of their teammates. When I asked one of the students why she wants to be in computer science, she said, “computer science empowers me to solve problems that can’t be solved otherwise.”

Overall, I am elated to have been able to participate in and contribute to this transformative cause. It is so important to be bringing more and more women into the Computer Science and Technology sector. We look forward to welcoming the young women of the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion program again next year.

After the field trip, we regrouped internally to compare notes and find out how each locations’ event went.  The response was unanimous: resoundingly successful across the board. The biggest take away for all of us was that while we intended to give something to the girls visiting, they ended up giving us something more: hope.  Meeting the girls gave us all optimism that the future will be different. That women will have the fortitude to take the opportunities we’re deserved. Isobar is so proud and honored to participate and contribute – even in these small ways – helping the Girls Who Code and work towards our common mission.