One of the most common job openings, in tech, is for software developers: full-stack, front or back end, junior or senior, and the only thing that matters is trying to level demand with supply. A lot of industry people believe that a key part of the solution is to treat software development education like teaching a foreign language-by starting much earlier than high school or college.
Katy Lynch, CMO & Co-Founder of Codeverse: the world's first fully interactive coding school and educational technology platform for children knew that she could do better. Unlike current tech-ed options, such as: code.org, Blockly, Tinker and Bitsbox, which are all drag and drop visual programming options, Lynch and her team have created a language (KidScript) that was hands-on, where children are actually typing code and seeing results in real time.
How did you get your concept or idea for Codeverse?
"The idea to start Codeverse came from a documentary I watched back in 2015 called “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap", which focuses on the lack of women and minorities in STEM fields.
Coding is a vital skill for 21st century kids for a multitude of reasons. Coding not only teaches kids how technology actually works, but it also teaches kids about problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and independence.
Craig (spouse) and I spent months researching the coding landscape for kids, and we noticed a couple of things: 1. there is not a fun, modern, tech-enabled environment that really inspires children to collaborate with other kids to build whatever they want, and 2. there is no real programming language for kids that not only teaches them how to build apps and games, but also teaches them how their code can control modern tech gadgets, like 3D printers and drones.
We immediately brought Dave Arel, a fellow entrepreneur and technologist, onto the team as our third co-founder. What we've built is state-of-the-art studio in Chicago, where kids (aged 6-12) can build anything they want using our programming language, KidScript. Kids can also use KidScript to program any object featured within our facility, including robot arms, drones,. 3D printers, lights, and music speakers."
What was your mission at the outset?
"Our mission is to teach a billion kids to code! With Codeverse, we're looking to leave a legacy. A billion kids isn't anywhere as intimidating when you know you're working on this for 30 years."
What was/were the biggest challenges with creating Codeverse?
"Craig and I have a lot of experience running tech companies, but not specifically in ed-tech. One of the key lessons we've both learned as entrepreneurs is how important it is to surround yourself with people who are experts in their field. From Codeverse's conception, we've worked with education consultants, city officials, teachers, parents, and leaders from notable ed-tech companies. Collectively, they have given us such valuable advice."
What advice would you deem most important about entrepreneurship?
"Entrepreneurship is extremely challenging and it is not for everyone. In fact, most people shouldn't do it. It takes long hours, self-motivation, passion, and confidence. Being an entrepreneur means taking risks, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and maintaining a positive attitude and the energy to keep going."
What are the most valuable insights that you've gained as an entrepreneur?
"Learn every aspect of your startup, especially the parts you're not good at. Hire individuals who are experts in their field.Be intellectually curious! Anyone willing to constantly learn, challenge everything, and work hard every single day will certainly be successful."
To what do you attribute your success?
"Persistence, passion, and a positive attitude!"
What are your company goals?
"We have many. First and foremost, our flagship studio opens in July in Lincoln Park, offering summer camps and weekly classes. We're already working on three more locations in Chicago within the next 18 months! In the next 5 years, we want to have a Codeverse studio in every major metropolitan area in the US.We realize that teaching a billion kids to code may take 30 years, so SaaS and online learning is a huge part of that mission. In the future, KidScript will be available to parents and kids for at-home use. We are also planning on partnering with schools, libraries, non-profits, and other organizations."
Have you ever turned down a client, and if so what did you learn from it?
"When I was President of SocialKaty, we turned down paid work for many reasons. When you're running an agency, you only want to partner with companies that you believe in, and work with individuals you truly like.
Turning down a client because they are not a right fit, or you don't get along well with them, or you genuinely cannot help their business, is a good thing!
Your decision to turn them down is not about the money. It's about the long-term relationship with the client, and the health of your business and your company culture - which is so important."
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, as an entrepreneur, what would it be?
"Be persistent. Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster, and many times things don't go as planned. What's important is your ability to push through the hard times, and keep moving forward.
If you're thinking about fundraising, be prepared for a hundred 'no's' before you receive one 'yes'. Do your research on investors and their portfolio before you meet with them."
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.