Connecting the Dots

Celebrating’s 10th Annual Girls Who Code Classroom

This June, hosted its 10th annual two-week Student Immersion Program (SIP) in partnership with Girls Who Code, an engaging program for high school women and nonbinary students wishing to explore a career in technology or gain valuable coding knowledge they can apply to any career path they choose. Students from throughout the US had the opportunity to learn from industry professionals and hone their practical computer science skills.

Because the program was held virtually, this year’s graduates consisted of over 50 students hailing from many areas of the country. During the program, students developed their own games using the JavaScript library p5.js, and participated in engaging panels and fireside chats featuring professionals from computer science and related industries, including a mentorship & sponsorship panel comprised of BSA staff.

AI in Career Pathways

From top left: Danielle Brown, Senior Director of Legislative Strategy, BSA; Irina Borisova King, Principal Product Manager of Ethical Innovation, Adobe; Sarah Tan, Director of Responsible AI, Salesforce; Yelena Vaynberg, Executive of Government and Regulatory Affairs and Workforce Policy, IBM.

The first virtual event focused on the many applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in careers, featuring an industry panel of representatives from BSA member companies. The discussion, moderated by BSA’s Senior Director of Legislative Strategy Danielle Brown, included the panelists Sarah Tan, Director of Responsible AI at Salesforce; Irina Borisova King, Principal Product Manager of Ethical Innovation at Adobe; and Yelena Vaynberg, Executive of Government and Regulatory Affairs and Workforce Policy at IBM.

Panelists shared wisdom on their personal career paths and how they found their way into an AI-centered profession, explaining that a variety of academic and professional expertise can lead to a career in the field.

Careers in Cyber and National Security

The second partner engagement featured a two-segment schedule, beginning with a fireside chat moderated by Kate Goodloe, Managing Director at BSA and featuring Caitlin Clarke, Senior Director for Cybersecurity & Emerging Technology at the National Security Council. They had an engaging discussion about Caitlin Clarke’s career path, including high school and college stories, and words of encouragement for young people wishing to go into cybersecurity.

From left: Kate Goodloe, Managing Director, BSA; Caitlin Clarke, Senior Director, Cybersecurity & Emerging Technology, National Security Council.

Transitioning from the fireside chat, the second segment of this session was an industry panel including various cyber and national security professionals, moderated by the Director of Policy at BSA, Olga Medina. The panelists, Cheryl Davis, Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives at Oracle; Ayesha Khan, Manager, PSIRT (Product Security Incident Response Team) for Trust Protection & Application Security at Autodesk; and Pam Walker, Senior Director of U.S. Government Affairs & Deputy Head at SAP, all had engaging personal experience stories and wisdom to share with the participants.

From top left: Ayesha Khan, Manager, PSIRT for Trust Protection & Application Security, Autodesk; Olga Medina, Director, Policy, BSA; Cheryl Davis, Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives, Oracle; Pam Walker, Senior Director of U.S. Government Affairs & Deputy Head, SAP.

The panelists participated in a discussion detailing their careers, as well as their specific advice to young women and nonbinary students who aspire to enter the cyber or national security field.

Software Is Everywhere

From left: Meghan Pensyl, Director of Policy, BSA; Christina Ayiotis, Assistant General Counsel of Cyber Security & Privacy, Lumen Technologies.

The third session of the SIP program expanded on potential roles in software, exploring the various career paths and applications of these skills in many fields. This discussion, moderated by Meghan Pensyl, Director of Policy at BSA, included the expertise of Christina Ayiotis, Assistant General Counsel of Cyber Security & Privacy at Lumen Technologies.

They discussed a variety of topics, specifically Christina Ayiotis’s diverse academic background of biology and philosophy and how that helped her find her footing in cybersecurity. She shared how this background has helped her see software from different perspectives.

Women in Tech Policy

The fourth session of the SIP program featured two fireside chats with focuses on women with careers in technology policy, or related professions. Both sessions were moderated by BSA CEO and President Victoria Espinel, who helped facilitate two engaging conversations, the first of which featured two speakers: Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois’ 2nd congressional district; and Julia White, Chief Marketing & Solutions Officer at SAP. Julia White expressed her gratitude for the participants of this program with the words, “The wonderful thing about everyone attending this call today and participating in this event is that you’re gonna be on the forefront of guiding and harnessing this incredible innovation and the potential of it.”

This discussion honed in on the observed changes in how technology has transformed how the government operates and interacts with citizens, as well as opening discussion on what schools should be doing differently to ensure students are prepared for future careers in technology or politics. Congresswoman Robin Kelly stated, “We need to make sure schools have the resources they need to be able to teach these topics, so all of our students have a fair shot at it.”

The second session, featuring Clare Martorana, Administrator & Federal Chief Information Officer of the Executive Office of the President, focused on her experience working in both public and private sectors, as well as the risks and ethical considerations to be aware of as AI is beginning to be used in government functions. She stated, “The US government has to be nimble, agile, and constantly able to defend against attacks. AI is super exciting because it provides some really basic improvements necessary for us to continue to evolve.”

Session participants had the opportunity to engage with cyber and national security professionals, gaining valuable perspectives and insights of an ever-changing field due to the integration of artificial intelligence and other technologies.

Mentorship & Sponsorship

The fifth and final session featured a panel discussion comprised of BSA staff, moderated by Lindsay Emery, Communcations Coordinator at BSA. The panel consisted of five distinguished speakers of BSA: Beverly Chang, Assistant General Counsel; Stefania Durden, Senior Digital Manager ; Tyler Madison, Research Intern; Olga Medina, Director of Policy; and Shaundra Watson, Senior Director of Policy.

From top left: Tyler Madison, Research Intern,; Stefania Durden, Senior Digital Manager, BSA; Beverly Chang, Assistant General Counsel, BSA; Olga Medina, Director, Policy, BSA; Lindsay Emery, Communications Coordinator, BSA; Shaundra Watson, Senior Director, Policy, BSA.

The panelists discussed the importance of mentorship and sponsorship in their own careers, as well as tips they have for young people wishing to seek out a mentor to help them gain the skills they need to enter their professional lives. “Everyone is a lot nicer than they appear, I would say. Everyone wants to help everyone else out. I don’t think I’ve ever received a negative email from someone who I reached out to who I want to speak to,” stated Lindsay Emery on how to approach a potential mentor.

Additionally, the panelists expressed the importance of finding the right mentor for you who will give honest advice and guidance. Beverly Chang stated, “It’s helpful to have people you can go to who will provide honest opinions about what you’re considering. Sometimes the person you initially reach out to may introduce you to someone who becomes your mentor.”

Speakers from all panels shared valuable insights and advice that participants can take with them as they enter higher education and the professional landscape. They also stressed the importance of community and uplifting underrepresented voices in technology. Through programs like Girls Who Code, this sense of togetherness can be fostered, providing participants with a network of other women and nonbinary students in similar stages of their careers.

Congratulations to the Girls Who Code Class of 2024 for their hard work and achievements this summer!

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Lilia StoneLilia Stone
Manager, Strategic Initiatives

Lilia Stone is the Manager of Strategic Initiatives of the BSA Foundation, where she supports the Foundation’s programs, operations, and outreach. Read more >>


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