"I'm going to pick on you a lot." That was the first thing my supervisor Kurt said to me when I joined the App Lab. It's a department at Youth Radio that teaches young people how to write computer code.
Kurt explained that as a female who was interested in programming, I would be treated as a unique specimen in the male-dominated world of tech. He said he not only wanted me to be able to handle the pressure, but to be better than the competition.
I joined the App Lab mostly because of the word App — short for application. My favorite apps were games, and I played them a lot. Back then, my 4th generation iPod touch was a major part of my life. I spent at least three hours a day staring at that little miracle producing screen. But over time my interest changed from playing games, to learning how to create them.
I started with the most fundamental computer language: HTML. It was simple, easy, and straightforward, but the end product was bland and bare. That's where CSS came in. It makes up for HTML's lack of finesse. Then I moved on to Python. It's an even more complicated language that constricted me like an actual python.
All these languages got me thinking. I've been learning Mandarin and Cantonese since I was a little kid, because my dad thinks it will be important for my future. But I think computer programming is a must-learn language.
Many of tomorrow's jobs will most certainly be in tech. But computer programming, the foundation of technology, isn't something we're teaching our young people. Only 19 percent of high school students take a rigorous computer science course. That might explain why only three percent of students graduate from college with a degree in computer science. Beyond that, the tech industry needs to be diversified. Less than a quarter of computer programmers are women.
The next Bill Gates could actually be a Jill Gates, but we might never know unless we teach more kids about computer programming.
With a Perspective, I'm Christina So.
Christina So is 17 years-old and a high school student in Orinda. Youth Radio produced her commentary.