I was lucky to grow up with a support system of teachers and family who encouraged me to pursue a career in STEM. My father was an engineer and as a little girl, I wanted to be just like him. So when it came time to decide what my major in undergrad would be, I had no doubt about choosing computer engineering. When I moved to Seattle, I met many girls who did not share the same experiences as me. One told me her family just didn’t believe girls could do math, while another told me teachers were never supportive and told her that girls didn’t do well in math and science. This was just unacceptable to me. I believe that all children, regardless of their gender, race, and background should be encouraged to pursue any field they want.

Girls Who Code is a non-profit organization with a mission to create programs that will inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities. Girls Who Code found that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in tech fields and US graduates are on track to fill 29% of those jobs – but only 3% of these will be women. In the 1980s, 37% of computer science graduates were women, but today it’s only around 18%. I work in cybersecurity where the percentage of women in the field is around 11%. These are very disappointing statistics, and I wanted to help change the situation. So when my manager approached me to help teach the Girls Who Code class for Adobe in Seattle, I jumped at the opportunity.

Adobe has partnered with Girls Who Code for three years to host summer immersion programs. Apart from providing classroom space, program managers and mentors, this summer, Adobe was the only Girls Who Code partner company that provided its own instructors, with four full-time, female employees teaching the coding classes.

During the months of July and August, I taught 20 high school girls, ages 15-18, the basics of computer science skills including Scratch, Python, Arduino programming, and web development. The program also taught leadership skills like self-confidence, self-advocacy and public speaking. Other Adobe employees organized field trips, speakers, and workshops and helped the girls with projects. Several Adobe women volunteered one hour per week to provide career mentorship and conduct technical interview workshops for the girls.

The last two weeks of the program, the girls picked an idea for a final project and took it from inception to launch. They came up with BIG ideas they felt passionate about from developing a safe places app, to teaching children arts and music, to helping students be more productive. They used technologies they had never used before including Jquery, integrating the Google and Facebook API, and using Mongo db to host everything on AWS. On graduation day, the girls presented their projects to their family, mentors and various Adobe employees.

I’m proud to work at Adobe, a company that follows through on its values. In addition to all the time and resources, the Adobe Foundation gave each of the girls a laptop and a one-year Creative Cloud subscription to continue their tech journey. I am thankful to my team,  who supported me in this effort and picked up the slack while I was teaching. In my own little way, I hope I have encouraged more young women to pursue STEM fields, including careers at Adobe and our peers in the tech industry.

Aparna Rangarajan
Sr. Technical Program Manager – Security


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Posted on 09-22-2016