Coding with My Girls forges new connections

Vanessa Palma, Savannah Krey and Adrianna Ruby (from left) work on a project on Saturday at Coding with My Girls.

Embrace your inner nerd.

Befriend the uncomfortable.

That was just some of the advice a panel of speakers gave to a roomful of Grand Canyon University students on Saturday for the academic year's first Coding with My Girls, presented by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Technology Club and Women in Cybersecurity (WiCys).

Niya Patterson, Women in Tech Committee Lead for the Technology Club, and Adrianna Ruby, Project Engineer for the Society of Women Engineers, with help from K-12 STEM Outreach, hosted panelists from a variety of technology companies that sponsored the event.

Coding with My Girls also included a coding session using Arduino controllers to make light-show lanterns.

Technology Associate Dean Dr. Pam Rowland welcomed GCU students, and Megan Fitzgerald, Public Safety/Cybersecurity/Military Advisor to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, introduced the panelists — all female leaders in the cybersecurity and technology industries.

The panelists spoke about the importance of mentorship, maintaining confidence and more. They included Stacy Wallace, Chief Information Security Officer of the Arizona Department of Revenue; Marnie Wilking, Global Head of Security & IT Risk Management, Wayfair; Seema Seewell, Maricopa County Deputy CISO; Tina Shakour, AWS Security Success Manager and the U.S. Department of State’s Techwomen Program delegate; and Ngan Pham, Arizona Department of Homeland Security Enterprise Security Advisory Council Program Manager.

Seewell told students to “embrace the uncomfortable because the industry is constantly changing,” while Pham advised to “find your sisterhood, because this network will help drive your path.”

"Imposter syndrome is a feeling, but we don't have to let it stop us from problem-solving."

Marnie Wilking, Global Head of Security & IT Risk Management, Wayfair

The message was clear: “You will experience inequality,” said Wilking, who added, “Imposter syndrome is a feeling, but we don’t have to let it stop us from problem-solving.”

They congratulated GCU students on their decisions to take part in experiences such as WiCys and events such as Coding with My Girls. They also praised student Kimberly Meza for asking if they were hiring during the Q&A session. Shakour followed with, “AWS is always hiring."

Not only did the panelists donate their time, but their companies also donated capital to the event to purchase Arduino IDE controllers, LED light strips and paper lanterns for students to use while coding light shows after the panel session.  

Sponsors were WiCys Phoenix, Presidio, SentinelOne, Tanium, LogRhythm, AWS, World Wide Technology and Avertium.

After the panel discussion, students began the coding part of the afternoon. They received mentorship from GCU STEM clubs SWE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and Robotics. Each provided a coding mentor.

Students made light-show lanterns.

One of the groups was made up of two middle school teachers, Charissa Watkins and Delia Rodriquez, who came to learn how to code and bring this activity back to their students.

The coders presented their projects and kept their light-show lanterns as a prize.

Hannah McMillan, SWE president, said, “We put on this event to show female college students that no matter what stage you are at, you can learn, and if you have an interest in coding, this is what your future could look like.”

Patterson got a little emotional toward the end of the event, stating, “This was just a couple of us girls who had an idea, and now look how big it turned out!”

Thirty students showed up to participate in the event, and the two clubs hope even more will attend in the spring.

GCU SWE, the Technology Club and K12 STEM Outreach will host a spring version of this event for middle and high school girls so they can continue to pay it forward and help build the STEM pipeline with gender equality.

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

David said to Michal, "It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when He appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel — I will celebrate before the Lord. (2 Samuel 6:21)

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