Girls in Tech: how Katie fell in love with coding

Katie is a creator of I’m Okay, which she designed with her team during the Apps for Good course at Stratford Girls’ Grammar School in the West Midlands. After winning the 2014 Apps for Good Awards, I’m Okay won the Tech for Good Awards and were finalists for the BBC Radio 1 Teen Hero Awards. Below, Katie shares how she’s become inspired by a future in computing.

Falling in love with coding

My ‘ah ha’ moment was in year 9 when it was part of the school curriculum to do Apps for Good. This was my first experience with coding. Before that, I just had a perception that it was ‘nerdy’ or ‘for boys’. During Apps for Good we learned how to build prototypes of our ideas. I found it so fun and loved how it combined problem-solving and logic with creativity. After that, I would go home and create apps in my own time. I loved that I could create something really easily and could someday use it on my phone.

My teacher was the most significant part in inspiring me to take computing. He introduced me to the subject and encouraged me to start taking it. Along the way, he always gave me extra resources and helped me find additional things to learn. Without his encouragement, I wouldn’t have known about computing, and I’d be doing something completely different today.

Deciding to take it further

This year I’m taking computing A-levels, and since my previous school didn’t offer it as an area of study I’m now at an all boys school. When I was making the decision to attend an all boys school, the most important factor was my passion for computing. I just felt that the fact that I’m the only girl shouldn’t stop me from doing something I really enjoy.

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Katie (second from left) and her teammates at the 2014 Apps for Good App Launch.

I was lucky that I started at an all girls school. When I was taking GCSEs there were a lot of other girls taking it at the same time, so we had a community who shared the same enthusiasm. This made me feel less alone, and more confident about my passion for computing.

I never considered a career in tech

I plan to take computing further into my future. Most likely, computer science at university or an apprenticeship. I’d like a job in the tech industry – like a software engineer. I’d love to solve problems as my job. I’d never really considered a career in tech before Year 9 and doing Apps for Good. I didn’t know about computing, coding, or problem-solving. I didn’t know how fun it was, and I definitely didn’t know that it was something you could do as a job.

Confidence through industry support and encouragement

During Apps for Good, Bob Schukai from Thomson Reuters came to our school. He was encouraging our ideas, and he helped us believe in what we could achieve. He encouraged me to take computing seriously because at that time it was still just an idea. He told me I was going to be a tech superstar, and at 14 it was so amazing to think about that future.

Sharing my love of computing

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Katie presenting at the 2016 Apps for Good Awards ceremony.

I really enjoy sharing my love of computing, and showing others how much fun it is. I like encouraging other girls to give it a try. I try to make sure it’s not just seen as this nerdy thing, but it’s seen as something fun and creative. I hope that when I go through my journey, I will become a role model for other girls in the future.

It’s really important for girls to be actively encouraged, and shown that computing is something that is ‘for’ them. You know, there’s nothing there to actually stop girls from taking computing. It’s all about us knowing about the opportunity and feeling confident to take it. It’s important to know that it has been done, and it can be done.

All young people need to be exposed to the idea early that anyone can do tech. This has to become a thing that everybody sees and everybody knows, not just a single thing tucked away in one school.

The future depends on technology, and on people with different points of view who aren’t afraid to try new things. – Katie, 16, Apps for Good Fellow

Tech influences absolutely everything, and it is the future of every single industry. I think that by having more young people empowered to do something creative, even more people will be able to make a difference. The future depends on technology, and on people with different points of view who aren’t afraid to try new things.

This case study is part of our Girls in Tech series powered by Comic Relief, where we’re challenging some perceptions about women in the digital sector.