Growing Pains with Great Rewards

 

This blog was posted on behalf of Nyasha Riley. Nyasha is the US Marketing Manager for the Corporate Affairs Group at Intel and is passionate about caring for and developing people.

 

 

It is easy to forget, once time has passed, how challenging some things really were. For instance, I recall how difficult pursuing my MBA was but as I reflect on the journey, the long nights seem a bit shorter and the moments when I thought I might break look more like minor setbacks. I was recently reminded about just how difficult personal growth and development can be.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of participating in the first annual Intel® She Will Connect Girls Camp in Prescott, AZ. We hosted 67 middle school girls at the camp, in partnership with Girl Scouts of America and the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, to give them hands-on experiences with technology and encourage them to pursue their STEM interests. There were three different technical workshops that each girl participated in followed by sessions on design thinking, Girl Up, and communications and professional presence. I was a facilitator for the CurieBot workshop which gave the girls a chance to actually build and program a robot.

When I was told that I would be teaching a robotics class, I freaked out a little bit inside. While I have some natural technical abilities, mostly stemming from me just being curious and willing to break things to understand them, I have zero formal schooling in computer science, electrical engineering, or mechanical engineering. My initial feelings of intimidation and inadequacy were almost debilitating. Thankfully I was partnered with a technical genius, Erin Francom, who was willing to lead the way and provide me with some time to wrap my head around the task at hand. I went through a cycle of overwhelming fear and nervousness, curiosity, frustration, determination and, finally, confidence as I mastered the material. I later realized this sequence of emotions is exactly what we often see girls go through as they work on the challenges and projects we present. Coming to the camp with a similar experience, I decided to use this energy and understanding to teach and help them through the cycle I was now more personally connected to.

The CurieBot workshop was not an easy one, made clear by the girls’ groaning, but it was by far the favorite of all the technical workshops. We asked the girls for feedback at the end of each session and the overwhelming majority of them said it was one of the hardest things they had ever done, but they liked it and wanted more time to do it again.

During my week at the Intel She Will Connect Girls Camp, I was also reminded how hard it is just to be a middle school girl. There is a lot of change and other focuses for young girls at this time in their lives: physical changes, increasing peer pressure, the awkwardness of figuring out who you are but still trying to assert it, it is tough. In spite of their personal challenges, these girls excelled in a discipline still widely thought to be reserved for boys.

I was in a room filled with girls who were simultaneously inspired, intimidated, and determined by the tasks at hand and I was reminded of why the work that Intel is doing is game changing. We encouraged the girls to use their creativity and newly learned technical skills to create something that could benefit their communities and the people in them using design thinking. These amazing young ladies came up with ideas ranging from anti-theft handbags to storm alert bracelets. I was in awe of their level of compassion and insight. Exposing girls to technology is more than a “good to do” it is a “must do.” Capturing girls at this stage can quite literally change their lives and those of the people around them. I am thankful to Intel for acknowledging the potential of middle school girls and reminding me we all can do great things if we push ourselves to learn something new.

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