What is your name, age, location?
Rebecca Garcia, 23, New York City
What's your background?
I'm a self-taught web developer, and former CTO of Greatist; a health fitness and wellness media startup. I dove into web development and social good as a developer at Do Something working on cause campaigns ranging from arts education to homelessness and beyond. Currently I'm a Developer Evangelist at Squarespace and co-founded CoderDojo NYC, a non-profit where we mentor youth; teaching web, game and app development.
In 2013 I was awarded as a U.S. White House Champion of Change for 'Tech Inclusion' for my non-profit work to bring STEM education to underrepresented communities, especially youth and minorities and published 'The Next Generation of Creators in Tech'.
I began my journey into technology through front-end web development, tinkering with HTML & CSS and my interest in strategy video games. My sister noticed I was interested in computers in middle school. In exchange for babysitting she sponsored me to attend a summer program at MIT where I learned that I didn't want to make video games, but I enjoyed my side passion–making websites. I later went on to teach at that same summer program at MIT, where I was inspired to start CoderDojo NYC.
Our mission at CoderDojo NYC is to make technology education free and open to youth, as part of the larger CoderDojo movement that began in Ireland. Currently there are over 300 chapters in 30 countries around the globe. This lead me to consulting remotely for the Hello World Foundation in Ireland to help provide resources to empower youth to become creators not consumers through tech.
I've been fortunate to have a taste of one of my childhood dreams of being involved with the U.N. I never thought I'd be able to combine social good and technology! Last year I was invited to attend the global U.N. BYND (Beyond 2015) conference to discuss human rights, technology and the role of youth as a driving force for change.
What inspired you to become a Developer Evangelist at Squarespace and Cofound CoderDojo NYC?
I'm passionate about empowering other people to see technology as a creative tool to build their dreams. I was inspired by seeing just what people (both young and old) can do with a nudge in the right direction. I don't believe that everyone needs to become a programmer or engineer, but rather that technology is a great skill to have.
Attending that summer program when I was younger made me realize how you can combine technology and creativity to build amazing things. I wanted to share that experience with others, and have taken that to heart at Squarespace as well.
Please walk me through your day, what do you do at your company?
At CoderDojo NYC we are a volunteer team that runs monthly workshops teaching web, game and app development to youth ages 7-17. We bring in diverse mentors who are professionals in the tech industry; developers, engineers, designers and teachers to share their experiences to help inspire youth. The work I've done is a lot of behind-the-scenes, organizing events, gathering mentors, guestspeakers, newsletters it's been on the go learning whether it's been PR/marketing, fundraising and curriculum development!
At Squarespace my day to day is 50% coding / 50% education. It's a fun mix where I get to code and also have the ability to help define how we are teaching people to become developers or better developers on our platform. I'm very lucky to be traveling and spending about a week out of the month at conferences and/or running workshops.
Can you see yourself in ten years doing the same thing you do now?
I can definitely see myself doing something similar, empowering people both technical and non-technical to create things. I realized that I didn't just enjoy coding but I enjoyed the aspect of connecting with people which led me to become a Developer Evangelist. In 10 years I hope to have really left an impact to continue the culture of open source education.
What is the best advice you ever received?
My new favorite quote is “The best way to complain is to make things.” - James Murphy
It's so easy for us to get caught up in negative patterns, versus seeing what positive change you can make. Especially for women and minorities, we need to learn to see challenges as stepping stones instead of hurdles. They really can bring you experience and closer to your goals.
What is the most important thing you've learned in the last year?
Learn to say 'no' and set boundaries. Often we get caught up in feeling like we might disappoint people if we don't say yes to everything, what's one coffee? It starts to add up! Find what's essential to you, and stick to a few main objectives. If the answer isn't an immediate yes, make time for it later, instead of shoving it into your calendar!
And what are your plans for the future?
I hope to continue to educate, mentor and inspire people to see technology as a skill regardless of their background. I really love my work at Squarespace, helping people to bring their ideas to life. CoderDojo NYC will always be my side passion where we connect youth to opportunities, and create a fun, collaborative environment where youth can learn technology through play.
If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?
I would seek out more mentors and make diverse connections earlier! It took me a while to see networking not as sales or job connections but as opportunities to help other people and in turn be helped.
Any advice for your local/global Geekettes?
Don't be afraid to put your ideas and projects out there! There are a lot of great places now like Geekettes to meet people to help you on your journey. Whether it's through conferences, meetups or hacker/code groups! CoderDojo NYC was started from a single tweet asking asking there was a way to help out, it's now grown to mentor over 100 youth per month. I couldn't have done it alone!