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This Woman Is Teaching One Billion Children How to Code

Career

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."

Katy Lynch

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."

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Politics

Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.


When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.