School of Code is a company on a mission to help more people benefit from technology. It has created an online multiplayer platform that aims to make coding fun, simple and accessible to all. This platform has been used by over 120,000 people since its launch in December 2016, and School of Code recently won the ‘Transforming Lives’ award at the 2017 Education Awards. The company was founded by Chris Meah while he was completing his PhD in Computer Science at the University of Birmingham.
We spoke to Sharon Kaur, who’s been involved with a School of Code bootcamp about her experience and for her perspective on tech in 2018.
Packt: Hi Sharon! Tell us a little about yourself.
Sharon Kaur: My name is Sharon. I am a choreographer and dancer for international music groups. I am also an engineering and technology advocate and STEM Ambassador for the UK and India – my main aim is getting more young girls and ethnic minorities interested in and pursuing a career in science, technology and engineering.
What were you doing before you enrolled for School of Code and what made you want to sign up?
I previously studied my BEng honours and MSc degrees at University of Surrey, in general and medical engineering. I worked in the STEM education industry for a few years and then gained my teaching qualification in secondary school/sixth form Science in Birmingham. I recently started learning more about the technology industry after completing an online distance-learning course in cyber security. I was on Facebook one day in June and I saw an advert for the first ever School of Code Bootcamp, and I just decided to dive in and go for it!
Do you think there is a diversity issue in the tech sector? Has it affected you in any way?
I definitely think there is a major problem in the technology industry, in terms of diversity. There are far too many leadership and management positions taken up by upper/middle class, white men. There needs to be more outreach work done to attract more women and ethnic minority people into this sector, as well as continuing to work with them afterwards, to prevent them from leaving tech in the middle of their careers! This has not affected me in any direct way, but as a female from an engineering background, which is also a very male-dominated sector, I have experienced some gender discrimination and credit for work I produced being given to someone else.
Why do you think making technology accessible to all is important?
Technology opens up so many doors to some really exciting and life-fulfilling work. It really is the future of this planet, and in order to keep improving the progress of the global economy and human society, we need more and more advanced technology and methods, daily. This means that there is a dire need for a large number of highly competent employees working continuously in the tech sector.
What do you think the future looks like for people working in the tech industry? Will larger companies strive to diversify their workforce, and, why should they?
In my opinion, the future looks extremely exciting and progressive! Technology will only become more and more futuristic, and we could be looking at getting more into the sci-fi age, come the next few centuries, give or take. So, the people who will work in the tech sector will be highly sought after – lucky them! I would hope though, that large corporations will change their employee recruitment policies, in terms of a more diverse intake, if they truly want to reach the top of their games, with maximum efficiency and employee wellbeing.
School of Code encourages the honing of soft skills through networking, team work and project management. Do you think these skills are vital for the future of the tech industry and attracting a new generation, shaking off the stereotype that all coders are solitary beings? Why?
Yes, definitely – soft skills are just as important, if not slightly more, than the technical aptitude of an employee in the tech industry! With collaboration and a business acumen, we can bring the world of technology together and use it to make a better life for every human being on this planet. The technology industry needs to show its solidarity, not its divisiveness, in attracting the next generation of young techies, if it wants to maintain its global outreach.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into the tech sector but may be put off by the common preconception that it is made up of male white privilege?
I would say go for it, dive in at the deep end and come out the other side the better person in the room! Have the courage to stand up for your beliefs and dreams, and don’t ever let anyone tell you or make you feel like you don’t deserve to be standing there with everyone else in the room – pick your battles wisely, become more industry – and people-savvy, choose your opportune moment to shine, and you’ll see all the other techies begging you to work with them, not even for them!
Download some of the books the Bootcampers found useful during the course: