Serendipity is a wonderful thing.
A friend put me in touch with her friend who works at the International School of Amsterdam (ISA). She was organising a ‘Get Inspired by Tech’ event at the school as part of EU Code Week. Before I knew it, I was on the roster as a mentor, someone who would give ‘lightening presentations’ of 10-minutes to 100 sixth graders about careers, opportunities and experiences in technology.
Grabbing the attention of adults is a piece of cake for me. But rotating tables full of sixth graders? I was sweating. Luckily, there was no need to stress. The kids were talkative, inquisitive and knew a surprising amount about technology and entrepreneurship.
I ended up speaking about how my career morphed from online community-building and marketing to business development and now to entrepreneurship as the founder of NewTechKids. I also asked them about their ambitions and their experience with technology. One boy from Russia told us how he taught himself how to code by reading a thick manual and then practicing using Lego Mindstorm robots. Another boy said he was inspired by Elon Musk and his Tesla and Hyperloop projects. A young girls said she was inspired by her own mother who is a technology entrepreneur.
The organisers agreed that I could conduct mini focus groups and ask the students questions about their interests in technology. (Handy for someone who recently launched a technology education academy with after-school programs.) The kids told me that they wanted to learn how to code but also to think about solutions to big problems. They said they were interested in how things worked: how information you type on a keyboard shows up on the display, where data goes once it is saved in the cloud and how hard disks work.
Check out this blog post about the event written by the event’s organiser, Katie Williams, who teaches design technology at ISA and is the founder of Rise of Code, which organises technical workshops for coding and programming.
All in all, a great experience. A big shout out to Erika Harriford and Katie Williams at ISA for the invitation and great experience.