“We’re in the midst of redefining the way we live, and tech is a big driver of that. You need to be a part of that.”
That’s what Terrell Cox, Partner GPM for Intune Device Experiences and General Manager for Microsoft New England Research and Development Center, told 40 bright young girls last week. Together with Twitter Boston, we were honored to celebrate yet another graduating class of Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program. Every year at Microsoft New England, we join tech companies around the world in hosting girls aged 15-17 for two months, sponsored by Microsoft Philanthropies. Over the course of the program, Girls Who Code students learn multiple coding languages, are exposed to professionals in the field, and encouraged to #MakeWhatsNext.
This summer, we were happy to offer our students many field trips, such as days to Museum of Fine Arts #TechStyle Exhibit with Private Presentation by Curator, Museum of Science Exhibits & Planetarium Show, Microsoft Envisioning Center, and a Miss Representation movie screening with Microsoft panel discussion.
Last night was a celebration of what all of these events over the past seven weeks brought to the table. Each guest speaker — including student keynotes Marlika Marceau (Microsoft) and Shreya Chowdhary (Twitter) — explained why the opportunities each girl accessed this summer are steps to changing the world, and showed why programs like Girls Who Code are so important to encourage women in tech.
Microsoft keynote speaker Terrell Cox explained that the most effective solutions come from diverse, equal teams, expressing her hopes that the girls want more than “just a taste” of coding. She left us all with parting advice: “Learn more. Seek out new challenges. Be that engineer. Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
And Twitter Boston’s guest speaker, Rich Paret, Senior Director, Software Engineering, continued Cox’s call to action. After calling for a group retrospective, asking the girls if they had fun, made things, collaborated, solved a problem, and overcame a challenge, he instructed the girls to “Make stuff. Tell people about it. Share your experiences. Repeat forever.”
The students then took the stage themselves, proving exactly why Paret and Cox are so confident that these girls will change the world. Twelve different groups presented their summer projects, which consisted of websites and apps geared toward a variety of social problems, from campus sexual assault to gender stereotypes to water conservation and even preventing “spoilers” in pop culture. It’s clear that these girls know what needs are important, and their drive to solve these problems reminds us why STEM education is a priority.
After their pitches, we celebrated our Girls Who Code with certificates of achievement, wrapping up the night with one last surprise as Microsoft program manager Anissa Battaglino and Twitter program manager Tali Sason announced to all a donation of the Surface devices they have been using these past weeks to each student and each of the three teachers to help to continue their coding work.
A big thank you to all who helped make this Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program possible, including our mentors, guest speakers, and MTC employees. We can’t wait to celebrate again next summer!