Why did I start Code For Kids?
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In this blog post I'd like to tell the story of how code became important in my life and why I believe it is important in yours too.
My first experiences with computers
I was about 6 years old when I received my first computer. I still remember it... an AMD K6 series, equivalent to a Pentium II, a dialup modem, and just enough hard drive space to store some word documents. In other words, just the run of the mill, off the shelf system in the late 90s. As any curious kid would, I immediately tried to figure out how it worked and attempted to take it apart. My parents weren't very impressed and put a lock on the back so I couldn't open it.
That initial passionate interest faded until I turned 11 when I rediscovered the magic of computers from a hardware perspective. I started collecting computer parts en masse. I purchased an old 486 (from the early 90s), and a Pentium I (still early 90s) computer so I could push them to their limits. I even planned on buying a Pentium I laptop so I could play Starcraft on the go. This lasted until I was about to turn 13. My parents helped me buy my first good computer, a Celeron 2.93 GHz, a GB of memory, 160 Gb hard drive, and an LCD monitor (back when they weren't really popular!).
Then something weird happened. I stopped expanding my knowledge of computers. I knew the basics. I knew how to use the computer. But I didn't know how to do anything else. I had no materials, no guidance... there was no one I knew who could program and my school didn't offer any computer science courses.
I wanted to code, I just never had the chance.
My first coding experiences
I started university in fall of 2010. I was adamant that I wanted to study Physics. During that first year I realized pretty quickly that physics was not where I wanted to be. But I loved the computer science courses I was taking so in second year I made the switch. I was behind other students so I had to work hard to catch up.
My first program was a quadratic calculator in Java. It took input from the command line and then provided you with the results. It was terribly coded, but I was proud. Throughout that year, I continued to make basic programs and each time I was just as proud of the humble result because I was able to make something that had a purpose and that is what mattered to me.
My first jobs as a software developer
I eventually had an opportunity through the co-op program to gain work experience as a software developer. My first work term went well, and I learned a lot about software architecture and the development process in general. I was even lucky enough to get the chance to sit in on a few meetings with larger companies. I came on part-time after my term ended but was laid off when the company hit a rough spot about a month and a half later. Luckily, I came across a cool start up called Shopify and was set to start in January 2013 after a few interviews.
The first few months at Shopify were a real eye-opener for me. I felt a little overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm and expertise in which I found myself. I was inspired by my colleagues to keep exploring and experimenting. The drive my mentors exhibited pushed me to succeed beyond my own ambitions.
It was a beautiful sunny day at Shopify in March of 2013. It was a PD day and a colleague had brought his son into the office. No surprise, he was a little unsure of what to do with himself while his dad was working. I suggested that we teach his son a bit of code, maybe some design...? Afterwards, as I walked away, ideas swirled around my head... there's the Raspberry Pi, so affordable... the Scratch program, perfect for kids... the Shopifolk, so awesome and willing... why don't... why don't we teach this to everyone?
I gained support from Shopify and my co-workers, and ordered what I needed to. I asked a friend at Shopify for some help with designing the website and a cool logo, and of course, I would sell through Shopify itself. Code For Kids was born!
To my joy, the first event was a success!
People like to ask me why I started Code For Kids, and why I think it matters. I think programming is an amazing way to express yourself, help others, and feel fulfilled. Everyone who wants to should have the opportunity to learn to code; especially kids. With every passing year technology becomes more vital to our daily lives. Kids need to be given the tools to survive and thrive in this new environment. Why not give them the knowledge that will allow them to help a few people, just themselves, or maybe...millions? The success of our children in this new environment depends on the support our generation can offer in helping to introduce them into the world of programming.
Together we can accomplish so much more.
Thanks for reading,