This past summer, 20 high school girls immersed themselves in the expansive, limitless world of coding, many of them for the first time, via an intensive program run by Girls Who Code at Viacom’s global headquarters in New York City. The girls learned and honed their coding skills in the classroom, took workshops, attended speaking sessions and took field trips to some of Viacom’s core facilities. Each participant was assigned a mentor, who continued to support the girls’ efforts to break into the male-dominated computer sciences fields even after the program wrapped. We asked Nikita Uppal, a student participant this past summer, to write about this transformational experience. She jotted down some thoughts about the relationship she established with her mentor, Teresa:
Girls Who Code taught us the soft skills of the business world. One way they did that was by introducing us to inspiring female role models by assigning us with individual mentors based on personality. I met my mentor, Teresa Hsu, a technology project and portfolio management leader for Nickelodeon, at a big event introducing all the mentors to their mentees. They had introductions, lunches and activities, including bingo. Each space had a fact, such as “Has been on a TV show.” You would then have to find a mentor or mentee that had accomplished this. This icebreaker revealed a lot of interesting facts about the people around us.
Teresa and I clicked right away. Her advice helped me throughout the program and gave me insight into project management and how to divide our group assignments. When discussing our final project, my team designed a game, and she told me tips on how to improve it and work as a group. She also introduced me to a former game designer who had great ideas. We met for lunch and discussed work and life. She also attended graduation to see my final project and congratulate my team.
Girls Who Code gave me a one-on-one, personal connection with a successful female. It focused not only on business and technical aspects, but also on life. This was very rare opportunity that further opened my horizons and presented many other opportunities and allowed me to meet people I would otherwise not have known.