Women Who Reign: Jessica Pointing
“Happiness will come to you when it comes from you. Success will be yours when you choose to take responsibility for making it so.”
As a Computer Science and Physics student at MIT, I am enthusiastic about using technology for social good and stretching our imagination to comprehend and make use of the things in the universe. I am involved in a non-profit organization called ‘Lean On Me‘ that uses technology to address mental health issues on college campuses. I am also dedicated to advancing education, and have created an organization called ‘Now Know’ that uses research-backed strategies to attract students (in particular diverse students) to technical fields. I have interests in quantum computation and fintech and have completed graduate courses, research and work experience in both areas. I have been awarded Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley scholarships.
Story about the ‘Now Know’ Organization I started:
Soon after I became interested in computer science, I started to register for hackathons. At my second hackathon, my team and I created an iOS app for managing personal finances. I built parts of the UI for the app, used some APIs, and implemented some machine learning techniques into the app. At the presentation of the final product, I pitched the app to a man who stopped at our booth. He loved the idea, and told us how he would like to work with us in the future. He asked ‘Who are the programmers for this app?’ He pointed to the guy at the left of me and said ‘You?’ and then pointed to the guy at the right of me and said ‘You?’. I was confused. He did not ask me. He pointed at all the males and clearly skipped me. The guy to the right of me replied, ‘Actually we all worked on programming this app.’
After thinking about the situation, I wondered ‘is this part of the reason why there are not enough women and minorities in computer science?’ I dug deeper and began to research more about the issue. From my research and personal experience, I came up with six strategies to get more women and minorities in computer science. I was happy with the strategies I had come up with, but realised that creating them in theory was powerless. So I decided to put them to the test by creating an organization called ‘Now Know’.
‘Now Know’s’ mission is to expose young people to the field of computer science, so that they will now know about the opportunities within technology and hopefully develop an interest for it. Now Know is targeted for everyone, in particular young students who are unfamiliar about the field of computer science (as I was before coming to MIT). What makes us unique, though, is that we use six strategies that will spark an interest in females and minorities in particular, even though we target everyone. In addition, we provide next-steps for the students. One beautiful moment I noticed was at the end of one of the ‘What is computer science?’ courses I was teaching. I told them the many areas of computer science, and what they can do with it. Then I challenged them to learn one coding language on Codecademy. As I looked up at the students, I was touched as they scurried to write down the Codecademy link on their notepads. Just that simple act of writing the link down indicated to me that they wished to learn how to code and wanted to take a step towards computer science. We had achieved one of our goals.
So far, we have taught hundreds of middle school and high school students computer-science related courses using the six strategies. If you would like to read the six strategies, you can read them here: http://nowknowguide.com/six- strategies