Goldman Sachs Girls Who Code Program 2016 — The Girls’ Perspective

Goldman Sachs is a corporate sponsor of Girls Who Code (GWC), a program created in 2012 to encourage young women to pursue academic and career opportunities in Technology. On July 5th, 40 high school girls arrived at Goldman Sachs as part of the fourth annual Girls Who Code summer engagement, running through August 19th.

The summer immersion program is an intensive seven-week program with a curriculum that covers the fundamentals of Computer Science and Coding including hands-on experience with Scratch, Python, video games web programming, and Robotics.

The girls will be paired with Goldman Sachs female engineers who will provide mentoring throughout the program. The students will also attend presentations by Goldman Sachs professionals, participate in workshops on UX Design and Business Modeling, and explore different parts of the firm’s headquarters, including a tour of the television studio, and the trading floors, highlighting how technology plays a major part in the day-to-day operation of our business.

Throughout the course of the summer, four girls from this year’s Summer Immersion program Julia Isakov, Rosa Olguin, Noa Hines and Noor Kamal will share their individual perspectives, highlights and lessons learned in a blog series on the Girls Who Code Medium publication.

Left to right: Julia Isakov, Noor Kamal, Rosa Olguin, Noa Hines

We asked Noor, Julia, Noa, and Rosa how they heard about the program, why they applied to participate and their initial thoughts.

Julia:

I heard about Girls Who Code from other girls in my school who had previously done the program and they all spoke really highly of it. I registered not only because I knew that coding was an important skill to know for the future, but because the program looked like an awesome way to spend the summer! All the girls in my school who had participated said that they were still in group chats with friends they had made and would go and get dinner or see movies even months after the program had ended. So far the best part of Girls Who Code has been me realizing that I could actually do this! Programming, which had been a complete mystery to me previously, now makes a little more sense. Creating something in your head and then being able to bring it to life on screen is an experience like no other and I’m really excited for the weeks to come!

Rosa:

Last year, my engineering teacher, Ms. Ross invited me to the 2015 New York City Girls Computer Science and Engineering Conference. Entering the conference with only 2 other girls, I realized the lack of diversity in the room, not representing our city full of diversity and rich culture. Organizers recommended Girls Who Code as a way to break the gender gap and diversify the field of technology by including females.

I was hesitant to apply because many people told me the Summer Immersion Program is very competitive. While applying, I didn’t think I would get in. I worked on my application and hoped to receive an acceptance. I felt motivated to apply after getting put in touch with a Girls Who Code Alumni. She mentioned her great summer experience and how awesome programming is. This motivated me to learn to program and help increase the number of females in the Computer Science field.

My initial thoughts on the program were: knowing it’s not going be easy and there would be failure, but the idea is to overcome and learn from it. I love the freedom programming offers, the collaboration and learning from my peers, and the friendly environment in the classroom.

Noor Kamal:

I heard about Girls Who Code by searching online for courses that teach girls computer science and thankfully, GWC popped up! I have always had a curiosity for technology projects, and have been inspired by female tech leaders like Sheryl Sandberg who motivate young girls to learn about computer science, so I decided to apply for the Summer Immersion Program to pursue that curiosity. When I was accepted into the program, I researched the program and expected it to be a rigorous yet fun experience with like-minded teens, and so far, it has been just that and so much more!

Noa Hines:

I heard about the Girls Who Code program first by mail, when Reshma Saujani was running for NYC Public Advocate in 2013 and my house received her campaign flyer. Her campaigned talked about the empowerment and inclusion of women (esp. women of color) in the workforce. As I am a rising senior who wants to pursue computer science, I thought GWC would be a great way to gain experience working in STEM and collaborating with other driven girls.
So far, the program has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve gotten to hear first-hand experiences from people who apply computer science to their job and daily life. I’ve already been able to widen my perspective of the possibilities and rewards that come from focusing on STEM.

Question: So it’s week 3 of the GWC program what have you learnt so far and what are you most excited about? You’ve also attended up to five GS speaker series so far, can you share some of the highlights you’ve taken away from these sessions?

Noor Kamal:

These past weeks have been so intense and exciting. Each day, after being introduced to a coding concept like loops and conditionals, we are left to our own devices without classmates to solve challenging yet fun tasks — creating a text adventure or coding a landscape. It’s during these tasks that increase in complexity and difficulty that I learn how to problem solve, and collaborate with my friends to come up with better and more efficient solutions within the code. Speakers from lectures and intern panels have given me exposure to the tech field, and given me the opportunity to see that with hard work and ambition, I can be in their shoes when I grow up. By discussing topics like cyber-security and data science, they introduce me to more technology that I would never be exposed to if not for this program.

Noa Hines:

We’re continuing to explore Python. Now that we have become pretty comfortable with the language, we get to use it for Object Oriented Programming. This method of programming is essential for programming video games and condensing your code in a way that’s easy and efficient to access. 
 I’ve been able to gain a lot of insight into how widespread technology is in a firm such as Goldman Sachs. Several different fields need to use daily efficient technology in order to keep Goldman a well-oiled machine. Through the speaker series, I’ve been able to more accurately visualize how my coding skills could be applied in the working world. I’ve seen Goldman through a collaborative and community-based lens; working with others as well as working with code leads to a successful product.

Rosa:

Throughout the Summer Immersion Program, I have learned how to program in Python and JavaScript. Our Python projects were not easy, but eventually by trying new things and being open to failure would be the only way I improve. Right now, we are working on Web Development, my favorite part of the program. Using HTML/CSS to create my own personalized site really demonstrated to me that programming has no limits. I have learned not only programming skills, but I learned to work with other girls my age to solve problems, research topics I’m unfamiliar with, and present projects. I credit my teachers and peers for all the learning I’ve experienced because we all share a bond and learn from each other.

I value Goldman Sachs a lot because they have presented amazing and inspiring speakers to us, explaining in detail what they do and why they became interested in technology. They also explain the importance of technology in our life and inspire us to be the next generation of programmers that “program the future”.

This motivates me the most when the support and inspiration to pursue a career in technology is said by a woman because they go through the struggle of being a minority in a classroom, and they believe that I could change that in the future.

Julia:

We’re currently at the halfway mark of the program and I’ve already learned so much. We’ve focused primarily on Python, coding text adventures, animated drawings, and games. I loved making games because they’re something that people can use. We all walked around and played each other’s games and even though everyone began with the same starter code, all the games had something unique to them. However we’ve now transitioned to web development! We started by using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to make customized web pages for ourselves. Soon, we’re going to be designing web sites about the issues we think most affect us and others world-wide. It’s really exciting to have a platform where I can not only share my ideas but create every aspect of how they are presented.

I think the best part of doing GWC at Goldman Sachs is the huge resource of knowledgeable speakers’ right in our own building. We’ve had speakers who are very knowledgeable about their field I think that the most important thing I’ve gotten from their presentations is how important it is to be passionate about what you do. Ms. Huang talked about finding “hacks” in her games as a kid and how that led to her love of hacking and programming today. I hope that as I grow older and become more focused on my career, I’ll be able to find a field that excites me to innovate and push the existing boundaries.