Christine Eng is the founder of designcodebuild.com, a STE(A)M design and coding academy for girls and boys. Check out designcodebuild.com and follow Design Code Build on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @designcodebuild.
1. When did you decide to leave your previous job and start Design Code Build?
The summer of 2015 I was in limbo as my client's company was in the process of being sold. I had also forgotten to sign my own kids up for camp. So I started Design Code Build and asked a family friend, a programming prodigy who was just 16 at the time, to help teach it. Our first students were friends and the children of my colleagues in our shared office space with Rob Quigley Architects.
2. Can you give us examples of how you taught your sons to code?
I wish I could say I spent a lot more one-on-one time with them teaching them to code. I did a bit - like when my older son had to brush up on his Matlab for an internship with a scientist - and also when we had to learn Arduino for a robotics competition. But for the most part, they just attended my classes and learned like my other students - that's how they learned HTML, PHP, CSS, and JS/JQuery.
3. How has Design Code Build brought you closer to your sons?
They are really supportive! It had been a dream of mine for a while to teach kids, and they were really happy to see me actually do it and be excited about it. Their personalities are different, and they support me in different ways. When I first showed them the video for Marshmallow Run, our Kickstarter campaign to teach coding to Girl Scouts in San Diego, my 16-year-old son hugged me and told me how proud he was of me for just going for it. My younger son, age 12, just looked bemused and muttered that it might make "a spicy meme". But both of them are helping me with the Marshmallow Run camps this summer - there are a lot of kids! The older one actually has an internship elsewhere on campus which is keeping him very busy so he is not there all the time, but he always wants to know what happened that day so we are talking about the camps all the time. The younger one has been there every day, helping me set up in the morning, helping keep the younger kids on task and teaching them how to program what the want to make in Scratch, and packing up at the end of the day. He is really conscientious - he reminds everyone when its time to pay their parking meters, and makes a point of buying me lunch when he goes out with the kids and the older counselors because he knows I forget to eat. He really likes helping - he is very social and he loves little kids - he is up early every morning getting ready, which during summer vacation is no small task! But it's hard work for him. He comes home and usually has to lay on the sofa for about an hour.
4. How important is it for our sons to have moms as role models in tech?
I think it's really important. I don't see that my sons have any hangups about women in the workplace, or women in tech at all. They feel as though they can ask me anything - and many of their favorite teachers are actually women. They count both girls and boys among their friends and partners in academic competitions, and they have actually done better on teams where their partners were girls. My husband is also a great role model for them - as the youngest of 4 siblings and the only boy, he's always been really respectful of women and places great faith in the abilities of those in his life.
5. If there is one thing you would change about your career, what would it be?
To have learned coding sooner, or to have given myself the freedom to really take the time to learn how to code sooner. In addition to teaching I feel I will always take on development projects - I love both - and in that capacity I have always worked with really talented programmers, and have learned a lot from them. I can see how different their trajectory has been - learning for the sake of learning, not just because there was some project to be delivered - and the kind of difference that makes. And what a wonderful luxury that might be! We are taking a little family vacation in August - if we don't decide to do an "electronic sabbatical" in that time, maybe I will try to pick up the latest programming language on my list - node.js - just for the heck of it :-)