It's not every day that you hear about a political career inspiring innovative tech programs, but Reshma Saujani is far from your every day woman. As founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma has created a space to inspire and educate thousands of girls by empowering them with skills to succeed. Reshma shares how she came up with the idea for the program, the best advice she's received and which major tech entrepreneur has a big influence on her professional life.
Twitter handle: @reshmasaujani
Occupation: CEO & Founder, Girls Who Code
Secretly Obsessed With: My FitBit
On My Nightstand: iPhone, journal (for 3AM lists!), current book I’m reading
Last Thing You Read: It’s Your World by Chelsea Clinton
How did you get started?
I got the idea for Girls Who Code when I was running for Congress in 2010 in New York City. The District where I was running included some of the poorest zip codes in the country and some of the wealthiest, so in a single afternoon on the campaign trail I would meet kids who had every gadget imaginable and kids in other neighborhoods with no access to a computer or a teacher to show them how to use it. As someone who is passionate about policy, I knew I had to do something about it. Girls Who Code started as one program in 2012 teaching 20 girls, to teaching 10,000 girls across the US to-date.
Tell us about your daily routine?
I have a 9-month-old so there’s nothing ‘routine’ about my day-to-day. For me, it’s about going with the flow. I don’t believe in having perfect balance --things change everyday!
What key elements played into your success?
Perseverance. No matter what you do, there will always be challenges. I try to see each challenge as an opportunity to grow.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
“Fail fast, fail often.”
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
In 2010 I entered the Democratic Primary for a New York Congressional Seat. It was the best year of my life but I lost. I lost big. My greatest struggle was getting over the fear of failing and the uncertainty that came with it. I was determined to get back out there and in 2012 I started Girls Who Code, focusing on teenage girls and girls who didn’t have access to technology. Over time, I’ve learned to embrace the fear.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
Twitter Founder and CEO Jack Dorsey has been a mentor and friend for years. His support for Girls Who Code is unwavering and his work with his own organizations is incredibly inspiring.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? When do you feel most successful?
I’m proud to be on the front lines of bringing change to the tech sector. I’m inspired every single day by our girls’ determination. Coding can be immensely challenging, but they’re always looking to improve. 90% of our Girls Who Code alumni plan to major or minor in Computer Science or closely related field, with 77% of them having changed paths because of Girls Who Code. I won’t be satisfied until we close the gender gap completely, but I’m pretty proud of the progress we’re making!
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
Don’t be afraid to fail! I tell our students all the time that, learning from your failures will make you stronger, more confident, and more resilient. Embrace it!