I went to university to study art and media and wound up falling in love with computer science. I took an Introduction to Computer Programming course, and in the first class, we wrote a program that outputted the text, “Hello world.” After one class, I declared computer science as my second major.
I had no idea what to expect, but representations in the media made me believe that computer science was incomprehensible and involved heavy machinery. In reality, it gave me the tools to be creative and build websites and applications. I created music videos out of cat GIFs, made animal noises for kids games, and visualized video game music.
Although I loved it, studying computer science was not easy. When I first started out, there were many times when my classmates completely disregarded what I had to say, or laughed at me for not understanding specific programming terminology. The field is homogeneous, so I wasn’t surrounded by a lot of other women who were going through the same experience that I was. And since I was usually one of the only woman in the room, I felt like I was under a microscope and that my performance in class was being scrutinized. It made me realize that the biggest barrier for young women in tech is the feeling that we don’t belong in the field.
The first time I felt like I truly belonged was when I joined my university’s Women in Computing Club, which provided a support network that allowed me to explore the connection between computer science and my other interests. I love to do illustrations, and I learned to create web applications based on things I had sketched on paper. My favorite project I built was an application for keeping track of groceries. It included hand-drawn illustrations (by me) of the various things someone could input such as cereal, yogurt, etc.
When I joined Google I got involved with Made With Code, a program that shows young women who feel like they don’t belong that they have a place in this field. I wanted to give other women the same sense of belonging I felt in my Women in Computing Club, and show them the creative and problem-solving potential of technology.
Made With Code recently partnered with Rookie, an online magazine for teenagers, to host an event for 60 young women to learn more about technology. Although Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson and I have had very different career paths, we both used technology to find our voice. Using Made With Code’s new Collage Kit, the girls played around with a visual programming editor to take objects, like rainbows and suns, and create animated collages. They also were able to use what they learned during the day to create paper zines with artist Kati Yewell.
I hope that this event shows young women that they shouldn’t discount their interests because of other people’s perceptions. It took a long time for me to realize that my love for computer science could exist alongside my other passions, and that there could be an entire community of people like me. I love rom-coms, I love to read, and draw and dance (even though I have no rhythm) and I also love to code and create programs that help others. Finding communities helped me and gave me the comfort to pursue all of the things I love to do.