August 7, 2015
My first event with Girls Who Code was at the Microsoft NYC office for a day of motivational speakers, panel discussions and bonding activities. The first activity included “Taking Over Times Square” for a beautiful group picture and shouting their love for Girls Who Code and their partners to all the onlookers.
(To see that many girls at one time loving technology was AMAZING!)
Then we continued the day at the Microsoft office with an inspirational panel discussion with:
Reshma Saujani, CEO and Founder, Girls Who Code
Susan Lyne, President, BBG Ventures at AOL
Emily Reid, Curriculum Director, Girls Who Code
Mina Markham, Front-End Engineer- Hilary for America
Minerva Tantoco, Chief Technology Officer for NYC
Donna Woodall, Citizen and Public Affairs Director-Microsoft
I hear inspirational stories every time I speak at different conferences but I promise you if your goal is to be the best version of yourself and inspire other females to do the same, you can never hear enough of these stories.
(The panel with future technology leader, baby Shaan Mehta-Saujani)
The panel discussion ended with the girls jumping out of their chairs to ask questions… I don’t think I knew to ask some of these questions at their age. Then we did a bonding exercise, of course took some selfies, and enjoyed the lunch catered by Microsoft.
(The awesome Girls Who Code team)
(Two of my Favorite People, Emily Reid-Curriculum Director, Girls Who Code and Donna Woodall-Citizen and Public Affairs Director, Microsoft)
August 12, 2015
The following week I was honored to speak at three Girls Who Code sessions at Microsoft NYC and NJIT University. Each session I gave a similar variation of my lecture “Find Your Voice with Technology” and five steps for any age to become builders of innovation.
I developed my lecture about a year ago based upon my experience in business and technology. When you are a young female (especially a business owner) you sometimes have a lot to prove in whatever industry you pursue. And often you have multiple passions you want to achieve but can’t find a way to bring it all together. Once I realized technology was my common denominator to bring all my passions together, I decided to write down the steps that helped me… so I can help others. To date, the “Find Your Voice with Technology” Tour has reached over 30,000 people through conferences, workshops, meet-ups and on-line blogs.
(Our lovely group shot, Microsoft NYC)
During my lecture I love to interact with the girls, one to make sure they are paying attention but second to get to know them. I normally tell my personal story to showcase the different ways you can get into technology. “When I was younger I was in love with computers, stayed up all night playing on the computer researching different things especially how to build one. But when I explained to my mom my love for technology and wanted to learn more, she placed me in dance class.”
Now I always get a laugh when I say my mother placed me in dance class instead of a computer class. But you have to understand people’s culture and in the African American culture, the boys were placed in sports and girls were placed in dance, theater or music. Don’t get me wrong, I loved dance class but I would have loved both technology and the arts (I shouldn’t have to choose). I’m not sure if my mom knew about the terms “computer science” or “computer engineer” because the only fields she ever mentioned was Doctor, Teacher, Nurse, you know the normal careers you hear about. Plus in my neighborhood we didn’t have after school computer classes, or maybe there was but I didn’t know the terms “computer science” to ask for those classes.
The point I always make with that story is sometimes your parents know everything and sometimes that don’t. It’s up to the schools, media, and other individuals in those fields to let you know about the possible career opportunities.
I didn’t learn specific technology skills (besides the normal playing on the home computer and typing class in school) until I finished high school and learned website development when I started planning events. I was working part-time on my business alongside other jobs and saw a decline in my clientele because some companies allowed current staff to organize event activities. So I had to learn website and marketing skills to keep and obtain clients. Plus I had a bad experience with a male website designer that created my business site with a very confusing backend; everytime I needed a change he would charge me additional money. So I shut the website down and started over, learning and making plenty of mistakes.
Fast Forward, I went college for Business Management and Digital Marketing and own two companies with a focus on technology. My first company, Prestige Concepts I have owned for almost 8 years with a focus on branding and marketing services. My second company, We are MENT™ a lifestyle wearable technology company that connects females to learn, grow, and inspire. I am beyond excited to challenge the way we learn technology through wearables.
(Group shots at my two sessions at NJIT)
I sometimes get emotional (I held it together this time lol) when I speak to young girls that have the opportunity to be apart of programs like Girls Who Code because so many girls do not have the privilege of learning skills that could change the world. As I reflect back to my childhood and the opportunities that was missed not only because of lack of knowledge but lack of funds. It was a struggle to even place me in the dance classes so that I had activities after school and on the weekends.
Understanding technology skills such as coding is a skill everyone needs, no matter the age, race, gender, geographic location, or socioeconomic status. People should learn technology skills like they learn a foreign language, you may not use everyday but you will use it.
I left the ladies with a quote I created this past year “Accomplish Forgotten Dreams™” which means the goals I am accomplishing today are dreams I forgot to dream about, because I didn’t have the role models. “Today…ladies you have mentors, programs like Girls Who Code and Microsoft YouthSpark to achieve undiscovered dreams. Let technology be your common denominator to create a roadmap not only for your future but the future of others. Accomplish Forgotten Dreams and encourage others to the same.”
As you can see from the pictures and my blog recap, the impression 300+ girls can have on you is….Inspirational, Amazing, and Life-Changing!