A Word from our Mentor…

Below is an empowering speech given to LaunchCode partners and supporters by one of LaunchCode’s CoderGirl mentors, Jenny Brown. Jenny is a software engineer at The Climate Corporation. #YouCodeGirl 

Hi. I’m Jenny Brown, one of the mentors for CoderGirl. I show up every week because I want to help people discover who they can become.

Learning to code is about getting a good job, yes, but it’s more than that. It’s about learning how to learn, and that experience goes far beyond school. Coding develops reading and writing skills, design thinking, investigating a problem and coming up with ways to solve it. It’s empowering — people discover their own learning potential and are often surprised by what they can accomplish. It changes their own beliefs about themselves and about what they can do. It unlocks their talent and potential to contribute to the world and engineer solutions.

I grew up in poverty, in a culture that only believed in very small dreams. Even though I did not complete a degree, my career in software development was my ticket out of poverty. For many years after, I thought about how to introduce others to coding, especially since traditional schooling wasn’t an option for everyone.

That dream became real in 2014 when I joined over 500 women, crowded into the Planetarium to hear about CS50 and this new thing called CoderGirl. I started out by mentoring for CS50. And then, I discovered many people’s learning needs weren’t well met by it, especially pacing when they had responsibilities to family, and so I encouraged mentors to collaborate on alternatives. This created the Java, SQL, web, and other learning paths CoderGirl offers today.

So I’m here to say — you don’t need a CS degree, but you do need skills, practice, problem solving… and courage. It takes courage to dare to believe you can do more with your life. It takes courage to come back week after week and keep throwing yourself against hard problems, and to keep making time to study and practice. It takes courage to answer the call of adventure, the call of your own dream. It takes courage to dedicate to a dream, whether as a learner or as a mentor.

There’s always a risk; that’s why it takes courage to answer the call. This kind of challenge changes you. It asks you to grow beyond your fears and self-doubts. It asks you to show up for yourself, to value your work, and to persist. As you learn and grow, you become a new version of yourself. At the end is a rite of passage into a new life; it is the conclusion of long hard work, and, at the same time, it’s just the beginning of life-long learning.

Showing up is the foundation, the bedrock on which everything else is built. There are many tech meetups, but none so supporting as our weekly meetup. There are other places where meetups happen, but none so consistent as this space, dedicated specifically to this kind of learning. This consistency matters so much — it provides the reliability necessary for consistent progress.

Learners must be able to trust in the program, to lean hard on it and feel it support the weight of their hopes and dreams — the weight of their future life. This work can lift the chains of poverty, not just for one woman, but for her entire family — her relatives, her children, her grandchildren, and maybe more. It changes lives.

I show up because I know I have impact. I know that what I do, matters. And, you have impact, too; you matter. This kind of program can’t be built alone. Your presence, your courage, your openness and curiosity, your willingness to step up, and your persistence and support — these are what make the dream real, and help it change lives.

Thank you for creating a dream I could contribute to. When we create together, it makes ripples beyond what any one of us can see. Thank you for the work you do, to be a part of this magic.