“Very empowering,” is how Greater Seattle role model Jen Pearce describes the Techbridge Girls’ afterschool program.
“Techbridge shows girls there are other people like them,” Jen explains. “They are not isolated. Thanks to Techbridge, these young women can explore their interest in technology. I wish I’d had a similar opportunity when growing up.”
Like many of the girls in the Techbridge Girls classroom, Jen discovered her interest in technology at age 12 when she taught herself HTML. Yet because Jen didn’t know other girls with similar interests, she kept her passion a secret. “I didn’t even know there were jobs in the field.”
Today, Jen designs mobile applications for Geocaching, a Seattle-based tech company that created outdoor treasure-hunting using GPS-enabled devices and whose staff is 50% female. A native Canadian whose family moved around a lot during her youth, Jen studied graphic design at community college and rediscovered her love of technology while working with engineers at Microsoft, a prior employer.
Jen became a Techbridge Girls role model in 2016, and so far her most memorable experience happened at McMicken Heights Elementary School.
“One particular week, the girls were building apps, which is challenging work for adults, much less middle school students,” says Jen. “I was so moved the day the girls presented their projects for two reasons. First, the girls were so proud of themselves and their work. And second, one of the girls had created an anti-bullying app for social media. I had been bullied as a child so that one really hit home.”
Today, Jen is dedicated to the Techbridge Girls mission of inspiring girls, particularly low-income girls of color, to explore their interest in STEM subjects and careers. “And to those girls who have an interest in STEM, I tell them to let someone know. Today, girls have so many opportunities.”