We sat down with our newest Coded by Kids team member and first VP of Innovation, Eliza Erickson, to learn about her career, love for Philadelphia, and what it means to be in the tech space.
- Name: Eliza Erickson
- Title: VP of Innovation
- Favorite Parent Activity: Please Touch Museum
- Favorite Local Shop: Duross & Langel
- Favorite Philly Tourist Spot (that’s actually worth it): Franklin Fountain Ice Cream (cookies & cream with peanut butter sauce is my go-to!)
- Last Book Read: True Biz by Sara Novic
Tell us about your background and your journey to Coded by Kids.
EE: “Most recently, I spent about nine years working for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology thinking about how we make government more innovative and how to solve problems using new ways of thinking. I really loved it, but I’m thrilled to be making the transition to Coded by Kids. I am excited to continue to be a part of Philly’s tech and innovation ecosystem and the important work around diversifying and increasing access to tech.”
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What do you like to do outside your work in tech?
EE: “I have a husband and two kids and a rescue pit bull named Brew. We like to spend our weekends taking long walks out and about in the city. With two small kids, we’ve swapped out restaurants for playgrounds.”
What interested you most about joining Coded by Kids?
EE: “I have experienced what it’s like to be the only woman in a room when you sit in the tech space and I’m excited to be a part of changing that. I want to make sure that underrepresented people understand what tech is, how they can access it and know that their voice and their skills really matter in these spaces.
Joining CBK is also a full circle moment for me. I started working for the city in 2014, around the time that Coded by Kids started and I’ve had the privilege of crossing paths with the organization in a number of ways since then. I’ve always thought that CBK’s approach to diversifying tech and empowering young people was really unique, so when this opportunity presented itself, it was the chance of a professional lifetime for me.”
What do you think is the barrier that keeps youth from getting interested in technology?
EE: “For many people tech still means sitting behind a keyboard and coding. Tech in today’s world is so much more than that. Whatever you are interested in, there is a technology component. We need to be better about telling the story that technology plays in our lives and what it means to be in this industry.
We also need to be cognizant about the people side of tech. In order to build the right platforms in the right way, you not only need a traditional technologist, but you also need communicators, strategic planners, and stakeholders. The tech world is just so much bigger than sitting behind a screen and coding and I think people not understanding that narrative is a huge barrier.”
What steps do you think could be taken to make tech in Philly more inclusive and equitable?
EE: “People need to see themselves represented in these spaces. I think the mission of Coded by Kids is one of the right first steps. We need to continually advocate to get women and people of color in leadership positions, so that younger generations can see themselves in those spaces and feel like it’s where they can belong.
Also, we have to be really cognizant about how we’re teaching tech and how we’re preparing people to be successful. Being successful in the tech space is not just about technical skills, but do you know how to conduct yourself in a professional setting so that you can grow. It’s much bigger at this point.”
What impact do you hope to have on the organization in the long term?
EE: “I’m just super excited! I’m really eager to be a part of taking Coded by Kids to the next level. I think the organization is ready to grow and deepen its impact, not just across Philadelphia but across the country. I have a lot to learn but I’m ready to dive in and I’m happy to be a part of a well-respected organization like Coded by Kids.”
About Coded by Kids: Coded by Kids is a Philadelphia-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit fighting inequity by preparing underrepresented young people to succeed as tech and innovation leaders through project-based learning and mentorship. Our programs are designed to provide young people with beginner to advanced level software development, product management, and user experience design skills.