As citizens of the digital age, our lives are increasingly dependent on technology— we cannot leave the house without our smartphones and if our WiFi connection is not strong enough, chaos ensues. However, the more we rely on our phones and computers, fewer people actually understand the principles that drive technology.
My journey from an oblivious consumer to a producer of software was unexpected and unique. It all started when I signed up for Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Robotics I class. Inspired by the popular TV series Grey’s Anatomy, I was convinced that I would pursue medicine and become the next Dr. Christina Yang. Hoping to further my knowledge of the human anatomy, I signed up for sports medicine for my sophomore year. I needed to pick another semester-long elective to complete my schedule, so I decided on robotics because I had heard there was no homework.
As a teen girl entering the tech world, I can tell you that [choosing a STEM career] is the best decision you will ever make.
Having no experience in technology and being the only sophomore in a class of juniors and seniors made me extremely nervous about this class. To my surprise, I immediately fell in love with robotics— the freedom to control a robot I had built to do whatever I wanted it to was extremely freeing. After only a few weeks of this class, my aspirations for the future had completely changed. No longer do I want to be Meredith Grey— I want to follow in the footsteps of women like Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and Helen Greiner. I want to study computer science and become a social entrepreneur and software engineer, or someone who innovates technology to help others and effect global change.
As women, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field is daunting because it is such a male-dominated industry. According to Girls Who Code, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but hold just 25% of the jobs in technical or computing fields. Nevertheless, as a teen girl entering the tech world, I can tell you that it is the best decision you will ever make.
If you are thinking about pursuing a career in the STEM fields, or even if you have decided that it’s not for you, here is a list of reasons for exploring computer science, more information about the industry, and a few tips and suggestions to help make your journey a little easier:
1. So many career opportunities!
A degree in computer science gives you limitless career opportunities: software development, graphic design, artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, video game design, animation, computational linguistics— the list goes on and on. One stereotype about software developers is that they spend all day in a windowless room, spitting out lines of code or hacking into servers. This could not be further from the truth; computer science is extremely versatile in that you can combine it with any other interest you may have, simply because technology is involved in everything we do today.
2. Yes, you can be creative in STEM fields.
Another misconception about computer science is that it lacks creativity. I struggled with this for a long time, as I also love photography and hope to further this passion in the future. However, now that I’ve shifted my focus away from robotics and more toward software engineering, I can definitely see how I my creativity will be useful in my work. When I’m coding a mobile app or designing new features on a website, creative thought is one of the major keys to a successful product. Robotics, of course, involves creativity in its own way–you just have to find your best fit.
3. Coding is applicable to jobs outside of STEM.
Even if you do not want to pursue computer science as a career, knowing some basic coding skills is extremely helpful in any industry as technology plays an increasingly vital role in almost every profession. Having basic programming knowledge will make your resume stand out to future employers. I highly recommend that you learn basic HTML/CSS, which are two programming languages that will allow you to build your own website. Start with codeacademy.com for a beginner’s tutorial!
4. STEM is a field of innovation.
Because computer science is a relatively “new” field, the capacity for innovation is enormous. Pursuing a career in this field allows you to pioneer new technologies, such as virtual reality therapy for victims of PTSD or a spacecraft that will get people to Mars. Computer science definitely challenges you to think outside of the box in order to innovate solutions to problems faced by humanity.
5. Tech needs more girls.
Currently, there is obviously a significant lack of diversity in Silicon Valley (a metaphor for the tech industry at large), which inhibits innovation. If computer science had more women, they could use their unique life experiences and technology to solve major social justice issues affecting our world today. You should not aspire to study computer science just because there are not enough girls in the field, but it is certainly an added benefit!
Don’t get me wrong; you should definitely pursue what you are most passionate about, regardless of how much it pays. That being said, an average salary of $100,000 for software engineers is an extra incentive for pursuing computer science.
7. Many free and low cost ways to learn coding.
If you want to get serious about pursuing computer science or robotics, there are so many opportunities to learn more about coding! If you are a student at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, sign-up for the Robotics I or Programming for Beginners courses.
Once you […] see that the code you wrote is executing the assigned task, you feel like a superhero— and that’s why coding is, quite literally, magic.
You can also apply for the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion next year, an incredible opportunity that teaches girls how to code, connects them with industry professionals, and gives them the opportunity to develop their own product. There are countless tutorials and courses online for learning how to code; some of my favorites include Codecademy, Udemy, and Hour of Code.
8. There are no rules.
With robotics and all forms of technology, there are no rules— it’s totally up to you to come up with a way to complete a task or solve a problem. Sometimes this utter lack of restriction and guidance makes you feel lost at sea without a compass, trying desperately not to throw your computer at the wall. But once you hit that “run program” button and see the code you wrote is executing the assigned task, you feel like a superhero— and that’s why coding is, quite literally, magic.
Hannah’s Computer Programming Projects
There are so many cool things you can do with computer programming! Here are two projects created by Hannah in FSHA’s computer programming course.
Press and release the mouse for a surprise: Rain Game: