The halls of CSRA’s Integrated Technology Center (ITC) in Northwest Louisiana rang with the sounds of laughter, excitement, and curiosity last week as we hosted 40 young women from sixth through twelfth grade, from the Girls Who Code program. CSRA partners with Girls Who Code in the Southeast region to close the gender gap in STEM by sponsoring free, after-school computer science programs for middle and high school girls.
During their field trip to the ITC, the girls learned about the many roles for women at an IT company and also had the opportunity to speak to women working in STEM careers. CSRA CEO Larry Prior and Chairman of the Board Nancy Killefer welcomed the young visitors and surprised them with a raffle for two new iPads, and extended an invitation for future internships.
The girls got a glimpse into a “Day in the Life” of a CSRA employee and heard from CSRA team members during a panel discussion about the many ways coding is an essential part of running an effective business. The panel participants shared their unique experiences and offered advice highlighting the importance of finding your passion, continuing your education, and believing in your ability to succeed.
The girls also enjoyed a demo of the ChatBot program Lily the Tiger and a tour of the ITC where they visited teams supporting DevOps, Systems Testing, the FAA Drone project and the Help Desk. At each stop along the tour, CSRA employees demonstrated their passion for the mission through their enthusiastic greetings, thoughtful insights into their day-to-day activities, and welcome response to questions from the group. The Girls Who Code visitors also met with some of CSRA’s Northwest Louisiana university partners—Louisiana Tech, Bossier Parish Community College, Northwestern State University and Southern Shreveport—to learn about next steps to continue education opportunities.
The event was rewarding for everyone who participated.
One Girls Who Code member told us that the experience at CSRA was “pretty cool, knowing that I can make it in this industry.” This young coder who has learned to use Python, Java, and C++ says participating in Girls Who Code has taught her “just because there aren’t many girls in this field, doesn’t mean that you can’t be the one to break that barrier.”
CSRA Business Analyst Myehsa Luster shared just how much the event meant to her. “When I agreed to participate in the panel, I imagined that I would inspire these young girls to continue down the path of learning and to help to shape the technology field. It turned out they inspired me beyond my imagination. To hear the stories of the girls, one as young as 11, whose eyes lit up when she spoke about coding and teaching other kids to code; a true WOW moment. We should all be so lucky to see such moments through the eyes of young people. A truly inspirational and rewarding event all around.”
Thank you to everyone who helped to make this field trip a reality. It was an exciting day for us and Girls Who Code and the event will give us a solid prototype for future Girls Who Code events within the region including Raleigh, Atlanta and Pensacola in Spring 2018.