This is the first in what I intend to be a series of blogs about getting my daughter into the programming industry.
Read Part 2 here.
These last 12 months have been a strange adventure for myself, my wife, and our 16 year old daughter Katya.
Last year I kind of coerced my daughter into taking a Web Design class at her high school. That was her sophomore year. She was rather reluctant, but still agreed. I didn’t put too much pressure on her, but enough that she probably would have chosen a different elective without my influence. Shortly into that class, she used what she learned to customize her Tumbler page, and fell in love with programming. After a few months we found out about a program that our school district runs where she could spend half her day in a full on web development class. She decided to apply and was accepted for her Junior year (this year)
In this program, they bussed her from her school out to a district building for half the day, then bussed her back. I was extremely excited. I will say it’s a very progressive program. The classroom even looks pretty silicon valley-ish, with nice new monitors and as many couches as chairs. She loved the program, and was really excited to be part of it.
Then during the summer I went to That Conference where I was speaking on Angular, and I was mentioning to my daughter how people would love to hear her speak about coding. Being young and female she had a very unique perspective, and a great opportunity to influence others who would relate to her more than they would to an “old man” like myself. That Conference is a really great conference, and even runs a family track which has technology sessions for kids. While looking at the schedule, Katya suddenly asked me if she could give a presentation next year. I replied “I don’t know, let’s go ask”. So we tracked down Clark Sell, who is the head organizer for That Conference, and she asked if she could give a session in the family track on getting kids, especially girls, interested in coding. His reply was “You’re on. You have a year to prepare”.
That fall I started teaching 1 day a month at the local web development immersion bootcamp: Dev Mountain. I spoke briefly with my wife about a desire to put my daughter through one of these bootcamps. Maybe right after graduation, or even during the summer between her Junior and Senior year. Or even crazier, take her out of class for 3 months and do it.
Then two major events happened.
First, while choosing talks for ng-conf we were looking for some unique and diverse talks, and so I suggested to Katya that she submit a talk on teaching Angular to kids. I had been teaching her Angular over the last month or so and thought that some of the things we had been doing together were pretty interesting. The response was overwhelmingly positive and she was accepted to speak.
Second, Pluralsight needed someone to help them out with their hour of code initiative, and since they knew about my daughter’s experience with coding, they asked me and her to teach the hour of code at several events, one of which was at the Utah State Capital Building, with the Governor in attendance. Those events went well, and Katya was amazing. Here’s a picture of her teaching the Governor of Utah to code.
That experience radically changed my opinion about my daughter’s future. All of a sudden I was frustrated that she was stuck wasting her time in high school taking yet another history class, when she could be doing what she wanted to do with her life and spending all day learning skills that will help her in her chosen career. Don’t get me wrong, I love history and think it’s a great subject. But she already knows history better than I do because she actually likes it. In fact she’s already well rounded, is good socially, has a great command of the English language, writes well, etc. So is what she’s getting right now in high school worth keeping her from doing something she’s passionate about?
This was December 11th. By December 22nd, we had finagled Dev Mountain to add one more student to their January class, pulled Katya out of school, had her quit her job, and jump started her on the path to becoming a programmer.
She will still have to finish high school, but we’ll do that using an online high school.
In the end, I felt like public high school just wasn’t serving her best interests anymore, and it was time to do something radical on her behalf, and at 16, she just didn’t belong there anymore.