I was so honoured to be on the #techgirlsmovement official ambassador tour to San Francisco with girls from St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School, and make one of my dreams come true of visiting Silicon Valley!
Lucinda, Samantha and Rachel had participated in a 12-week STEM entrepreneurship program where they identified a problem in their local community, designed a solution and presented it within a comprehensive business plan, presented a working app prototype, made a video and presented a public pitch. The girls developed the app Blue Buddy which provides family members of depression sufferers with the necessary support to allow them to provide care while maintaining their own mental health. Their app is unique in its focus on those who care for and live with someone suffering from this debilitating mental illness.
Blue Buddy Team won the State Finals and was given the opportunity with Tech Girls Movement to travel to Silicon Valley to visit many tech companies and be present for the Technovation World Pitch.
Upon arriving and settling in to San Francisco, we set about discovering our immediate surroundings. The next day we explored Alcatraz, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street and a Cable Car ride, Boudin and Mecanique Museums. The following day we cycled across the Golden Gate bridge in fog! Sausalito was beautiful, so picturesque, after lunch we boarded the ferry to return.
After two exciting days of exploring San Francisco we started our ‘tech’ week. The first day the girls pitched their Blue Buddy app to three companies; Salesforce, Accenture and Skedulo…. girls received positive feedback with some very helpful tips and help in further development with contacts to follow up.
Salesforce was our first stop of the day. Salesforce Tower is the tallest building on the West Coast of USA, with 61 floors. The view from the top was spectacular. Kristine, our host, taught us all about being a Trailblazer – innovators and leaders who find a path for others to follow to make the world a better place. The Salesforce culture promotes giving back, wellbeing and fun – they even have a whole floor full of puppy dogs (called Puppyforce) where workers can go to play with the puppies!
Next stop was Accenture Innovation Hub, where we saw creative and innovative emerging technologies. The girls received good feedback on the app and pitch from a number of inspirational women who work at Accenture.
The final stop for the day was at Skedulo, a Brisbane start-up that has offices opening across the world. The women at Skedulo were very encouraging and welcoming. One highlight of this visit was beautiful Rose the puppy dog!
Our next full day was spent at Google. We met with 5 women and learnt about the history of Google since it was founded in 1998. It’s amazing how one small idea which began in a garage can grow into something so amazingly big.
We learnt about the importance of asking good questions, such as “How might we….?”, in order to spark innovative discoveries.
We listened to the stories of these 5 inspirational women who work on a wide range of projects from Google Maps to Google Home to Self-driving cars (Waymo). We asked questions and were surprised by the wide range of back stories. It seems that there are so many opportunities for careers in tech and even more ways to get there.
Finished our second day of ‘tech’ week at Stanford University… stunning buildings and facilities which inspired the girls to check out universities around the world!
Next full day experiencing ‘working in Silicon Valley’ was at Facebook and it felt as as if we were entering Disneyland, walking down Main Street with shops, arcades, activities and games to enjoy! Girls again pitched their app and heard female panelists from a variety of areas within Facebook. We heard their different journeys as to how they ended up in the world of tech and coding. The themes were similar to other stories we have heard and reiterated for us that there are many pathways to finding a career that inspires and motivates you every day. The women described the things they loved about working at Facebook which included feelings of trust and autonomy, being at the forefront of solving complex problems, feeling welcome and happy at work and working with people who genuinely care about making a positive impact on the world.
We then hopped in Ubers and travelled across to eBay.
We were greeted at the Main St building by Roxanne and Lauren and we were shown the first ever item sold on eBay – a broken Laser pointer, which was bought for $14.83USD. It was returned to eBay after the 20th birthday celebrations, still broken!
Helen Kim, Vice-President of Operations, spoke to us about her experience as a woman in the technology industry. She applauded the girls courage, innovation, determination and perserverance. Then Neela, Product Manager, described her role and told us that the thing she liked best about working at eBay was being in a position to positively influence someone else’s life!
The girls pitched their app to 10 men and women who worked in different roles at eBay and then networked with individuals about our ideas.
This trip was even more special as a friend and fellow teacher from years at OLR was on the tour too… so nice to be sharing this experience with Jane Batham. It was another awesome day!
Penultimate day in our ‘tech week’ was spent at Nutanix, a software and cloud services company which unifies IT operations and brings frictionless application mobility across different cloud environments. We were welcomed with lunch and then spent the afternoon enjoying solving a problem using design thinking, presented by Paul DiGioia, who is a designer for Nutanix. We used the Stanford University design thinking process to design solutions to problems that people have in their morning routine. We worked in mixed teams with the P-Cubed and Domestic Angels. Rachel’s group designed “Smart Series” that could find the things you need on demand, such as your swimming togs. Lucinda’s group created a “Sqeeze” (without a ‘u’) which makes quick and easy breakfast to give you energy and nutrients before your morning exercise. Sam’s group invented “Balaska” (bed + Alaska), to help you wake up. – a bed with special insulation that kept the bed at the right temperature, but dropped the temp to wake you up in the morning. It was a lot of fun, and we learnt about how we have to empathise with the potential user of the product before design.
Highlight was being able to attend an author talk by James Clear, a New York Times Bestselling author of the book, Atomic Habits: How to get 1% better every day. He talked about the importance of setting up the right habits to achieve a goal, such as studying a little bit every day..
The girls found it empowering and came away with some tips to create good habits. The day finished attending Technovation World Pitch. Twelve teams from around the world pitched their apps and the solutions to community problems. The Junior section was won by ‘Social Relay’, a team from India, collaborating with different groups to impact on underprivileged children. The senior division was won by ‘D3coders’ from Albania, who designed an app to help abused women. It was another inspiring and motivating day!
What a way to finish!
Our last day was as exciting as our first…. we started at Rubrik with an amazing welcome of branded cupcakes and gifts. We were greeted by co-founder, Bipul Sinha , who gave a brief talk about his startup and very helpful feedback on each teams’ app. A panel of female employees inspired the girls with their roles in the company… technical, financial, legal, relationships, project managers and sales. Our visit concluded with each team given the challenge of building a LEGO robot!! Huge fun!
The last session of our tour was at ‘Rainbow Mansion’ which is a community of professionals. The Mansion is on the top of the hill on Rainbow Drive. It has been home to many Engineers and Scientists over the years. The current residents have awesome jobs, working for companies such as Google X, PARC and NASA!
We arrived just before sunset and were amazed at the spectacular view and how beautiful the mansion was. We were greeted by Alex who introduced us to some of the residents including Jamie, Marina, Jeremy, Krystal and Witold. They all have very cool jobs and work on awesome projects, such as Virtual Reality, 3D printing, Electrical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.
Some more friends from NASA arrived and told us all about their backgrounds and the fields that they had studied, and what sparked their interests and helped them to find projects that allowed them to solve problems that really matter to them. They brought along a full-scale model of the helicopter that is going to be sent to Mars next year!!! It weighs only 1.8kg and can only fly for 90 seconds at a time, then needs solar recharging for a whole day, but that’s much further than the Rovers can move in a day.
Next, we went to see really cool things in The Garage, which is a multi-purpose makerspace. They had a laser cutter, 3D printer and air compressor. Jeremy showed us how to make an air conditioner from some plastic foam, a bucket, a fan, water and a water pump. It was cool! Ha ha….
It was the best night and a great way to finish our incredible #TechGirls adventure.
This tour was exceptional. Certainly, one the girls and I will remember for ever!
Little snap shot of our trip….