Calgary’s Lucy and Amy Han, two students from Sir Winston Churchill High School, talk about the importance of learning programming and its pervasive influence in today’s digital economy.
How did you get involved with programming?
Our sister Cathy Han who runs a tech business in Silicon Valley encouraged us to learn programming. After some formal training, we hired a private tutor from the University of Calgary to hone our skills. That led to competing at international hackathons including Vegas Money 20/20, where we built a calculator and bank account simulator in 24 hours. We also participated in the Mayor’s Youth Council hackathon, where we built an app for youth to engage in city amenities like our public libraries.
Why is programming an important skill?
Computer science and artificial intelligence are going to be the next big things in the future. They will be controlling everything we do. With programming skills, you can contribute to the advancement of areas like medicine and agriculture and impact lives.
What has your experience taught you?
At the hackathons, less than 10% of the participants were female, which highlighted the need for more females in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
Although there were programmers who had graduated from universities like MIT and Stanford, we stood on those hackathon stages and won prizes. Age and gender should never be a barrier to anything.
How do you see this skill showing up in current and future work?
Schools are already integrating coding classes into their curriculums. Soon, we believe skills like programming will become mainstream in the classroom, especially in the younger grades. Learning to program is the same process as learning another language; it takes a lot of practice and practical application.
How do you see programming fitting into your lives in the next several years?
We both hope to incorporate computer science and software engineering into our careers.
What advice would you give to youth wanting to get involved in tech or tech projects?
GO FOR IT. Start early. Learn with friends. Don’t be afraid to try it out! Find someone who knows the world of tech and learn firsthand. If you fail, you’ll learn from your mistakes and use them to improve your future.