First Code’s Michelle Solar Is Instructing Youngsters To Code In Hong Kong

Because the #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag continues to achieve traction, you’ll be listening to extra about geeks who break the stereotypes of what programmers ought to be like. One such instance is Michelle Solar, the founding father of First CodeAcademy, an organization that teaches schoolchildren as younger as years outdated the right way to code.

Like Isis Wenger, who reluctantly began the ILookLikeAnEngineer marketing campaign after billboards along with her on it attracted sexist responses, Solaris younger, feminine, enticing and a coder. Within the minds of many, a type of 4 issues doesn’t match with the others. Solar is doing her half to destroy that stereotype, and she or he’s taking it a couple of steps additional.

Solar is a local of Hong Kong, the place kids are interviewed earlier than they’re three years outdated for entrance into essentially the most “prestigious” pre-schools, and college students work laborious to achieve good grades at each degree of the schooling system.

Lecturers trump all different pursuits. Rote memorization reigns supreme. Metro stops in Hong Kong are stuffed with posters promoting educational tutors as if they had been pop stars.

The objective for Hong Kongers? To get a steady job working in finance or banking, and work their means up the company ladder. However Solar doesn’t imagine that is the perfect profession path of the long run. “We don’t need perfect students anymore,” she says. “We don’t need people who can regurgitate any bit of information from memory — Google can do that for us. What we need are people who are creating things to make the world a better place, and programming puts kids on this path.”

Solar began First Code Academy after stints with varied startups, together with Bump, which allowed customers to share data by bumping their telephones collectively (Google acquired Bump in 2013), and Buffer, a social media sharing and scheduling app. After Buffer, as an alternative of engaged on “the next hot app,” Solar needed to go in a special route.

“I was inspired by the impact technology products can make in a wide audience,” Solar says. “I began coding when doing my first startup. I used to be working with a crew of builders, and have become interested by what goes on behind the scenes. I needed to speak higher with engineers, so I began studying a bunch of books on coding.” Solar then attended Hackbright Academy, “the leading software engineering school for women,” to additional her coding abilities in a full time, intensive setting.


“At Hackbright I took part in hackathons hosted by large tech companies like LinkedIn and Dropbox,” Solar recounts, “and it satisfied me of the limitless prospects figuring out the right way tocode can result in.”

Whereas working within the Bay Space, Solar stumbled onto the chance to show center college ladies the right way to code, and the expertise led her to mirror on her schooling in Asia. When she returned to Hong Kong she determined to convey such a schooling to children in Asia. First CodeAcademy began as a one-day, girls-only coding workshop, however over the previous two years it has grown to supply a variety of programs to kids (ladies and boys) from 6 to 18.

“Our mission is to empower the next generation to become creators with technology,” Solar says. “The leaders of this generation will require a solid grasp of technology regardless of the field they work in, be it tech, medicine, law, or finance.”

 That’s a sentiment echoed by Heather Zynczak, Chief Advertising and marketing Officer at Domo, which supplies cloud-based enterprise intelligence software program. Like Solar, Zynczak additionally has a background as a coder, which she counts as being elementary to her success within the prime advertising and marketing position at Domo.

“When I started at Andersen Consulting, which is now Accenture, I coded,” she says. “I spent 80 hours a week writing computer programs and that experience has very much helped me, because I can talk to the CTO, I can choose software systems, and when someone brings up ‘multi-tenancy systems’ I know what they’re talking about.”

What we’d like are people who find themselves creating issues to make the world a greater place, and programming places children on this path.

— Michelle Solar

She continues, “My tech background has helped me because marketing has become such a tech-heavy experience with analytics, systems, and everything digital.” Solar places it this manner: ”Coding is the subsequent type of literacy. It’s the subsequent language everybody must discover ways to communicate. The identical means lots of people are studying Mandarin to do enterprise in and with China, coding is the brand new language not simply of enterprise, however for all times in our society.”

First Code teaches courses in Hong Kong faculties, in addition to of their workplace. The corporate has a 5-12 months curriculum, which might begin with college students as younger as six years outdated. Programs vary from programming fundamentals to extra intensive courses that educate college students the right way to construct an entire app.

Mother or father-child workshops are additionally supplied by the corporate in response to elevated curiosity from dad and mom who wish to be straight concerned in serving to their kids develop technical abilities. It’s working. Three of First Code’s college students traveled to Boston this final summer time, on the invitation of MIT, to point out off their apps. The corporate additionally has not too long ago expanded its hands-on providers to Singapore.


Solar says Asia is, in some methods, a perfect setting for coders. “Asia ranks high for math, science, and other disciplines that fit well with programming,” she says, “but the people graduating today weren’t exposed to it soon enough. We need to start much earlier than the university level. Just as kids tend to learn new languages better than adults, they can learn programming as just another hobby.”

Programming can also be serving to members of First Code’s applications to develop different essential life abilities, a few of which go in opposition to Asian cultural norms that frown on any form of failure. Solartells a narrative of a scholar who confirmed up barely in a position to communicate in entrance of others as a result of he was so nervous about making a mistake or saying the unsuitable factor.

“After two courses he’s now so confident he’s shouting out answers to questions,” she says. “He’s learned that it’s ok to make mistakes. When your app crashes, you find the problem, fix it, and try again until it works. Life operates the same way.”

Aline Niyonkuru


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