'GIRLS WHO CODE' - BY MAITHILI MEHTA
Written by Frederic Kalinke
In our latest blog we hear from one of our Brisbane team members – Maithili Mehta, Senior Software Developer at SilverRail Technologies by day, Tech Girl Superhero Mentor by night.
“I studied Maths at university, falling into software engineering by chance as I was finishing my Ph.D. Working in the industry since then has made me realise just how much fun it can be to write software.
In my time I have worked in many different software roles; as a tester, a support manager, a developer and a team leader. I am currently working as a software engineer specialising in algorithmic development. I love the challenges that my work brings and I really enjoy the teamwork. Whenever I can, I grab the opportunity to inspire the next generation of women to stay in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) fields and to help develop their careers in the industry.
The Tech girls movement aims to encourage more girls to pursue interests and careers in STEM areas. By providing role models to girls around Australia, young women will see that they’re not alone, but that they too could become scientists, mathematicians and software engineers.
Every year the Tech girls movement runs a competition for young girls (aged between 9 and 17) called “Tech girls are superheroes” – where teams of girls get together to create an app. They can use any technology they like, and are paired with a woman in industry as a mentor, to help them along the way.
I have been privileged to mentor a team of girls entered in the “Tech girls are superheroes” competition (one of whom is my lovely daughter) this year. Our team is called Des|eye|ners – and is made up of five girls, ranging in age from 8 to 12 years old. They’re all bright, bubbly kids, and every session involves lots of laughing and just enough work to give them a flavour of what life as a software engineer is like.
Last Saturday, I led the team in an agile scrum story writing exercise (a framework for completing complex projects, originally formalised specifically for software development projects, but it also works well for any complex, innovative scope of work). At this point, I feel it’s only fair to note that I’m not the world’s most natural process advocate. I do like scrum (mostly because it’s lightweight), but I am not a scrum master and I tend to like to focus on the technical and gloss over process whenever possible.
So, it was a new and exciting experience for me to first of all teach these girls some of the basic principles of scrum, but also to lead them through a story writing exercise while keeping them on track. Herding cats anyone….?
I tried to model it on the story writing exercises I’ve carried out at work – led by our excellent agile coaches and
product team. It was quite a lot of fun! The girls really got into it – ideas were flying around and we got a remarkable amount of concepts from them in a relatively short amount of time.
At one point they did get stuck in the “analysis paralysis” zone (amazing, and comforting, that this phenomenon happens naturally to all of us – even – to young kids!).
I let them dabble in a bit of the detail, but then dragged them back on track by reminding the team how important it was that we get one small piece of working software done fast, rather than planning many ideas and completing none.
All in all it was a great success and something I shall definitely repeat – and encourage others to participate in!”