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City where you’re from: Gainesville, FL
Hobbies: Photography, Biking, Tae Kwon Do, Computational Musician, and Coding
Favorite quote: “If not me, who? If not now, when?” – Emma Watson and “Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig.” – Malcom Gladwell
Hey Briana, what are you working on? How did you come up with this idea?
Briana Berger: I live in central Florida, thus I was never given the computing resources as my friends in Silicon Valley or New York have. So, I had to learn code independently through books or online courses. In addition, there was barely any female specific coding groups in my area. I had to explore the world of coding on my own. So, I decided that I wanted to make a change, especially in my tech-lacking community. So, I made my organization, coderGirls.
A main mission of mine was that I wanted to show the creativity of code. I wanted to show girls that code is like poetry. In poetry, you can write words effortlessly painting an image in a person’s mind. Code allows you to create anything you want without the obstacles of class or education. Coding is not simply zeros and ones. Coding is about impacting humanity.
Due to coding’s universal ability, I set out to impact as many girls as I could. I wanted to share what I saw in code and how each girl could be the next Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, or Margaret Hamiliton. With my original goal in mind, coderGirls is now an international nonprofit organization for female middle schoolers and high schoolers to learn computer science. I originally started the organization due to the lack of girls in my computer science classes. coderGirls works to empower minority groups in technology by dismantling negative stereotypes surrounding technical careers. In doing so, coderGirls wants to create an impact, so the main focus is for our chapters to connect computer science to doing community outreach and their passions.
In terms of chapters, we are currently established in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Ukraine, Florida, Georgia, New York, California, Nebraska, Connecticut, Maryland, Alabama, Texas, and more. Since the beginning, I have been working to implement chapters and curriculum with 85 Girl Scout councils and over 350 schools to impact over 500,000 girls. Currently, coderGirls is the first coding nonprofit to impact middle school and high school females internationally.
Through my position in coderGirls, I have learned and I’m still learning how to run my own nonprofit and how to educate more girls in computer science. coderGirls is an international nonprofit organization for female middle schoolers and high schoolers to be empowered in a technical career and to learn computer science. Then, we are partnered with White House’s CSForAll, National Center for Women and Information Technology, Let’s Start Coding, CollegeBoard’s endorsed Mobile CSP, and more. With our partners, there is an impact on 900 organizations, on 30 states, and with the potential to impact 100% of U.S. girls.
How is your company different?
Briana Berger: When I was originally looking into girl coding programs to join, it was usually the same concept. You come for a couple hours and code. Yet, for myself, I have always loved to help others and connect computer science to something I am passionate about. I believe that encouraging others to code through outreach exponentially intensifies the drive within students to join computer science. Thus, each chapter learns how to code, yet also does so through connecting computer science to community outreach, friendships, and their passions.
Under coderGirls, I demonstrate to the girls that coding is about innovation and expression of thought. coderGirls does this by connecting computer science to their passions and friendships. I founded the coderGirls National Competition, where high school girls connect computer science to their passion, such as, music or dance, through a video. Moreover, I founded “inspire_her” as a coderGirls outreach by featuring high school students, college students, and technical professionals. It is coderGirls’ approach to inspire young girls by looking at female coder role models in high school and beyond. In addition, I started a mentorship program to help each chapter in code and management.
What’s your dream with your company?
Briana Berger: My dream for coderGirls is expand to more countries and to truly impact girls. In my experience with coderGirls, I realized that even though I’m only a teenager I can make an impact whether locally or internationally. I realized that making an impact requires patience and determination. It tested my resolve. It kept me up late at night and prompted me to wake up early to keep working on my initiative. It taught me to keep my eyes on the goal. It taught me to manage my anxieties to balance my school life and project timeline. The one thing that kept me going was that I could make my dream into a reality. To make a code a universal bridge for communication of an idea. To have girls considered as equals in work and in society. The secret? I finally realized that all you need to change the world is a little faith, trust, and code.
Our plans are to continue growing and to continue being a game changer for the tech gender gap. As of now, we are gaining funds to offer future scholarships for females pursuing coding and to winners of our national competition.
How do you creatively advertise?
Briana Berger: In terms of marketing, we focus on our ability to connect code to passions. Then, I use Facebook and other social media to propel coderGirls. For example, I contact women in tech Facebook groups to notify them on our newest opportunities and trying to recruit for our international team.
How did you get interested in computer science?
Briana Berger: It all started when I googled some Java tutorials in middle school on my computer. I typed in the simple code: System.out.println(“Hello World”). I could barely contain my excitement as my mouse clicked on the run button. It loaded and loaded and loaded. Then, an error message popped up saying: “Syntax error, insert “;” to complete Statement.”
Yes, I did fix the error and the beautiful message of “Hello World” was printed, yet the error made me fall in love with code. I loved the bickering my code and I had when it came to errors. I loved the problem solving and how coding challenged my logic. Throughout my life, I was the kid that wanted to know the inner workings of things and was not satisfied by just the answer. The process of discovery is the essence of what I love about computer science and led me to where I am today.
What were your biggest failure and biggest success? What did you learn from them?
Briana Berger: My biggest failure was not being organized in the beginning of coderGirls. I never imagined how far it could grow, so I’ve had to learn along the way. Now, to stay organized and focused, I create a schedule. Personally, each day, I schedule out hour by hour with tasks. Then, I usually have an hour scheduled out, just in case I don’t follow my schedule precisely as anything can happen during the day. In terms of motivation, I just keep looking at my goals and I continue to pursue them by aligning my daily tasks with what I want to accomplish. Also, when I work, I usually play classical music to keep my mind from wandering off.
Now, I know I sound like a schedule-maniac. Trust me, I’m not. But, in all honesty, I’m human. I’m imperfect, and sometimes I don’t follow the yellow brick road like I set out to do. But, that is the purpose of life and entrepreneurship: to explore the unknown, to think outside the box, and to follow your passions regardless of where they lead you.
My biggest success was overcoming the anxiety of asking people for help, whether CEOs or friends. It is hard to put yourself in that position and you have to be ready to face rejection. So, I had to learn how to structure emails and phone calls, and how to calmly face rejection.
Yet, in my process, I realized the world is more willing to help than you think. Gaining chapters, resources, and partners, it requires a lot of asking. The results? The majority of people were more than happy to help.
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have.
Briana Berger: Pursue something because it makes you wake up in the morning. Don’t pursue something for the sole purpose of fame and fortune. Pursue something that makes you excited to work and invigorates you to work harder.
What are some of the best books you’ve ever read?
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
- How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Own It by Sallie Krawcheck