Viacom’s Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program Grad Ceremony Inspires Teen Coders, Employees and Company Executives

Each year since 2015, Viacom Headquarters has opened its doors to a group of teenagers, letting them loose on the floors of our tech department and off-site broadcasting control rooms.

Sound hectic? Well, it’s part of Girls Who Code, a nationally-renowned nonprofit initiative which aims to increase the number of women in computer science. It teaches young girls computer programming skills, which they can use towards a future career in tech, or any number of jobs where this knowledge is essential.

Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation ceremony at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters inspired a new generation of teen techies.

Viacom provides expert mentors from various fields in the company to teach the girls what it takes to become a force in any industry they pursue. We host field trips to off-site locations such as The Daily Show production studio, where the teens can see how many ways tech can be applied in the media industry.

And yes, the result is a bustling summer of adventure and learning, with crowded elevators at company headquarters and wide-eyed teens gazing at the walls of our building as if it were a majestic castle. It’s also a valuable learning experience for current employees.

In many ways, our GWC program reminds me of how lucky I am to work at Viacom—a place where we’re encouraged to learn new skills, connect with colleagues in other departments, and walk through hallways covered with exquisite art.

At the end of August, the company held a graduation ceremony for these students at our Times Square Headquarters.

The 2017 graduating class of Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish spoke at the event, telling the audience how Viacom’s involvement with GWC personally resonated.

“Speaking as an engineering grad – but more importantly, as a dad of two teenage girls, it’s especially gratifying that Viacom is part of this incredibly important work to build a strong community of female leaders in computer science,” said Bakish.

“[Viacom] brands create great content that drives culture and conversation in more than 180 countries. Coding enables us to do what we do – from production to distribution, operations to advertising, broadcasting and beyond.

It is the glue that holds our digital infrastructure together…and it’s the foundation for the new and innovative experiences that allow our fans to connect even more closely with their favorite Viacom brands and content.”

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish speaks about the value of diversifying tech at Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation ceremony at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters.

Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami also spoke, telling the audience of graduates, employees and family members how crucial coding is for women. “There are so many places where females are underrepresented and its inspiring to know there are movements like Girls Who Code who are trying to change that,” said Zarghami.

The Nickelodeon executive followed up with an pertinent example of how the network broke gender tropes with an iconic 90s show, Clarissa Explains It All.

“It was an important show because it broke a lot of rules. We were told that boys wouldn’t watch shows about a girl. And that more girls would watch a show about a boy than about a girl,” said Zarghami. However, the show defied stereotypes: “It was a giant hit.”

There is so much more to be done, Zarghami stressed. “There aren’t enough women directors, or screenwriters, or producers. Or female leads in super-hero movies,” said Zarghami.

“But there is a movement now to change all of that, not just in TV and tech, but in every field. And you, and your generation, and organizations like Girls Who Code, are a big part of this change.”

Hear from the grads

“Thank you Viacom for this amazing opportunity and for helping to combat the stigma that girls can’t do math or STEM because WE CAN and WE WILL!” – Group Body Posi+-

“Viacom helped bring a real-life touch to coding.” – Charlotte, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“It was so cool being here at Viacom. We went to see The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. We got to see the whole studio and all the people working to make the production come alive, which was cool especially since I’m interested in entertainment and the more creative aspect of production. It was interesting to hear from the staff the paths they took to get to their career, which weren’t necessarily conventional [production-oriented] paths. I grew up watching Nickelodeon. We got to see where the magic happens and how [shows] are made. It was great to see how we can take what we learned in seven weeks and use that to actually help people and create things on your own in the future.” I’ve never coded before, so I was a little nervous about that. However, the other students in the program were supportive, amazing and just so friendly, and it was amazing being with such a diverse group of girls. Everyone was different, they had different ideas, came from different backgrounds…it was just so cool. I definitely made some great friends here.” – Alaire, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“We really enjoyed our guest speakers. One of the speakers gave us really good insight about being a woman in tech, life in general and how to maintain a balance between work and play.” – Maitri, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“Going on what Maitri said, this speaker told us that you don’t always have to stick to one thing, you can always go around and you find different things and eventually you will find something that you are the perfect fit for.” – Brianna, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

 

Photos by Amy Pinard Photography 

Viacom’s Third Annual Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program Opens Doors and Unlocks Keys to Diversity

Since 2015, Viacom has welcomed 60 high school girls to its Times Square Headquarters as part of the nationally-renowned Girls Who Code summer immersion program. Girls Who Code is a nonprofit organization driven to close the gender gap in tech by giving young girls a foundation in coding.

“Coding is a skill that can open up many doors for someone,” said Viacom Senior Director of Technology, Aurelie Gaudry. “Viacom is the perfect partner for a Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program because it introduces young women to beginner computer science concepts while also allowing them to see many different paths coding can lead you down.”

💙💕💛💕💙 #Viacom #NYC #gwcviacom

A post shared by Girls Who Code NYC (@girlswhocodenyc) on

At Viacom, these paths include careers in TV production, or creating apps for Nickelodeon and BET. It could be a managerial role, directing a team of engineers to develop new online games, or even one in communications, acting as a liaison between coders and brand representatives.

“One of the wonderful benefits of hosting the GWC program is watching our technology team find inspiration from the passion and caliber of the young women involved,” said Viacom Chief Technology Officer Dave Kline.

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These Young Coders Are Going to Change the World—Starting With Viacom

Zahraa Lopez vividly remembers the excitement she felt when, as a child, she’d walk past the TRL stage, gleaming behind the windows of Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters. She’d look up at the majestic silver skyscraper with awe. “I always wanted to see inside,” said Lopez, who grew up in the Bronx. “I wanted to be part of what was going on.”

Lopez got her chance to do more than peek inside the building last summer, when Viacom selected her for its first Girls Who Code (GWC) summer immersion program.

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Viacom Inspires the next Generation of Female Coders, One Sequence at a Time

Let’s do this

In 2011, Viacom Chief Information Officer David Kline attended an event for the National Association of Broadcasters, and noticed something disturbing: the awards were mostly going to men. “There wasn’t a single female in the room,” said Kline, “Unless she was somebody’s daughter or significant other.” It was a pivotal moment for Kline. While other areas of Viacom were already gender-diverse, his technology department was not. He returned from the convention inspired to change this.

Our vice president of product management Kimberly Hicks would soon have an idea that could begin to gradually change this. Hicks attended AT&T’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation in 2014 and was beyond impressed.

“I was blown away,” said Hicks. “Not only by their projects, but with their presence and how empowered they were. I didn’t know any of these girls, but I could tell they were transformed.”

It was no coincidence – Girls Who Code (GWC) is a national nonprofit dedicated to closing the gender gap in tech by teaching young girls how to code, principally through partnerships with large corporations, such as AT&T. At the end of the ceremony, Hicks spoke with GWC founder and CEO, Reshma Saujani. “I told her I would make this happen at Viacom.”

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50 Youths Plus Two Business Apps Equals Moguls in the Making

When you bring middle and high school students together to develop a web app to help teens start a business, anything can happen. For the 50-plus participants in the Mogul in the Making Hackathon – hosted by Get Schooled, Accenture, and Viacom on a recent June weekend – the gathering proved to be an intense competition.

The Shark Tank-style hackathon, held June 4 and 5 at the Viacom headquarters in Times Square, required students to compete in teams to develop their app ideas. Each step was tracked on a leaderboard and the seven teams took turns meeting with the board of advisors to try and move into the top spot. Inspirational coaches Top Chef Kwame Onwuachi and 12-year-old Cory Nieves of Mr. Cory’s Cookies were on hand to offer advice on being a successful entrepreneur.

“When you’re starting a business, make sure you put your heart into what you do,” Nieves, who has become a savvy business owner who has already expanded his cookie operation into a commercial space, told the teens.

On the second day, the teams prepared to pitch their ideas to the judges. They started by making 30-second commercials to practice the art of storytelling and get them thinking about how to position their app in the marketplace. The commercials were posted to Instagram and YouTube and used as part of the final presentation to the judges.

Students, Viacom employees, and Get Schooled and Accenture staff work to create business startup apps at the Mogul in the Making Hackathon at Viacom headquarters in Times Square.

Students, Viacom employees, and Get Schooled and Accenture staff work to create business startup apps at the Mogul in the Making Hackathon at Viacom headquarters in Times Square.

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Encoding a Viacom Mentor into Her Life

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.

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Viacommunity at 20: Changing the World One Girl at a Time

As part of the Viacommunity Impact Week kicking off the yearlong 20th anniversary celebration of Viacommunity, Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, presented “Closing the Gender Gap in Technology,” a talk with Viacom employees at the company’s global headquarters in Times Square. Viacom’s Chief Technology Officer David Kline introduced Saujani for the panel, which highlighted reasons that getting more girls into tech jobs is so important to society.

Girls Who Code, which is focused on inspiring and equipping girls with the computing and tech skills necessary to pursue a career in the 21st century, has conducted some eye-opening research: in 1984, 37 percent of all computer science graduates were women. Today, in a world consumed by technology, one might assume that number would have risen. Instead, the number has plummeted to less than 18 percent.

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Look What These Girls Can Do: A Summer of Coding Wraps at Viacom

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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Did you know that coding can help ease your commute to work?

Or that it can help you set goals? Or figure out whom to vote for?

Or that coding can create a world where a girl can dress up a virtual doll in any skin tone or body type she chooses?

And when you’re fed up with the messy and crowded big city streets, coding can create a video game in which you stomp tourists and sweep up trash in a digital urban landscape.

This summer at Viacom’s New York City headquarters, 20 girls learned that coding can do exactly that, creating these experiences with skills learned through Girls Who Code (GWC), an organization built to inspire, educate and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.

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Ready, Set, Code: Viacom Hosts Girls for a Summer of Learning

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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Twenty-five software engineers walk into a room. How many are women?

This sets up like a joke, but the answer is not funny: three.

Or that is the average, anyway, based upon research from Girls Who Code, an organization determined to equip girls with the computing skills necessary to compete in a 21st century job market.

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