Alice Steinglass runs the product, engineering and marketing teams at Code.org. Her team partners with education and software companies across the industry to run the Hour of Code, a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in over 180 countries.
Prior to Code.org, Alice managed the PM team for the UX Platform on HoloLens, designed APIs and developer client libraries for Xbox 360, and ran an ecosystem outreach and UX team for Windows. Alice talked to Tech Rocket about Code.org’s impact and the first program she ever built, the “brother-detector.”
When did you first become interested in computer science? How did you explore this interest growing up?
I first became interested in computer science in high school. I loved the idea of not just using software, but being able to create it. And, not every program needs to earth-shattering to be fun. One of my first programs was a “brother-detector.” If my little brother tried to log into our home computer without knowing the password, he was confronted with a very large and threatening error message and the loudest, most annoying beep I could make the computer play. That one didn’t last long.
Why did you decide to join code.org?
I believe every child should have the opportunity to learn computer science in school. And, by expanding opportunity, we can also help fix some of the diversity imbalance we see in the tech industry. I loved the work Code.org was doing in advocacy, teacher professional learning, and curriculum. And, my kids love it too! They played the Hour of Code and the Computer Science Fundamentals curriculum even before I joined. They enthusiastically encouraged me to take the job.
If a student participates in an Hour of Code and discovers an interest in computer science, how can they continue to pursue that interest and learn more?
The best place to get started is at code.org/learn/beyond. We have links to classes, tools and curriculum for every age and interest. And, if your school is not already teaching computer science, encourage them to start. We have information, sample letters and other resources that can help you advocate in your local region at code.org/stats. If you’re over 18, you can also sign the petition to congress asking them to support funding at a national level at change.org/computerscience.
Code.org has made a huge impact in the past few years. What’s next?
We still have a long way to go! At this point, we’ve reached over a hundred thousand teachers, but 75% of schools in the US still do not offer computer science. We’re working hard to help every school offer it.
Computer Science is Changing Everything, from code.org:
How can teachers train and better prepare themselves to teach code and computer science?
We offer free workshops around the country and links to other professional development programs at code.org/teach. If you teach elementary school, you can get started now—our free one day workshops run throughout the year and require no prior experience.
Aside from teaching CS in schools, what can we do to encourage more girls to pursue careers in technology?
Girls love creating apps and building websites for causes they care about. Research suggests that one of the most important things we can do is help dispel myths about what a career in computers looks like. Show them how they can use these skills to build tools and apps with real impact. In addition girls need social encouragement (from peers, teachers and their families). If we empower girls with the skills they need to do computer science and encourage them to go for it, in my experience they excel! They’ll surprise you with what they make.
Any advice for girls who aspire to blaze a path like yours into computer science and the technology industry?
The first step is easy—take a computer science class and give it a try. If you enjoy it, the best way to get started in the industry is with a computer science degree. While you’re doing that, try to get different kinds of jobs or internships to figure out what kind of career path you’re interested in. You can also volunteer with nonprofits, open source projects or work on your own projects to gain experience.
You can use computer science for multiple different fields such as medical research, fun apps/games, shopping/commerce websites or countless others. And, there are many roles within any tech company that will leverage your engineering degree such as interaction design, product management, data analysis, or machine learning. Find a role you’re passionate about and just work hard to make a difference.