When you hear of careers in computer science and coding, you may immediately think of stereotypically boring nerds in short-sleeved button-ups and pocket protectors staring at lines of binary scrolling across a screen. But what if code could create a holographic dress or a purse that lights up in different colors depending on who is calling you on your cellphone?
Google Dress Code, the third event in the company’s “CS+X” series, aimed to show students from Los Angeles-based high schools that coding careers may not be what they think.
On Oct. 12 the company brought together the magical creativity of fashion design and coupled it with exciting new technological influences to show a diverse group of students that a career in code can be for anyone throughout various industries, including fashion.
The Google CS Education team travels across the U.S. talking to students about how their passions can become coding careers in a multitude of fields. Prior to Dress Code, there was Hacking the Note, which highlighted careers that combine computer science and music, and Program the Beat, which showed students how dance comes alive with code.
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Google CS+X will continue to inspire teens to think about computer science in different ways later this month when it convenes in Silicon Valley for Tech Slam, which will explore how the worlds of computer science and sports collide. That event will feature special guest Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors.
Last Thursday’s event featured a fully immersive tech fair before the main-stage panels and presentation began. There were different booths for the students to explore that featured everything from 3-D-printed ice pops to the world’s first intelligent purse.
CS+X is the brainchild of Daraiha Greene, head of CS in Media Multicultural Strategy at Google. She told The Root: “CS+X happened because I wanted to get diverse students to Google so that they could see themselves reflected in computer science careers. This is a field where they don’t often see diverse representations, and this is a way to make that happen.”
Greene advocates and leads strategies for people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities and other underrepresented groups. Her team pitches inclusive representations of CS to mainstream media, including TV or digital shows and movies.
A Dartmouth graduate with bachelor’s degrees in sociology and theater, Greene began performing as a dancer and in theater and plays at the age of 4. She began CS+X as a means of highlighting the intersection between computer science and other artistic industries including music, dance, fashion, sports and theater.
“I’m really proud to be a nerd,” Greene told the gathered crowd of teenagers. “I think it’s super cool!”
The event was hosted by actress, singer and model Cierra Ramirez, who can be seen playing the role of Mariana on the television show The Fosters.
During the event, Ramirez wore a dress created by one of the participants on the CS+Fashion Industry panelists, Dalia MacPhee. The dress was a prototype that featured fiber optic lights MacPhee was able to control from her phone. The lights changed colors, blinked on and off, and the dress featured a detachable battery.
Ramirez looked fabulous in the dress and told The Root: “It’s an amazing honor to wear this dress. Can you imagine me in the club wearing this?”
It wasn’t hard to imagine her in the club with it; the dress can also be musically activated.
Ramirez did a fantastic hosting job and moved the event seamlessly between the keynote speaker, Shirin Salemnia, and the two panels: Tech Style Influencers and CS+Fashion Industry.
During her keynote address, Salemnia told the gathered teens “Geek is chic,” a theme that seemed to connect the entire evening.
She told the students to be unicorns, to learn as many life lessons as possible and to be unique.
“Dream big,” Salemnia said, “but be careful what you wish for.”
“Follow your intuition. Do research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be curious. Take chances. Learn how to code. Learn new coding languages,” she said.
Salemnia’s keynote was followed by the Tech Style Influencers panel, which featured moderator Jon Youshaei, product marketing manager at Google, and panelists Cloe Feldman, a YouTuber known as Cloe Couture; Darren Moulden, fashion, style and travel influencer from @darrenwearsitwell; Ale La Chula, a YouTuber and the owner of LA Sunnies; Jon Phenam, digital media strategist and fashion branding; and Brittany Dke, whose YouTube channel, BritxBrat2Fashion, features tutorials on fashion design and sewing.
Dke said that she chose sewing to stand out on YouTube because there were not many channels featuring the craft. She did gown tutorials to start out, and it grew from there. She has worked with Michael Costello, who has dressed some of the biggest names in the fashion industry, including Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears.
“When you are really passionate about something, you will succeed at it,” Dke advised the teens.
Nina Vir, who participated on the CS+Fashion Industry panel, is just 23 years old. Her advice to the gathered teens?
“Don’t be so quick to define your passion.”
That’s something that was echoed by other participants on the panel, including Janne Kyttanen of Pixsweet.
“Stay curious,” Kyttanen said. “Meet the weird people. You will find inspiration in places you wouldn’t imagine.”
Kyttanen also advised the group, “Don’t be entertained; be the entertainer.”
“If you can’t stop thinking about it, and your desire for it won’t go away, it’s for you,” MacPhee said.
Being curious and exploring different avenues is what can lead to finding new ways of using computer science and coding in different fields, and that was the point of the entire evening.
“There’s no such thing as growing up. There’s no such thing as being one thing when you grow up. What you want to be will change,” Youshaei said.
That is inspirational even for those of us who fall into the “grown-up” category.
Good job, Google.