Q and A with Girls Who Code student, Mannat Kaur: “It helped me recognize the type of engineer I wanted to be–not just successful, but also one who is responsible and conscious of my privilege.”

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Mannat Kaur presenting her app, Vacay, she created at Girls Who Code

Mannat Kaur is currently a senior at American High School. Over the summer, she was a student at Girls Who Code, an intensive computer science program where she developed her programming skills, gained exposure to the tech industry, and received valuable mentorship for women in the field. Some of her interests include photography/filming, Egyptian War, and of course, coding.

Why did you join Girls Who Code?

I had taken a computer science class in high school and really enjoyed it. My older sister, a software engineer herself, pushed me to apply to this program. After looking into it, I realized that this was a great opportunity to learn many different languages such as Python, JavaScript, jQuery, and HTML/CSS. But mainly, I was attracted to the issue this non-profit organization is trying to tackle: the lack of representation of women in the tech industry by motivating more young girls to  computer programming in a safe and collaborative environment.

Girls-Who-Code-logoWhy do you think Girls Who Code is important?

With the issue at hand, Girls Who Code really encouraged young women to pursue computer science. It is re-imaging the preconceived notion that a programmer looks like a man in a hoodie typing away. In most tech companies, the ratio of women to men is terribly skewed. Girls Who Code really showed that girls could pursue computer science and bridge that gender gap.

What is the most important thing that you have learned from this program?

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Girls Who Code group at Pixar

I learned a lot about coding and working with others, and really got a chance to explore the varied roles of developers and engineers. It was also great to talk with someone of the leading entrepreneurs and CEOs about their work and outlook on the lack of women in the field. For one field trip, my group took a visit to Uber Headquarters and got to converse with Travis Kalanick, who despite being the CEO, had a hard time answering questions regarding the number of women that worked for the company. This was surprising and started many conversations regarding what it takes to be a successful and cognizant entrepreneur, and it helped me recognize the type of engineer I wanted to be–not just successful, but also one who is responsible and conscious of my privilege.

What is one common misconception about engineers?

It is not just about sitting on your desk writing code, but it requires a lot of creativity, collaboration, and perseverance (debugging takes a lot of patience!). As a group field trip to Pixar, I met a programmer in the special effects department who would go out to the swimming pool once a week trying to understand how he could create the same effect of the water in Pixar movies. It was fascinating the number of different fields, i.e. art, physics, engineering, programming, that came into practice for his role. It really broadened my understanding and mental image of what an engineer looked like and did.

But one thing I have come to realize is that working in the tech industry does come with its privileges, whether it be in the form of free food, perks, or amenities. I was fortunate to be amongst a group of girls who recognized this privilege and constantly spoke of innovations that could help those less fortunate (one final project was a system to help link food venues leftover food with those in need of food).

I’m glad that programs like Girls Who Code are not only tackling the gender gap in tech, but also bridging socioeconomic gaps. Girls Who Code is a completely free program, which ensured that all women would have an equal chance of learning how to code and succeeding in the industry.

Do you plan on pursuing computer science?

Yes, visiting different tech companies has made me realize that being a programmer would be something I would really enjoy. I am continuing to take Computer Science classes through my senior year, with the hopes of one day working for some place like Pixar!

If you have any questions about the program or her experience, feel free to contact Mannat Kaur at mannatk@gmail.com or just leave a comment below!

For more information about Girls Who Code, visit here.

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