Thursday, October 13, 2016

LaunchCode

My name is Ash Turner, and I’m a Junior Interactive Arts major. During the summer of 2016, I was a CoderGirl Programming and Marketing Intern for LaunchCode, a nonprofit organization started and based in St. Louis, Missouri. I originally was searching online and through MICA’s Career Development Office for internships in nonprofit and socially ­active organizations that were connected to coding. While searching, a family member directed me toward a meet-up in St. Louis called “CoderGirl,” which was LaunchCode’s weekly meet-up for women interested in programming. After that, I looked into if they had any internships open, but still didn’t find an internship position that fit quite with what I wanted to do.

I applied online to be an Education Intern, and submitted a cover letter and resume, explaining my interest in interactivity, code, and art, and how these would be useful skills for developing educational programs at LaunchCode. After I sent in my application, I was set up to do a Skype interview with Crystal Martin, the CoderGirl Program Director and National Candidate Engagement Manager at LaunchCode. She ended up interviewing me for a different position that would allow me to do social media, graphic design, community engagement, and program development for CoderGirl. It ended up being a less specific position that was subject to more creativity and change. At the end of the interview, I asked when she would get back to me on if I had the position, and she told me that she had already decided and that she wanted me to work for her. I was surprised that she had decided so quickly, but was extremely excited.


During my internship at LaunchCode, Crystal Martin ended up being my supervisor. By the time I started my internship, she became more involved in doing interviews and candidate engagement, but we both had a love of the potential crossovers between tech and art. I ended up starting my internship with managing CoderGirl’s social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), which was completely new territory for me.

That’s when I first learned that LaunchCode, because of its small staff and being a new startup organization, was a place where all the staff had the motto of “learn as you go,” which was comforting while in my new position. I created content for CoderGirl’s social media, which included taking pictures during the weekly CoderGirl meet-ups, interviewing and interacting with the members of CoderGirl, and then creating graphic design, photo, and illustrated posts through Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. It also included doing research on what was going on everyday in the tech world, especially when it came to women in tech and St. Louis tech. I also did an “hour of learning” each day where I was able to explore new types of code and learn new programming languages online.

Throughout my time at LaunchCode, I was able to get a better peek into the world of nonprofits and startup companies, and what it takes to be in the tech world in general. It made me realize that if I want to do computer programming, that I can learn it on my own (as many of the staff members at LaunchCode had themselves) for free if I put in the time and effort. It was inspiring to see so many programmers come from non-­programming backgrounds. Since my position didn’t include doing coding for LaunchCode (since I don’t have enough knowledge of coding yet), I realized through the absence of code in my job that I’m pretty sure I’ll only be satisfied if I go into a career that includes coding.  This internship was my first look into what is out there in the world of programming and tech, and what I still need to explore before I know what I want to do. Being able to work for an organization that gets people tech jobs was also immensely beneficial to learning what it takes to be in the tech industry, and allowed me to make invaluable connections with people who have their hands in the tech industry all across the country.

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