(Old) Girls Who Code – And Why You Should, Too


I loved hearing the stories this past December coming from organizations like www.code.org and www.GirlsWhoCode.com, who are working to inspire people to learn to write computer code.   To show just how important Silicon Valley thinks this is, over $75 million was raised by Code.org to fund their “Hour of Code” push this past December. That program encouraged students all over the world to learn code in just an hour, by developing a game using a one-hour tutorial. According to Code.org, more than 100 million people have used these tutorials since December 2013.

While no one’s going to expect me to write a computer program for my city anytime soon, I’ve been challenged by these stories to dive into the world of code. So I started my own, private, and totally unofficial chapter of what I’ve very accurately and affectionately named Old Girls Who Code. With the encouragement of one of the employees on my team who has actual, real coding skills, I dove into www.scratch.mit.edu to give it a try.

Scratch is a programming language that was developed by MIT and is a simplified, graphic way to learn the basic concepts of computer code. I’m sad to admit it’s really geared toward the age 8-16 set; but for me, it’s been a fun way to learn some basics, like how to program my own animated holiday greeting card.

Why learn code when I’m not a technology professional? Here’s why I think those in government leadership should give it a try, too, even if you’re an old girl like me:

  • It keeps us relevant – Remember those colleagues in the 1990’s who didn’t want to learn how to use email? Me neither, because they don’t work here anymore. At every career stage, we have to push ourselves to keep up with how technology and our work environments are changing. Whether or not we have to code, we should at least understand the building blocks of how it works.
  • It fuels the fire – Getting a new skill brings new perspectives into all aspects of our jobs, and helps us really enjoy our work. While in my position, coding is unlikely to ever be in my job description, it’s really interesting and invigorating to do something that’s challenging and different.  That’s one of the things I love about working in government; there’s always something new to understand and learn.
  • It helps us relate – A number of employees on our technology team here in Rancho Cucamonga are writing code, whether they are developing web and mobile applications, or doing other work with our enterprise systems. They are incredible professionals with a depth and breadth of technical skill that I admire greatly, but understand really only by enjoying the benefits of their work when it’s finished. Learning a bit of their language helps my appreciation for their skills deepen, and lets them know I’m interested in their world.
  • It’s cool – Yes it really is. If as the leader of the free world, President Obama can take an hour and learn code alongside an elementary school student, maybe we should, too.

So are you up for the challenge to give coding a try, and join my Old Girls (and maybe Boys) club? Let me know on Twitter at @LoriSassoon.

Lori Sassoon is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Hannah Moss

Lori, this is a great post about something that is so important to the future of gov. I’m working on our upcoming Digital Services guide at GovLoop, and the one thing I keep reading and hearing is that digital isn’t just for IT staff anymore. Thanks for sharing!