Valuing Diversity in The World of Tech

Guest Post By: Teresa Fan, Software Engineer, Google and Coding Academy Coach

These opinions are my own and not meant to officially represent Google.

This past year, I had the opportunity to serve as a coach for the first Citizen Schools Coding Academy program, and I had the very special experience of working with one particular student that made a lasting impression on me.

This student is really no different from any other student--when he’s motivated, he tries his best and does really well. The challenge was just figuring out how to motivate him, and to keep his attention. Sometimes, he would demonstrate a great grasp of the material or even better, he would be excited to figure things out, even not wanting to leave until he got something working! Other days, it seemed like our progress was negative and I had to patiently review material that I thought he had seemed to understand just the session before.

On those days, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t doing this for my own gratification. I didn’t sign up to be a coach in pursuit of that sense of accomplishment; when a student makes a breakthrough. I was doing this because I believe that every child is entitled to the same educational opportunities as the next.

In my ideal world, everyone would have access to the same level of resources that I had growing up. But in reality, not everyone can afford to live in the best school districts, not all schools can afford to offer advanced level classes, and not all students get the support that they need to succeed. And if entire populations aren’t well represented in careers like software engineering, then the whole world suffers, because the people shaping the future may not be designing it with the entire world in mind. Google values diversity in its employees because of the different backgrounds and experiences they bring to the table. When you’re developing software that will be used by millions, you need to consider its usability for people of every possible background. Worldviews like those of the student I had the opportunity to coach, and those of his classmates, are valuable to the world of tech.

I’m so grateful for the work that Citizen Schools is doing to close the opportunity gap, and the very small part I got to play in it.

About Coding Academy:

This school year, Citizen Schools launched a Coding Academy pilot at Isaac Newton Middle School. This year-long apprenticeship paired students one on one with volunteers from Google to learn the basics of coding. In collaboration with ScriptEd, we adapted a high school coding curriculum and tailored it for middle school students. Through this unique one-on-one experience, coaches were able to work with students with varying levels of coding experience - and meet them at their level.

This coming fall, we are expanding Coding Academy to a total of 3 campuses in NYC. Students will travel off-campus to Google, Amazon and Capital one to work side-by-side with experts from these amazing partners.