Girls in Tech: how Ellora made her idea a reality

Ellora is a creator of Envirocache, which she designed with her team during the Apps for Good course at Wick High School in Scotland. Since the course, Ellora has been working hard to transform her app idea into a reality. Ellora is a finalist for the 2017 FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards. Below, Ellora explains how she gained the confidence to pursue her idea.

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Diversity in tech: breaking down barriers

This year, one of our key goals at Apps for Good is encouraging and championing greater diversity within tech. Working with thought leaders, Fellows and our Expert Community, we’re helping to transform young people’s perceptions of technology as well as highlighting the opportunities and diversity within the tech sector.

As part of this process, we have been identifying the barriers to diversity and looking to address these challenges through a series of initiatives. These include face to face engagement activities such as workshops, focus groups, Expert hangouts and workplace experiences for our students & Fellows. We have also been hearing from women and other minorities within tech and business about their own experiences as well as the growing opportunities for young people within STEM careers.

The importance of role models

Attending events like the WeAreTech:Women Conference and ADA lovelace live, we were able to hear from pioneering female role models within STEM and learnt one of the main ways to address these issues is by increasing the visibility of both senior women and “near mentors” to our students.

“I absolutely believe you can’t be what you can’t see and without role models and visionaries, younger girls don’t know what they can aspire to be.” – Melissa Di Dinato (Area VP of Salesforce, UK)

We’ve been making sure to champion ‘near mentors’ by highlighting the successes of some of our student teams, such as WeKonnekt and I’m Okay, who recently celebrated being nominated for BBC Teen Hero award. 

 

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Near mentors: Successful Apps for Good Fellows like weKonnekt & I’m Okay can help inspire students

 

 

We’re also building more relationships with tech leaders and were able to speak at events organised by CogecoPeer1 and Capgemini. By collaborating with these companies we can help spread the word on diversity issues and work to grow our Expert volunteering community. We have already seen some success with the Expert Community’s female membership grow from 32% in 2015 to 44% in 2016, with the aim of getting to 50% by 2018. This is important as 50% of our students are girls aged between 10-18 and it is vital for these girls (and the boys in their classes) to see examples of women working in the tech sector so that they can understand there is a place for them in the industry.

“It was lovely for the girls in our school to meet a female role model who is working in the industry.” – Rhona Winterburn (teacher), The Abbey School

One of our most engaged female Experts, Sian Davies recently led a workshop at Elstree UTC where she spoke about her own journey into tech and explored tech careers more broadly with both boys and girls.

 

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Sian Davies discusses tech careers with students at Elstree UTC

 

Although increasing visibility is important, we’re also keen for students to have hands-on experience within the world of work.  Fellow Tasneem and a number of other students spent a day at SAP, where they had the opportunity to try real-world tools and look at skills building for the future. In the new year, Spotify will be hosting a female Fellows takeover, where Fellows will get to shadow senior members of the team, network with Spotify employees and gain some insights into the future of digital music.

Wider diversity

As we approach 2017, our aim is to move beyond gender diversity to also focus on inclusion and wider diversity within STEM. We have been hearing from other groups within tech, including Arfah Farooq from Muslamic Makers, on the importance of celebrating wider diversity in tech and want to hear from other communities. We will be running a Diversity panel in February bringing Fellows, Experts and thought leaders together to look at how our course and programme can be more inclusive, and what steps the wider industry needs to take to become more inclusive.

As our campaign continues, we’re looking forward to continuing our work with students, Experts and partners to identify the skills and support young people need to move towards a career in tech and explore how we can be as inclusive as possible. By doing this we hope to inspire and excite both girls and boys about the opportunities available to them in the world of work and beyond.

Improving your Apps for Good journey: introducing our new Student Dashboard

We’re delighted to announce the arrival of our brand new Student Dashboard! What can your students expect as they get started on their adventure?

Apps for Good students in the UK can get ready to…

Compete to have their apps built and launched to market

Students can discover and enter our UK competition, where all finalists get to travel to London and winners have their apps professionally built.

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Explore the course materials and learn at their own pace

Students can explore lessons at their own pace, visiting the dashboard to watch videos, download presentations, and complete extension activities.

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Join The Fellowship

Students can join The Fellowship to access advice from tech professionals, alerts when work experiences become available, and much more.

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How do students sign up?

  • Students will need a code to register. Teachers must create a code, then ask their students to sign up using this form.
  • Former Apps for Good students can become Fellows by signing up for the Dashboard.
  • If you are an Apps for Good partner and you’re interested in a tour of the Student Dashboard, get in touch.

Questions? Email fellows@appsforgood.org

Exploring ideas and tech careers at Elstree UTC

Apps for Good Expert Sian Davies is a Business Analyst in BI and data projects recently led an Idea Generation session at Elstree UTC. Here she tells us all about the session which saw Elstree’s students sharing their creative and innovative solutions. 

I would like to impose a 3-minute rule on all office meetings; if the problem or solution which gave rise to the meeting cannot be expressed adequately within that time, then the meeting should be cancelled immediately. That’s where we started from at UTC Elstree where the team from Apps for Good had invited me to facilitate an Ideas Generation Session and to give a short career talk on my tech industry experience to a group of students. A lot of seasoned professionals freak out when I give them a 3-minute countdown. The assembled brains at Elstree took it in their stride.

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Sian Davies speaking with students from Elstree UTC

Elstree UTC is a technical school focusing on media and the arts. Meeting the students, witnessing their ambition and fire, and touring the school to view their unique facilities were highlights of the visit. Knowing that they were staying late to meet us, we all tried to keep the sessions interactive and fun – but we needn’t have worried – each of the students were engaged and lively, coming up with fresh ideas and communicating them happily to the group.

Talking to them about my experience in the tech industry was trickier to plan; what to tell them, show them, how to get across the breadth of roles and opportunities they will run into when they have completed their education, the sorts of challenges they might encounter; all of this whilst harbouring suspicions that they probably already know more about new and emerging technologies than me!

But I instinctively knew what were the messages I needed to get across because they were the ones I wish I’d had; that evolving your career through your own decisions is ok – and knowing what you want to do in your mid-career when you are 16 is not compulsory. That it’s ok to be wrong – I gave them an example of my incorrectly interpreting a technology trend and publishing it. And that the industry requires lots of different skill sets, which can be learnt on the way.

 

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Students worked together to share their ideas 

 

Finally, by my appearing in front of them as a woman who has made their way in this industry, I feel I am contributing to a wider effort to shift perspectives. I hope to be followed into this school by more women in tech, and especially women of colour so that the female students present will see people who look more like them, presenting their chosen industry.

weKonnekt celebrate Teen Hero nomination at BBC studios

Hasan, Shayaan, Shakil, Itesham and Luay created weKonnekt – an app which helps young carers across the UK.  Since winning the People’s Choice category at the Apps for Good Awards 2015 the team have continued to promote their app and have also taken part in a number of exciting opportunities. Recently they were shortlisted for the Make it Digital Award at the Radio 1 Teen Hero Awards, in this blog they tell us about the experience. 

Several weeks ago, we got some exciting news – out of hundreds of nominations, our team was one of just three that had been shortlisted for this year’s Radio 1 Teen Hero Make It Digital Award. The award celebrates young people who are making a difference to the world through the innovative use of technology. On Tuesday 18th October, we got to spend an incredible day at the BBC, touring both the News and Radio 1 studios and working with a BBC producer and professional camera crew to create a film (check it out below) for Radio 1’s YouTube channel.

In the morning, we met the other inspiring nominees in all the Teen Hero Award categories, including the Apps For Good award-winning girls whose app ‘I’m Okay’ had proved an inspiration in the early days of developing our own app. After getting to know each other, it was time to meet some DJs, including Greg James, Scott and Chris and Nick Grimshaw, who suggested that we should form a boy band!  Continue reading

Taking Apps for Good to the next level (aka Global Domination for Good)

Many of you will have shared in our celebrations last year of 5 years of Apps for Good. When we first launched, we were sometimes asked what our ultimate goal was. Iris would say immediately, “Global domination.” I would laugh nervously and add, “For good, of course.”  Back then, with only 50 students at one London school, it seemed a wildly ambitious dream, but one we both believed in, knowing that the first step was to get things working in the UK.

Now five years later, we are not only established in the UK, but also growing in Portugal, Spain, Poland and most recently, the US.  I’ve been to New York, Minnesota, Maine and Arkansas and we now have 40 schools across the US, reaching around 1000 students this year.

As I bounce back and forth across the Atlantic, and Iris around Europe, we’ve realised we need someone to focus on leading our efforts in the UK, as our ambition remains equally great here. So, we’re recruiting a new UK Managing Director who can build on our strong foundation, leading the UK forward on its next phase of growth and innovating on our successful programme.  The new MD, working with the enthusiastic UK Apps for Good team, will have the chance to help us implement our new Internet of Things course, expand on our Fellowship Programme for former Apps for Good students and reach even more young people across the whole of the UK. They will be supported by Iris and I and our experienced Global Team. I will continue to oversee Apps for Good’s efforts both in the US and UK, while Iris guides our work in Portugal, Spain, Poland and our emerging partnerships around the world.
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#SiliconWick: Growing the next generation of Scottish Entrepreneurs with Digital Xtra

If you’ve known us for a while, you’ll definitely have heard of Wick, a town in the Scottish Highlands where Apps for Good-famous teacher Chris Aitken from Wick High School has had more teams win our UK national awards than any other school or learning centre (you can see some of the students’ apps here and here). We think the future of tech isn’t in London or San Francisco, but in Wick – and places like it all over Scotland.

That’s why we’re delighted to announce that we’ve received a grant from Digital Xtra, funded by the Scottish Government Digital Skills Business Excellence Partnership, to help us grow our after-school activities in Scotland.

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