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Laptop stickers
Carter Rabasa and his daughter Catherine sit in front of the sea of stickers sent to the 8-year-old so that she could decorate her computer. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Catherine Rabasa was already a cool tech kid thanks to her love for coding at such an early age. But the 8-year-old wanted to make her laptop look even cooler, and the quickest way to do that would be to decorate it with some stickers.

Catherine’s father Carter Rabasa is a Seattle tech veteran who spent time at Microsoft and Twilio before starting FizBuz earlier this year, which he called “a LinkedIn for developers and engineers.” Using the power of the internet and his connections to the dev community, Rabasa turned a simple tweet into a pile of colorful stickers for his daughter.

In the family’s North Seattle home, Catherine peered over a coffee table covered with hundreds of stickers featuring the names of products and companies, many with cute animated characters or fancy graphics — just the type of stuff designed to make a monotone laptop really pop.

“My favorite one is this one,” Catherine said, pointing at a dragon … and then a dog, and a raccoon. She has 14 stickers on her laptop so far — with room for more.

Rabasa’s initial plan to score a few stickers for his kid’s computer obviously took off. In the dev community, tweets led to retweets and mentions and direct messages.

“This wasn’t designed or expected,” Rabasa said. “We would come home from school, almost every day for a while, and there would be something in the mailbox.”

Laptop stickers
Catherine Rabasa shows off the shark game she coded in Scratch, where lines of code snap together like Lego blocks. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Some companies sent a single sticker, some sent a few, and others sent along dozens. As of this week, Catherine has 183 unique stickers, and 1,345 total. The second grader helped her dad create a database to track what was coming in — each sticker is photographed and measured and named.

“After I got enough of these stickers I started to think to myself, ‘Wow, maybe I should start the or something,” Rabasa said.

But the idea of giving a bunch of them away to other kids also sounded like a cool idea, so Catherine and her dad did just that at a Coder Dojo event at Amazon, where kids learning to code scooped up 50 or 60 stickers on Sunday.

And on Monday, the family was back at Amazon for a guided tour of the Spheres, thanks to Paul Cutsinger, an engineer who works with the company’s Alexa products, and Cami Williams, a senior evangelist for the voice AI (and a former GeekWire Geek of the Week).

Cutsinger was one of the folks who saw Rabasa’s initital tweet and he reached out to offer Catherine a challenge — collect 100 stickers and get a unique look at the tech giant’s plant-filled office space in downtown Seattle. Catherine and her dad accepted, upped the total to 500 and easily earned the tour.

“We went into this thing called the Bird Nest and a bunch of people were just hanging out in it,” Catherine said of the workspace high in the trees at the Spheres.

Laptop stickers
Carter Rabasa and Catherine look through the database of stickers they created. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Watching her dad write code on his own laptop has definitely influenced Catherine, and she got into the practice herself by learning Scratch more than a year ago at an Hour of Code event at the Amazon Meeting Center. Invented at MIT, Rabasa called Scratch by far the most popular way for kids Catherine’s age to learn how to code.

She enjoys making comic books by matching pictures and words, and she pieces together images and music for videos. She also built a game.

“I made a shark game that me and dad worked on and it’s pretty good,” Catherine said. “It’s a very complicated code, where you’re a fish and you try not to get eaten by this shark. When the shark gets close to you … it’s supposed to open its mouth.”

Whether or not Catherine sticks with coding and is a young girl whose STEM potential is fully realized, she’s definitely getting a better understanding of branding and marketing — an area that her father knows well. In the cut-throat world of tech recruiting, he said companies are trying very hard to get developers to pay attention and care.

Laptop stickers
Catherine Rabasa now has a collection of 1,345 stickers. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

“I can tell you from a marketing perspective, if you make a bad sticker it won’t go on the laptop. It’s just wasted money,” Rabasa said. “The whole point of a sticker is to get onto a laptop. The whole point of a free T-shirt is that someone will actually wear it, to work, or out.”

In the sticker pile, several stand out because of their use of the same blue elephant-like character.

Snuffy, the lovable sticker character from Socrata. (Socrata image)

“This is a local company here in Seattle called Socrata,” Rabasa said, holding up the cute character. “They have open API for kind of government data. Why did they create a goofy elephant mascot? Because they just wanted you to think it was cute. I probably wouldn’t remember the name Socrata if I hadn’t come across these stickers. They’ve created all these versions of this elephant wearing all these different costumes — it’s actually really clever.”

The company goes so far as to explain that the character is called Snuffleupadata, and is a fun, friendly and unofficial mascot. There are more than 80 versions of him.

“He stands for the positive changes we’re making in the world though data,” Socrata says online. “But more than anything he embodies the fun, amazing culture that we have and the passion our employees feel about our mission.”

“Fun” and “amazing” are pretty great buzzwords for any 8-year-old to hear when it comes to potential career choices or workplaces. Let’s hope they stick.

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