The future of fintech may have its foundation in robots playing hockey.
That's because the moves those robots made were the result of coding done by the students who took part in DTCC's inaugural Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program.
The 7-week program brought 20 11th and 12th grade students from area high schools to DTCC Jersey City, where they learned coding languages like Scratch and Python, practiced charting using Big Data and studied web development.
"We're very proud to be working with Girls Who Code," said Mike Bodson, president and CEO, who met with the group for lunch. "Technology is the fastest growing part of our world and increasing diversity throughout our organization is a priority for DTCC. We know that women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and it's critical that we encourage girls to develop their talents and build careers in technology."
Technology is the fastest growing part of our world and increasing diversity throughout our organization is a priority for DTCC.
— Mike Bodson, DTCC President and CEO
Among the highlights was a two-day workshop with members of DTCC's Application Development team. The girls worked with the DTCC volunteers in teams to learn about coding using small Ozobot robots.
Encouraging Pursuit of STEM
First, they learned the ins and outs of logic, sequence and syntax by drawing simple lines using a visual code editor, helping them understand how color coding can change the robots' movements. Once they had the basics down, they quickly progressed to coding a complete hockey game – an exciting conclusion to their hard work that proved not only that they could learn to code, but that they could have fun doing it.
"This program has changed the way I look at the technology field, because now that I have some insight on what the career has to offer, I'm extremely interested in a technology-related career," one of the girls said. "Before attending the program, I had no background in coding, but now this has encouraged me to strive for better and bigger things."
The students' enthusiasm was infectious.
"Each of our students brought a fresh perspective and energy that made every lesson interesting and working with them has been a joy," said Jessica Spenser, the Girls Who Code lead instructor. "We've been so proud to see them support one another, risk failure, and culminate their seven weeks with us by creating incredibly elaborate and interesting final projects."
"The Summer Immersion Program at DTCC was really great and beneficial to the students because they did not only learn the fundamentals of coding, but they also got to experience what it feels like to be in a corporate environment," said Abigael Ogunnaike, who served as a Teaching Assistant, and will receive her bachelor of science degree from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in May. "Personally, the program provided me exposure to technology terms and ideas that I would not have been exposed to otherwise."
Changing the Coder Stereotype
The program is part of the broader effort to bring Girls Who Code, an organization that aims to "close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does." According GWC, fewer than one in five computer science graduates are women, and the percentage of women in the field has dropped in the past two decades to just 24 percent, from 37 percent in 1995.
Girls Who Code programs have reached 185,000 girls nationwide since its founding in 2012, 30,000 of whom are now college-age. College students who took part in the organization's programs declared majors in computer science or related fields 15 times more often than the national average.
One big issue that the group tries to address is that while young girls tend to be interested in computer science, participation drops by high school. The Summer Immersion Program, which is free for participants, aims to engage high schoolers during those vulnerable years.
DTCC and STEM
DTCC had identified advancing STEM education as the one of the top five challenges facing the industry, and fintech is just one field that depends on a workforce with a STEM background that faces a shortage of qualified applicants. DTCC's Corporate Social Responsibility efforts support several STEM programs to help ensure there are enough computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians to develop and manage future technologies.
Already a partner with NYU Tandon School of Engineering's #STEMnow initiative, DTCC joined forces with Girls Who Code last year when it hosted a field trip for participants. The company became one of about 50 companies nationwide to host the Immersion Program in July.
"I'm so happy we're investing the time and resources into our partnership with Girls Who Code," said Lynn Bishop, chief development officer and managing director at DTCC. "I knew we had to join this effort, because studies show how important it is to provide access to STEM-based areas as young as possible, and the difference that early exposure can make as girls progress through their high school and college years."
"Not only does it reinforce our long-standing commitment to increasing diversity within the organization, but it's giving us a unique opportunity to help expand access to STEM education and training to make a positive difference in the lives of tomorrow's leaders," said Bishop.
Along with programming bots, a big data hackathon and other tech workshops, the girls took field trips to places like CNBC headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan.
During a team lunch, Bodson noted that "programming is the most important part of our business now. Everything is an app. We use them to organize our lives and to entertain us, and we use them in business every day."
The Girls Who Code program and other STEM programs "are developed to help you to know that you can compete at the highest level and achieve your goals. If you are good at it, this is a great future."
Bodson also offered some long-term career advice, encouraging the young women to actively manage their careers from the start. "Don't stagnate, keep busy and take risks," he said. "Don't be afraid of taking a job you may not be totally qualified for. It's the best opportunity to learn. Always ask questions and ask for help. People will help you, and your bosses want you to succeed. They will not put you in jobs where you will fail. You should always continue to push and push and ask for opportunity."
While the field trips and other activities were popular, getting the chance to practice coding was the best part for one of the girls. "I find having more skills under your belt betters your contribution to society and increases much needed knowledge," she said. "I want to say, ‘Thank you' to all who have put a lot into making sure we're happy and cared for."
Preparing for Career
Another important aspect of the program was the college and work preparation, including a speed networking session with DTCC women and a mentoring program for the girls. These aspects of the program can help reinforce the interest in STEM for girls who lack role models who will encourage them to pursue careers in tech and science. "There's been so much enthusiasm across the firm from our technology team to provide career exposure and mentorship for these girls," Bishop said.
Hena Venugopal, DTCC Domain Functional Director, hosted an early career panel, where shared her career highlights with the students in hopes that it would inspire them to continue the journey to learn to code. She also advised the girls that "only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly," which is a phrase that personally helped her be more resilient and positive in difficult situations.
"No one becomes successful alone; somewhere along the path to success, others were there to provide encouragement, guidance, and wisdom," said Erika Jackson, DTCC Associate Director, Talent Acquisition, who spoke to the girls about what employers look for when hiring for an entry level position. "Participating in these types of events is our opportunity to return the favor."
While hosting the ice cream social and speed networking with the girls, Martha Mills, DTCC Associate Director, Risk Management, took note of how candid and insightful the students were, and how eager they were to get guidance on their technology journeys.
The program culminated in a graduation ceremony on August 22 at DTCC Jersey City.
Looking Ahead to 2020
DTCC plans to continue to support Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program in 2020 and is exploring the opportunity to host girls in Tampa and Dallas. The company will also keep in contact with the girls who took part this year for future internship and employment opportunities.
"It was inspiring to see these talented girls open up to our outstanding female tech leaders, share their ideas and experiences, and gain valuable insights," Mills said. "I hope they will carry this experience with them long after the program has ended."