Flashback to mid-October 2015 when I attended Grace Hopper for the first time. Like I mentioned in my last post, I’d been going to conferences aimed at women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) for almost a decade, but nothing quite prepared me for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. 12,000 STEM women strong? The force field was out of this world! It was a most amazing space to be, just collaborating on novel ideas, and drinking from a firehose with people who were deeply knowledgeable and distinguished in their fields. So yea, while all that was exciting, one thing remained with me.
I heard for the first time that there was such a thing as Computer Science week in the US. I thought it was really remarkable. And then, I felt a twinge of vicarious jealousy for kids in Nigeria.
Now Code.org* was not brand new to me. In fact, about a year ago, I completed some fun exercises on the platform. But that day, when Hadi Partovi, Megan Smith and a few others took the stage and talked about getting kids early in the tech pipeline, I saw a bigger picture. And it hit me so hard that all I wanted to do was own a bit of the message, and extend some impact to a small picture. For some reason, I felt hugely responsible as I sat there in the audience, and couldn’t help thinking of how blessed and fortunate the kids of this era were, to have so much opportunity and commitment.
To cut the story short, I thought about my “sphere of influence.” I’m not a mum, I volunteer at science festivals and summer camps to get children excited about tech careers (found this old interview I did with Inside Bay Area news mag, while mentoring at NSBE SEEK in Oakland, CA.) I left Houston deep in thought, and when I got back home, I reached out to one of my colleagues. He was also a local church pastor, and had got me to become a member (I would eventually find my way to the children’s class and sign up to teach Sunday school.) I suggested to him that I’d be happy to teach the students in my class how to code.
Today, the conversation from October eventually became a reality. I kicked off the Hour of Code with a group of 9 students (ages 10 -14), four of which from my regular class and the other five visitors. Just seeing how genuinely interested they were in itself is a success. Some of them figured the exercises out as they went, and they helped each other. A few had prior experience coding or with Code.org, but it was a great learning experience for everyone. Believe it or not, I was also a nervous wreck up until we started. We ran into some network issues, but in the end we all did just fine.
I say we’re only just getting warmed up! I’m looking forward to doing more, making progress and impact. While I’m starting from where I am right now, I’m definitely open to possibilities and ideas to get involved with children anywhere, especially in Nigeria. Cheers to small pictures, and small victories! :)
*Hour of Code™ is a trademark of Code.org, a non-profit organization and eponymous website led by Hadi Partovi that aims to encourage people, particularly school students in the United States, to learn computer science. Visit code.org for more.