Cracking the code
Hamilton Insurance Group has sponsored ConnecTech’s public school coding classes since January 2018.
The partnership has allowed more than 600 students from 18 primary schools on the island to learn basic computer programming skills.
The programme, which is taught to Primary 5 and Primary 6 students, seeks to help Bermuda’s young people develop greater confidence and competency in core digital media, as well as improve their chances of future career success.
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The tech industry around the world is brimming with men. However, Chloe Baron hopes to change that.
The 28-year-old junior software developer and instructor at ConnecTech has spent the past six months teaching hundreds of Primary 5 and Primary 6 students within the island’s public schools the basics of coding and computer programming.
The initiative, sponsored by Hamilton Insurance Group, aims to boost youth digital literacy in Bermuda and teach young people skills necessary to compete in the global workforce.
“It’s a hugely humbling experience teaching young people, especially girls, because you realise you have a direct impact on whether that early love for technology is sparked or not,” Ms Baron said.
“I’m very aware of how I speak to the students and make sure to encourage them and answer any questions they may have.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get them engaged with tech. It can feel overwhelming to them because we are introducing basic IT concepts and terms they may not be familiar with, but when they get it, it’s exciting to see that light go on. They become so proud of themselves.”
Ms Baron hopes to be an example to other girls and women in Bermuda’s technology space. She counts it a privilege to work under Coral Wells, the CEO and founder of ConnecTech, who has charted a course for other females in the computer science field.
“ConnecTech has made a conscious effort to inspire girls to get into IT,” she said.
“We really want them to be able to hold their own in tech circles and not get discouraged because it can be difficult to be a female in a male-dominated space.
“Thankfully, it’s becoming more common to see women in IT and the men I do know in this industry are great supporters of us as well.
“I want women to persist, not back down, and to know they are capable of absolutely anything they put their mind to.”
Ms Baron was not always sure how to turn her interest in computer science into a viable career. As a student at MSA, her teacher suggested she pursue an IT-related degree at university in Canada.
Because she doubted her abilities, she studied psychology and fine arts at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology.
“Waterloo is actually a really tech-based school, almost like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of Canada. Stephen Hawking was a guest on our campus while I was there,” she said.
“I ended up spending a lot of time in the math building around people studying computer science. I never really thought that was a career path I could take but began to see it as a possibility.”
After returning to the island in late 2014, Ms Baron joined the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences team as university programmes assistant.
Working under the education director, she helped to co-ordinate internships which provided international students with access to some of the latest marine-based technology.
“I wasn’t aware there were internships like that while in university,” she said.
“Some people who came down for the internships were mature students. It taught me that age shouldn’t be a deterrent to me pursuing a particular career.”
In April 2018, Ms Baron left her job to take part in Le Wagon’s nine-week intensive coding boot camp, based in Montreal. It helped her get up to date in all front-end web design techniques and back end database design.
Ms Baron found a position at ConnecTech soon after returning home in December.
She said watching young people use their imaginations and creativity was one of the biggest joys of teaching.
“Sometimes I will suggest something and the kids go back to their computers and find a totally different method of doing it, something I never thought of.
“At first they are nervous and unsure about how to create computer games and apps, but over time their confidence starts to really soar. They begin to think differently and become great problem solvers, which is really fulfilling to see.”
According to US statistics, around 25 per cent of computing jobs in America are held by women, even though they make up more than half the workforce.