Introducing Asia Gibson
Welcoming new talent to the tech community
We’re excited to introduce our first Android developer in the #C4QIntroductions series in an interview with C4Q Access Code developer Asia Gibson. Over the last 9 months, Asia has been leveraging her determination and focus to learn Java and Android programming. During that time, Asia built an impressive app, Tater Pop (available on Google Play), which she presented with her team at Demo Day at Google. Our Access Code Program Manager Ashley spoke with Asia about her experiences. What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
C4Q: Hi, Asia! Why don’t we start with where you’re from?
AG: I’m originally from the Lower East Side. Growing up was pretty cool because the ‘grown folk’ cared about the kids in the neighborhood. I spent a lot of time in the neighborhood Community Centers. Through those Community Centers I was able to be exposed to new things and met other nerdy and geeky friends that had similar interests. For instance, we’d go on college trips and take college courses. That’s what made me want to go to college and get into technology. I also got into tennis, surprisingly!
C4Q: Was there anyone in particular who influenced you a lot?
AG: It may be clichéd, but my mom and aunt. My mom always supports all my silly dreams and ideas. Even though she was a single mother, she’d move mountains to help me succeed at what she knew I could do. My aunt, being a high school dropout, always pushed me to be my best and to not waste all the opportunities that my mom pushed me to join, even if I didn’t want to or didn’t like it.
C4Q: Did your mom finish high school? What was her path like?
AG: She actually finished high school 6 months early because she was pregnant with me. She studied phlebotomy in her early 20s and then went back to college while I was in high school. Currently she works for the city as a supervisor of her unit.
C4Q: How did you hear about C4Q? Why did you decide to enroll?
AG: I heard about C4Q through a program that’s held at my old job — Henry Street Settlement — called Jobs Plus. This was actually my 3rd time applying to C4Q. The 2nd time I got to the last portion and but didn’t get chosen.
C4Q: What kept you coming back after the first two rejections?
AG: This was the only program that had Android development. Also I felt the employees cared and had a passion for helping and teaching new skills to minorities in the NYC area — that alone sold me.
C4Q: Why was Android development so important for you to learn?
AG: I wanted to be able to create projects that I can use on my own device. A lot of people can’t afford iPhones so I wanted to make ‘pretty’ apps for Android as well because iPhone apps seem more polished.
C4Q: And what’s your favorite app on the Playstore right now?
AG: The emulators for N64 and Sega Genesis.
C4Q: How did you find support during the C4Q program?
AG: At first I didn’t seek out support. I felt my questions were juvenile, so I went to classmates instead of speaking up. Once I got comfortable, even though it was late, I asked for and got the assistance I needed.
C4Q: When and why did that change come?
AG: When I checked myself and said, “You being lost and wasting this opportunity on pride is ridiculous.” I’m usually good at checking myself.
C4Q: And what happened after you reached out for help to instructors and TAs?
AG: TAs gave me resources that once helped them, and from there my understanding of Java expanded. I used Google less. Instructors helped with what questions to ask and explained how debugging is a great assistant and I learned how to read crashes.
C4Q: What was something noticeably life changing during your enrollment?
AG: The amount of time I wasted in a day went down. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy being a gamer, but I could have spent that time learning new skills and brushing up on old ones especially since I got off work so early in the day.
I also have a strong sense of teamwork which I didn’t have before. I am an introvert and hated teams. When I was in high school I always had teammates that didn’t pull their weight, so if I could work by myself I would always take that chance before.
C4Q: And then what happened?
AG: Well I was forced into pair programming…but in an environment where everyone wants to learn and help each other. I didn’t feel like I was the only one working. I eventually liked teamwork because I can learn new things I didn’t know.
C4Q: Did you have any breakthroughs due to teamwork?
AG: I’d say the Easter egg hunt app; that was when I really got a grasp of Android and Java. I’m really proud of that.
C4Q: Can you explain that a little more?
AG: My teammate and I were getting low scores on the exams but we knew how to build apps. We were able to split up the work and help each other. After that we worked on the next few projects and got better and better. The Easter egg hunt app we worked on was my first victory that made me feel like a developer.
C4Q: You also made a great capstone project, Tater Pop, could you tell us about it?
AG: The app is a digital version of the classic game Hot Potato that most of us played as children. Players are able to invite up to 3 players and swipe to pass the potato. The last player with the potato loses.
C4Q: What did you enjoy about making it?
AG: Being the tech lead, I was able to learn how to explain what each team member needed to implement from each other’s Git commits. I also enjoyed learning new technologies like Bluetooth and how to send messages across devices.
C4Q: Can you tell me more about the new technologies you learned?
AG: I learned how to use Bluetooth, Google games play services, UUID and TCP which were used at some point to create Tater Pop. Our first iteration was to have two players and used Bluetooth. As a team we figured that would be a fine choice. Further into development we switched to Google Play Game service because ultimately we wanted more than two players. One challenge was the messaging system for the multiplayer mode that Play Services used was UDP but we needed TCP because there needed to be a “handshake” between devices to know whether the message was being received or sometimes the player wouldn’t receive the potato.
C4Q: It’s really cool the way you used tech to update a childhood game. What was is like getting to present it at Google?
AG: Getting to present at Google was one of the greatest experiences. When I was in 4th grade my computer teacher told us that they were going to be a tech giant since Yahoo didn’t want to acquire them. Ever since then I’ve wanted to work for Google and being able to present my team’s work there is my first step to achieve my goal.
C4Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your newfound career?
AG: Eventually I hope to start my own indie game company.
C4Q: What are the largest obstacles you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are in your career?
AG: Stepping back and taking care of me. Not being with friends and family as often.
C4Q: What advice can you offer other women who are aspiring developers?
AG: There’s nothing you can’t achieve; men aren’t the only ones who can dominate. Don’t let where you come from be what defines you. Break out and achieve or at least try. It’s better to have tried than to live with the “what ifs”.