Author: Kristina Saha
Teach one girl how to code, she'll teach four. The replication effect is so powerful.- Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code.
I remember being hesitant about applying to Girls Who Code last summer. It wasn't because I was afraid I wouldn't get in (although that did run through my mind a few times!) but because I wasn't ready to spend my summer among 20 other girls in one room for seven weeks. I recall thinking to myself, I am not about to make my summer another version of school. Better enough, I said to myself, Isn't computer science (CS) a job for those lanky, boring looking men? But when those seven beautiful weeks ended, I recall telling myself, Boy was I wrong!
On the first day of the program, I walked into the overwhelmingly spacious ground floor of the IAC Building and couldn't help but feel like the tiniest individual in the room. Granted, a high ceiling is a bit too much for a girl who stands 5-foot-2-inches. However, once I received all the material I would need for the rest of the summer and had a chance to talk to all of the intelligent girls who I am now proud to call my GWC sisters, I knew I had made the right choice to take on such an amazing opportunity.
Summer 2015 consisted of opportunities I never thought I would land upon. I learned the significance of code and the way it can basically change the world! Who knew that letters, indentations and punctuation marks could be the basis of some of the world's greatest creations?! Apart from learning to code, I was able to meet and network with women in the computer science field who are now my biggest role models. The success stories of women who started out with a blank slate and drew their own story of their CS journey, made me realize that women are capable of doing everything. Who says that computer science is male dominated when some of the best individuals in the field are women? One woman can outperform an entire room of men if she wants to, and trust me, she will.
Then the time came for final projects, and I couldn't help but be excited about the fact that I was finally going to create something from scratch! The four members of my group, myself included, were able to brainstorm a project that led us to heights we never expected. "Terra" was the name of the project, and "Terra" shall be our group name forever. Our program that mixed social media and current events with the aesthetics that engaged every user and was possibly the best thing that ever happened.
We were one of five groups selected out of around 200 project submissions to attend the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon at San Francisco. We had officially become a part of the #BUILTBYGIRLS family, another addition of intelligent women to my life. #BUILTBYGIRLS gave me an experience of a lifetime. For a girl who had never traveled to the West Coast before, I expected myself to get lost amidst the crowd and never return to New York City (yes, I was terribly worried about my direction skills).
However, San Francisco was just amazing. From the view from the plane to the places we all visited, I felt like I was in a whole new world for four days. Pitching in front of several successful people in computer science while standing in the Twitter headquarters, it was almost like a dream come true for me. I was living in a moment in my life that seemed almost impossible, but yet so very real. Although Terra wasn't destined to win first place at the pitch, I think we can all agree that this entire experience wasn't about winning, but rather expanding upon our own stories in computer science.
San Francisco is also the home of my very first hackathon. You'd expect a person's first hackathon to be a small one in a gymnasium. But no, #BUILTBYGIRLS was all about going big. TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon was where it was at. Thirty-six hours of planning and creating and stressing and reassuring came to an end quicker than we wanted it to. Soon enough, we were on that stage presenting our brand new web app, "DocTalk" - connecting doctors everywhere and anywhere. And before we knew it, we were all on a plane heading back home and reminiscing on the amazing experience we all just lived through. We were all winners that day.
When I look at the first paragraph of this entry, I think about how oblivious I was to a field that opened so many doors for me. A girl like myself who was once afraid of what the world had in store for the future, is now confident enough to tackle any problem that may come. It really makes me realize that computer science isn't just about being the next big entrepreneur. It's also about finding a new tech family that will accept you for your knowledge and creativity. It's about new opportunities. Most importantly, it's about knowing that you are your own leader. Make your own dreams come true girl. There's absolutely nothing to be afraid about!