Shivani Mall Makes A Difference

Most people’s views of Hackathons are limited to posh venues where students from top Colleges and Universities come to participate for grand prizes. That’s what Shivani Mall, a student at UC Riverside, thought until she attended Los Angeles’ TXT Hackathon. She gave high school and middle school kids the opportunity to learn to code apps over the course of a two week hackathon in LA. She writes about her experience volunteering:


“This was a very humbling and eye opening experience.”


TXT hackathon was hosted in one of the darkest neighborhoods in LA. I felt very unsafe as my friends and I drove through the lanes in the dingy neighborhoods. However, to my shock and surprise, the participants, underprivileged high/middle school students, lived in these neighborhoods on bare minimum. Computers were a luxury for them.


“I was excited about this hackathon because the vision and goals of TXT exactly aligned with that of Coding FTW, an organization that is putting an end to human prostitution, child trafficking and exploitation by teaching girls to code.”


Just like CodingFTW, TXT aimed to expose these kids to software development and convey that with coding they could live the life of their dreams. There were many kids who needed encouragement to pursue their passion. Some did not have a passion. However, with motivation they were willing to get involved. At the same time, there were many kids who had a passion just like we do and wanted to build applications to solve problems; however, unlike us, they did not have a forum to showcase their talent. Just like CodingFTW , this hackathon gave them the platform to build their dreams. I was touched to hear the problems they were trying to solve. One group that I mentored wanted to build an app to get free rides to school and another one wanted to build a web-app to trade off new pair of shoes for money.


As a CodingFTW mentor, I was honored to teach these kids how to code and help them build applications to fight the problems they were facing in their daily lives like extortion, not having food to eat, clean water to drink, good clothes to wear and rides to school. All in all, I felt that we must use our resources to help these kids unleash their true potential, and motivate and encourage them, so that they can find and pursue their passion!


Why Women Shouldn’t Code Debunked

When I first read Francine Hardaway’s blog post, “Why Women Shouldn’t Code” I could tell she is wrong by glancing at the title, but I expected a bait and switch. So I clicked to read expecting she’d say what many people say is the problem with why there aren’t enough women coders in Silicon Valley, that there aren’t enough women or minorities “in the pipeline” (referring to schools not teaching kids to code). But then after sharing it on my Facebook, and watching the comments ensue like an article on The Onion, I wanted to go into more detail about the four ways this post is misrepresenting women in tech. We (men and women in Silicon Valley) should accept that coding is a part of the solution to the misrepresentation of women and minorities in tech and do something about it. Society needs to work with our kids; encouraging partnerships between the private and public sectors, but also the government as well.

1. Companies are not “forcing” women into coding roles. Come on.
Though many people like to get behind this one, it’s a dead end debate because that’s not happening. No company is strapping women to chairs and making them code. There are, however many helpful programs out there for girls who code. For example, there’s CodingFTW. We are a collection of girls and women with diverse backgrounds who have a passion for learning, teaching, training, and competing in hackathons. Of course, we love technology, both software and hardware. We are a network of women role models kind-of like big sister to younger girls who code. We mentor girls in their coding projects, specifically for inner city girls, providing scholarships, curriculum, and supplies. The youth want to come to learn, and no one is forcing them. But it is more important now than ever before for schools, private and public, start adopting code curriculum into basic skills. Core logic should be taught as early as the alphabet. “If this then that” logic helps early child development because it aids kids minds to develop and become efficient in decision making.

2. Her analogies about coding VS writing are so off base.
She thinks that coding is something it’s not. She claims that code is attention to detail. I disagree. Coding is like writing and doing math at the same time. Francine says, “people are fond of saying code is the next language, and that’s all fine, but there’s a difference between language and syntax. Coding is syntax.” Coding is logic. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know how to code even though in a private message to me, she claims she can code. I wrote on Facebook that today everyone should learn to code. Common Core should include Basic, or Python, or Java. Even if it is just LOGO and kids learn to draw stars moving the turtle, that’s fine. Logic is one of the most important fools in life. Understanding if this then that statements is the fundamental building block of every cause and effect a person will observe in their lifetime.

3. She clearly thinks coding is what it was in the 1960s-1980s, dark rooms, only about precision instead of creativity, etc.
Coding is not highly technical. It can be very basic and short. It doesn’t mean working in a dark room writing code 24/7 like it used to, perhaps a long time ago this was true. It’s about making something truly creative, inventing solutions to the impossible, and being imaginative. Today, many of the jobs in tech don’t require management to write the code, but they do push their employees to know how to, at the very least, read the code. That is because in the near future roles will require employees to use simple code to innovate creative workplace hacks to be more productive. If employees don’t learn to read and write code then they will lose hours in the day and become increasingly unproductive compared to those who do.

4. Nice of her to set back women 50 years by saying women should fill certain gender-specific positions.
She says companies should “instead hire them for the talents they have” referring to the innate womanly attributes. Women need to learn to code now more than ever because companies are starting to require that their employees code. But it’s not just women. Men too. Girls and boys should be taught to code not because women are nurturing and men are macho, but because technology is moving at such a fast pace that America needs to fill jobs and create a workforce the next generation can fill. STEM is the solution that will make a lasting impact on the future of Silicon Valley and America if we can shift the perspective of society to become more inclusive and less exclusive.

Join CodingFTW in our mission for diversity inclusion in tech. Support and encourage everyone you care about to code.

Women In Tech Create Workforce for the USA

CodingFTW is not just a network of strong, smart, and beautiful women from the inside out who compete in hackathons. It is a platform for educating youth, and developing awareness of women and minorities in tech.

While many minorities have computer science degrees, the jobs are being taken by white males. In the next five years, the USA will need to fill 1 million tech jobs according to USA Today, in an interesting article about diversity inclusion in tech. In order to allow more than male elites to take these future jobs, then we must agree education is critical for minorities to be included. More ideas come from different perspectives challenging a way of thought, from various walks of life. If we want to prevent tech jobs from being outsourced internationally, to keep Silicon Valley in Silicon Valley, new initiatives are being created by the government as well as private and public sectors. It’s never been more critical to form partnerships than now.

Silicon Valley is a driving factor in the US economy and women need to become a larger part of that movement. At the very least, women should represent half of that workforce. Women provide a unique perspective to product development for social applications specifically because women think of solutions to problems more collaboratively than men and often can come up with feature ideas that meet collaboration needs. While the first female coders were women, men take most of the tech jobs today. Including minorities in the hiring process is important to building a diverse tech workforce

Coding FTW is showing the developer community what we can do with our skills. When we aren’t competing in hackathons, we are working on our own skill by intensively training, and volunteering to teach inner city kids how to code. We are the mentorship leaders, role models, and big sisters to the youth learning to code today. Through weekly volunteer commitments in our cities, we are showing teens girls a new possibility, experiences, and a way of thinking that they may have never considered before. All it takes is one mentor to inspire the training of the new workforce of the USA.

AT&T Hackathon in Las Vegas before CES

Hey hackers, are you coming to compete at the AT&T Hackathon at the Rain Nightclub in the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas? We are and you should too. Participants will have two days to build and code their mobile app solution with help from a roster of top sponsors and access to top notch technical experts while they compete for their share of over $100K available in cash and prizes. The top three teams will win the chance to live pitch during the AT&T Developer Summit Conference Keynote on the 4th and 6th of January for their chance to win our grand prize of $50,000. Here’s our Coding FTW team competing at the AT&T hackathon in Las Vegas January 3rd and 4th: (wish us luck)!

Elen is a back end developer who was born in Eritrea. Her experience in North East Africa gives her a unique perspective on what it means to work with the underprivileged. She is passionate about technologies that advance human rights, and bridge the education gap in places where technology is not common place.

Sarah may not have the story of overcoming poverty or moving internationally, but Sarah has worked hard to be one of the winningest hackers in the Bay Area. She was SAP’s Hacker of the year in 2013. She appeared on Bravo’s Startups: Silicon Valley reality series. Sarah has been a key player in raising millions of dollars of funding for multiple startups and charities.

Caitlin is an ambitious twenty-“nothing” who doesn’t eat her vegetables. She’s a casual hackathon hacker. New York City bound by way of Michigan. Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2006.

Peera is a designer who is passionate about supporting girls in tech. She is empowering women in tech by putting her design skills to work at hackathons to raise money for charity. Previously at Apple, she now designs for when she’s not on her mission for inclusion in tech.

We are building a WeMo hack on the Belkin WeMo to automate classrooms for kids with Sensory Sensitivity. Stay tuned.

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