Rebecca Gold took her first computer science class when she was a senior in high school to avoid taking calculus.
“I was pretty good, and I liked it, so I figured I’d keep going with it until it stopped being fun,” Gold said. “It never stopped being fun.”
As a sophomore in college, Gold attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. She said she’ll never forget her first view of the floor of the conference. It was packed with more women studying what she was studying than the total number of people who attended her tiny college.
“I knew I wanted to be a part of that community,” she said.
Now a software engineer at Adobe, Gold is a part of that community and as a diversity in STEM activist she is spreading the fun to other high school girls by leading Adobe’s Girls Who Code Summer Immersion program in Seattle. She’s also GeekWire’s latest Geek of the Week.
Sixty high school girls headed into their junior and senior years participated in the program at Adobe offices in Seattle, San Jose, Calif., and New York.
“My students’ final projects are all very different and speak to the awesome power of giving a group of diverse teenagers the creative license to make anything,” Gold said. “They only had 6 days of development time to make these projects, and they are awesome.”
One group made a website called 404 Girls, dedicated to talking about the missing girls in STEM — complete with a timeline of inspiring women, educational resources, and programs to apply to. Gold said most of the girls’ projects were created to address a social issue like that. Examples of projects from Girls Who Code programs across the country can be found here.
“I think my biggest thing to share is that you don’t have to look like the guys on the ‘Big Bang Theory’ to be an engineer,” Gold said. “I love doing makeup and after a few girls asked, I brought in some glitter highlighter to share in class one day. While we played with makeup over lunch, one of my girls told me how she was pleasantly surprised that she’d get to play with makeup during a summer coding class. That was a really magical moment for me, because I got to watch as her preconceived notions of what people in a coding class had to look like were shattered to make room for who she was and what she brought to the table. I hope more girls can have that moment.”
Along with doing artistic makeup, Gold also enjoys playing tabletop role-playing games with friends. She lives in Ballard with her partner, Max, and two cats, Ruby and Python.
Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Rebecca Gold:
What do you do, and why do you do it? For work, I’m a software engineer at Adobe and teacher with Girls Who Code. As a software engineer, I work on a team that builds collaboration features for Adobe Creative Cloud to streamline the artistic process, but this summer I’m doing something a little different. Along with two program alumnae teaching assistants, I’m running the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion program at Adobe’s office in Seattle. Over the seven-week course, 20 high school girls have been learning how to create things with code and how they might build their future with technology.
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? In 1984, 37 percent of computer science majors were women, but by 2014 that number had dropped to 18 percent. The computing industry’s rate of U.S. job creation is three times the national average, but if trends continue, the study estimates that women will hold only 20 percent of computing jobs by 2025.
Where do you find your inspiration? My students are incredibly inspiring. They’re spending their summer commuting up to 1.5 hours to take my class. It’s an incredible motivator to make that class as amazing and inspiring as I possibly can. Leslie Knope from the show “Parks and Recreation” is also a frequent inspiration. I even have a student who used her web development project to build a memorial site for Li’l Sebastian, the show’s beloved miniature horse.
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? I’m pretty glued to my phone — I kind of hope the coolness of having the entire internet in a rectangle in my pocket doesn’t fade.
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? My teacher desk is a bit of a mess! I have enough room to set my laptop down to plug into the TV to present my lectures, at least. Some highlights — a sock monkey in an Adobe T Shirt signed by my students; a flower crown (for girls to wear on their birthdays); and a Pusheen tape dispenser.
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Don’t neglect sleep.
Mac, Windows or Linux? Mac, though I do have a Windows PC for gaming.
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? I probably have to own up to the fact that I’ve not watched “Star Trek” … I adore Sir Patrick Stewart, though!
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Time machine!
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … Send out a call to female engineers on twitter and see what we could build together.
I once waited in line for … Rachel Bloom’s autograph, after the “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” live show in Seattle!
Your role models: Ada Lovelace, the first female computer scientist I learned about, whose story blends mathematical elegance with literary eloquence.
Greatest game in history: I’m a huge fan of “Monsterhearts” by Avery Alder, a role playing game about teen monsters.
Best gadget ever: We have a self-cleaning litter box that we affectionately call “poop robot.”
First computer: Macintosh Classic! On the wall of my dad’s office there’s a printout of an oval filled in with a checkerboard pattern with the text “this is an egg” on it, which I’m told is my first piece of digital art.
Current phone: iPhone X.
Favorite app: Instagram.
Favorite cause: STEM diversity and education, particularly Girls Who Code.
Most important technology of 2018: Automation.
Most important technology of 2020: Artificial Intelligence.
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Respect your mental health and take the time that you need. Think about and communicate what you need. Remember that humans are people.