Episode 43 – This girl rocks : Teacher, Entrepreneur, Angie

Not everyone who learns how to code does so with the intent on becoming a software programmer. As we learned during our last episode, there are many aspects of software development and not all involve coding, specifically. But, what do you do if you have a project that you want to complete, a big goal, and part of the goal requires the use of coding to one level or another? While you could certainly hire help from someone knowledgeable in coding, they might not see the completed project with the same mental vision that you see. So, what do you do? What are your options?

Our next guest, Angie Carrillo, was in that very situation and took a unique stance to complete her project. Angie has an interesting story to tell. She had no prior knowledge of coding but wanted to do something very unique and special. But, completing her objective required the use of code. Since there was no one else around to do exactly what she needed and how she needed it done, she decided to teach herself to code so that she could complete her own goals and take her skill set several steps further in the process. Listen in as Angie discusses all the details with Arsalan in episode 43, and don’t forget to say hello to her on Twitter.

Angie Carrillo’s Bio:

Ed-tech enthusiast, self-taught coder, entrepreneur, Angie Carrillo has the passion for making it happen. Her passion and goals are to bridge the diversity gap in the fields of entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, and math. To help her achieve this goal, she is currently working on an online platform called: Liks.co, which teaches children about the world of robotics and programming through the use of virtual technology, but education isn’t the only area Angie is fluent in.

She has also worked as a Business Development Leader for Mexico’s largest pharmaceutical company, which does over $30 million in new revenue. She worked in consulting for Fin Tech. She also worked in sales for Fortune 500 companies like Proctor and Gamble. At a very young age, she also worked in operations for Thomson Reuters.

With her career history well-rounded, Angie now divides her time between working on education in the tech industry and consulting for the non-profit, Technovation Challenge Org.

Episode Highlights and Show Notes:

Arsalan: Hi, everyone. Today, my guest is Angie Carrillo. Angie is a very interesting person because she didn’t know any programming. She was interested in starting a company in technology so she taught herself programming. Now she is doing something very interesting with her time. So without further ado let me introduce you to Angie Carrillo. Angie, how are you doing today?

Angie: Hi, everyone. I’m also teaching girls to code in my free time. So that was a very interesting thing that you are saying before. I’m glad to be here with you and to be able to share my experience with the rest of your audience. So, where do you want to start?

Arsalan: Tell me a little bit about what you’re doing right now because you’re doing something very interesting. I have never interviewed someone from the place you’re at right now. So tell me a little bit about that.

Angie: Okay, so right now I’m in Peru. The reason I’m here is because the UN organized science camp here in Peru last week. The science camp is called The WiSci camp and it’s organized by ….UNESCO and several organizations from within the US government. The aim of this camp is to promote more girls in science. One of the sciences that they’re promoting is computer science and programming. So, that’s why am here. This week I had the pleasure to teach 100 girls to code basic front-end in JavaScript programming.

Angie: I’m also the ambassador for the Technovation program, which is an annual competition for girls to participate in to build a startup that they can win $10,000 in funding for their startup. These are girls from high school. They are very young but very impressive. Make sure to apply if you know any girl from that age group.

Arsalan: Yes, something a very good opportunity for girls. I’m really fascinated by your story because not only did you not have a background in programming or technology, but that you didn’t let that phase you. It wasn’t very hard for you to go ahead and tackle that. So you weren’t scared to tackle that? Did it phase you?

Angie: Yes. I have a business background, but I didn’t even know what HTML was. I didn’t know what an API was. I had no idea. I went to my first hackathon and I won that hackathon. But during that time it was very intimidating because I didn’t know any of the technical terms and that’s where I discovered that for me to go further with any business idea or tech company, I needed the technical skills as well as the business skills that I already had.

Arsalan: So, we started with you wanting to start a technical company or startup and you needed a technical co-founder but you couldn’t find one so you decided to learn yourself. What was the company that you wanted to start?

Angie: The company was like an app that we were developing called Ume, which turned into something else that is now called Liks. It’s based with the same team that we started with. It was a parental company for teaching values and such. That was the company that won the hackathon. With that same team, we decided to go somewhere else completely different. We founded a coding boot camp in Mexico called Liks, which means creator in Mayan. So, we created that and we won a prize last year with one of the students who developed a robot and a basic application to control the robot. So, that’s more or less what we’ve done.

Arsalan: How did you first come across programming? Programming is not natural. I know a lot of people who never done programming or software development and for them, it’s such an alien thing, but you weren’t scared of that. So I just want to know a little more about you how you first learned about programming. How did you learn to write your first line of code? Tell me a little bit about that.

Angie: I learned how a young kid would do. It’s pretty funny because it was the Hour of Code. So, yes, like a kid. It was like a four-year-old. It’s pretty scary to start over when you don’t have a skill. You think you’re way too old or something. But I wouldn’t say that you have to be scared because of that. So I started as a kid would start. I started with the Hour of Code and then I did Code Academy. I felt like I was not learning anything. I mean, I could write a line of code, but I wasn’t able to do the things that I wanted to do. It wasn’t programming to me. So, I joined Udacity and by having a partner with more technical skills, I was able to receive the help that I needed. So that’s how I started.

Angie: I’ve heard of people who start over all the time and learn to code and all these boot camps that are available. So I decided why not? If you have logic and great problem-solving skills, then that’s the only thing you need.

Arsalan: Okay. That is exactly right. You need to have the right attitude. You need to be relentless. You need to have the desire to succeed. If you plow through it, then there’s no reason that you can’t. Obviously, it’s not for everybody. But certainly, you found it interesting enough that you thought you could do it. You learned to code through these websites, and other avenues. Were not you able to take the skills that you learned and write code for your startup?

Angie: Yes, right now I not only have this coding boot camp that I’m doing with my friend in Mexico, but I’m also developing an app using machine learning, which I also taught myself while I was learning to code. It’s like a new app that we’re developing and you need to be able to use what you’ve learned otherwise, you’ll never use it. It’s cool to learn to code and do projects on websites, but you should also put it in practice.

Arsalan: Right, so when you’re talking about making apps, are you talking about making web applications or mobile applications?

Angie: This is a mobile application, but we’ve done several web applications as well.

Arsalan: Okay because these are different skill sets. You need different skill sets for mobile application development and web application development, and you’re doing both. Is that right?

Angie: Yes. I mean, not quite so much on the web application part. I only do the front end part. I don’t do the backend yet. I’m very curious and I try to always keep myself updated and to learn both things. If I don’t find someone to do something the way that I want it, then I will just do it myself. I think that bold mindset is needed if you want to try in any sector.

Arsalan: How long have you been programming? When was the first time you coded?

Angie: My first line of code was done a long time ago. This probably goes back to about three years ago.

Arsalan: In that time when you first started coding, you probably didn’t know a lot. Then you learned a little more. But you never stop learning. You never stop being in a position where you don’t know something. Nobody knows everything. So you’re building this app. This is a real application. This is something that people are going to use so it has to be production ready, as you say. You will definitely encounter issues and unforeseen problems. These are things that you didn’t foresee and that you didn’t know about. Do you encounter those problems?

Angie: Yes, all the time. While learning to code or while learning to do something new for this or anything can be pretty frustrating. You will get bugs and things won’t work. The first time as you thought they would. That happens all the time. So, dealing with frustration and being a go-getter and in your mind and clear about what you want, you will achieve it if you are very persistent. That’s the only thing that you will need because you will get a lot of frustration while doing code.

Arsalan: Yes, it is frustrating. But, when you do get stuck and you have an issue, do you just follow through with it and keep trying? Or do you seek help?

Angie: I seek help because otherwise, it would take forever. If you try to do it all by yourself without asking for help, you’re never going to dance. I have a business background, but I’m still very interested in computer science. I’m applying for a computer science master for next year and I know that other people have more experience and are good at certain languages. If I need help that I can ask them for help, or look at Stack overflow or research online.

Arsalan: So, you could research online or you can go to Stackoverflow or there are other forms. Did you have a mentor, someone that you always counted on to help you out?

Angie: Yes. I had one informal mentor. Her name was Cecelia. She was amazing as a mentor. Throughout my life, I’ve had several mentors and these last couple of years I’ve gained friends who are programmers and they are top coders. They have been really helpful too. My co-founder is also a computer science major, which is also very helpful. Every time I have a question and I can’t find the answer or don’t know how to fix a problem, sometimes trying different things helps.

Angie: I also think that teaching helped me a lot with my learning curve because I was teaching girls how to code and these girls needed to do a mobile app and I had never built a mobile app before. So, I was learning well I was teaching them. So, this year in January through March, I started learning mobile development because of the courses that I had for these girls since they had to build an app to be presented to Technovation.

Angie: While I was learning, I had to teach. It was very much a process. I think that’s how I work best. I think that teaching helps a lot for you to share the knowledge that you have. Finding someone who is a step or two behind you and teaching them what you know, it will benefit you because of the different things that you will encounter or may not have seen in that way. You’ll have to be better and keep them learning because you’ve already committed yourself to teaching someone else.

Arsalan: That’s exactly right. That is what happens when we teach, write about or describe a problem and its solution, even if you’re talking to a wall or rubber duck, you have to form your sentences, ideas, and thoughts clearly. Even if it’s somewhere in the background, you kind of know the answer, but you’re not really sure because you haven’t really thought about it in that coherent way. It’s not going to solidify in your mind. Repeating things and explaining things always makes it easier for you to retain information.

Arsalan: When we keep forgetting how to do things if you repeat it or write it in a blog post, then sometimes you have the opportunity to teach someone else, like Angie. But even if you can’t, then you can still talk about it and explain it and you will be surprised at how much more you can retain. I think this is a universal truth that we probably all agree with that.

Angie: Yes. I agree with that too. Regardless of what you’re doing, podcasting or blogs, when you have to explain yourself to someone else, then you will explain yourself better.

Arsalan: Tell us a little bit about your education.

Angie: I started a business a long time ago, well, not that long ago, and after that, I did some consulting for a time and I think that’s why my problem-solving skills were already being used. I love problem-solving. With the consulting background, you get to go to all these industries and solve all these problems while working for other companies, but being a founder is completely different.

Angie: Being able to write code is different too because you have to be very clear on a set of instructions that you’re given. It’s a different kind of problem-solving, but I think you’re using the same kind of skills. If anyone without a technical background is listening, don’t be afraid. If you like problem-solving, then you’re probably going to like code. But, coding is not for everyone.

Angie: For some people, it’s easier than for others. What I see with the girls that we teach is not everyone is interested in coding. There are so many other sides and past that you can take. My model is that you should try it to see if you like it and if you do, then go for it, but if you don’t then surround yourself with other people who love it.

Arsalan: Do you think there’s an age limit or an age barrier to becoming a programmer?

Angie: I don’t think there’s an age limit for that. If you’re already good with Ruby, for example, and you want to learn Python, there’s no barrier to doing that. If you’re completely new and you want to begin a startup or something, sometimes it’s beneficial to find someone who’s already very good at that and then you can learn from them. That’s what I did. My co-founder was technical and I had to learn to be technical because we couldn’t find anyone who had the knowledge of certain things that we needed.

Angie: So, I am going to go back to your question of whether there’s an age limit. I’m going to tell you a very interesting story. My grandmother started her second career that she is now known for, which was becoming an artist, a painter. She started that career when she turned 50. She’s been my inspiration ever since because this was the second career that she started. She was a doctor before that. She found her passion in becoming an artist at 50, but she decided to learn a new thing. She never painted with proper painting materials, but she did it. She is now well known because of that, and now she’s my role model.

Angie: When I was 25 and I wanted to learn how to code, I was scared. But now I look back and I realize how scared I was about starting over. I didn’t know how to resolve the bugs and install the editors and stuff. I didn’t know anything. But I always went back to my grandmother’s lessons. If she started her second career when she was 50, I could start again when I was 25.

Arsalan: I think that this is an inspirational story because ultimately there is no age limit. If you feel that you have something to contribute and you are six or 60, and you really want to do something, nothing should stop you. That’s in principle, but in reality, to see somebody do it, that’s great. It really got me interested when you started talking about 10-year-old girls learning to code in a coding boot camp. Is that what it is? Or is it just another program?

Angie: That’s part of the Technovation program. Technovation girls have online resources that they can learn from along with a mentor. We’re talking about girls who are roughly 9 years old who develop an app and then presented to Technovation. That’s all over the world. Technovation has representatives all over the world in more than 70 countries doing this. All the problems they come across while their learning was interesting. When I was learning how to code or watching other people code, we came across with the same kinds of issues. But I do recognize that it is sometimes easier for to learn when you’re are younger.

Angie: The difference in learning to code when you’re younger versus when you’re older is that when you’re older, you already have a history of experience and hard work that you put in. I think what makes a good programmer or coder is the amount of work that you put into something.

Arsalan: That is exactly the right lesson to learn. You need to practice, practice, practice. You need to learn the skills, the tools, the concepts and code snippets, and you need to practice. I want to talk to all the boys and girls out there. If you are a teenager, a preteen or if you are someone who has kids, encourage the young people around you to learn how to code if that’s what they’re interested in. That’s what I plan to do with my kids when they get a little older.

Arsalan: it was such an awesome experience talking with Angie. She has to go, so we have to cut it short. We’ll have to have you back, Angie, and we’ll finish the rest of the interview. I’m really happy that you’re out there. People like you are inspiring the audience that we have at Mentoring Developers. Good luck to you. Hopefully, you will succeed because when you succeed, you inspire others to succeed.

Angie: Thank you. It was great being here and just for the record Elias was 12 when he wrote.

Arsalan: What did he do it 12?

Angie: I don’t know. Probably it was not coding at all because I didn’t even have a computer.

Arsalan: You don’t need to have a computer in order to do something. These days, you don’t really need it. If you have a phone, you have a chance of doing something there. You might also have access to the library. You can get access to a computer if you want to do programming, but it doesn’t have to be programming. It could be anything in technology. Just get started somewhere. I think that eventually, all roads lead to software.

Angie: Since you mentioned phones, two months ago I met a guy who is building an app so that you can program from your phone. It’s called the Programming Hop. They were part of the Google developers or part of the Google launchpad team. So if you’re interested you can check out the Programming Hop. It’s an app that lets you program and edit some things from your phone. If you only have a phone and you want to learn to program and you can check out the Programming Hop.

Arsalan: You can certainly do that. You can also email me at us@mentoringdevelopers.com or you can tweet at me at @mentoringdevs because I want to learn from you. I want to learn what your struggles are and what you’re struggling with. If you have a comment, you can send it to me and I can pass it on or you can contact Angie directly. Angie, how should people get in touch with you?

Angie: People can get in touch with me or contact me at www.angiecarrillo.com, which is my personal account, or @carrilloreluz, which is my Twitter handle. Make sure you check out all the resources from this talk, and if you have any questions you can send them to Arsalan or to me.

Arsalan: That was awesome, Angie. So we have to wrap up here, but will have Angie back on a later episode, but for now, goodbye.

Angie: Thank you.

Arsalan: Thank you.

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