Corinne Warnshuis is the first Executive Director of Girl Develop It.
Ricky: Tell us about yourself.
Corinne: In the 7th grade, I made my first website on Ancient Egypt for a contest at school and that won me a trip to Disneyland. This was my first time building something with technology and winning something. In high school, I never heard the term computer science and it didn’t occur to me that there could be computer science classes at my school. As a hobby, my friends would actually build websites. We would have craft tutorials, make cartoons using Flash, and even started selling t-shirts online. However, I still didn’t see how I could make creating websites a potential career path. When I went to college, I fell in love with sociology and learned about social change movements. I ended up studying sociology and minoring in film and digital media in college.
Now, I live in Philadelphia working as the Executive Director of Girl Develop It for the past two and a half years. I started off as a student at Girl Develop It five years ago. I took the very first class GDI taught in Philly, and a bunch of classes after that, became involved with the community, and fell in love with it. Later, I took on the role as a Chapter Leader, and when the national organization’s Board was seeking to hire an Executive Director, I jumped at the opportunity to work full time for this organization I’d loved and volunteered so much for.
R: What is Girl Develop It?
C: Girl Develop It is an organization, a movement, that builds a network of women who come together to learn and unlock the potential they have to build technology. The mission is to provide support to women of all backgrounds to learn web and software development skills. We exist to provide opportunities for women who never believed they could learn these technical skills and who might have been discouraged by stereotypes of the typical programmer. Girl Develop It focuses on teaching women (18+); the idea is that it is never too late to learn new skills. There tends to be this dominant message around STEM that if you didn’t start when you were young then you missed your chance. However, as our founder says, “The opportunity to become a software engineer has never passed you by,” and we believe you can pick up new skills at any point in your life.
R: Give us a rundown of your daily routine.
C: Girl Develop It has 55 chapters across the country and 70,000+ members who take classes every day. It is a big organization with a small team of organizers. My job is to support the chapters and find out where to expand to next. I do strategic planning for future programming and work to keep Girl Develop It a sustainable organization. I also work on fundraising for the organization. The best part of my job is hearing about the success stories of women whose lives and careers were changed by Girl Develop It.
R: What is an interesting company that came out of Girl Develop It?
C: One of our students created HipCamp.com, which is kind of like an Airbnb for outdoor spaces. The business allows people to share their land with campers, and much more.
R: What was the biggest risk you took in your career?
C: Honestly, it was daunting to take on the role of Executive Director. It was risky to take on leading this gigantic organization that has a huge impact. When the job was first presented, I thought it sounded amazing and that I could definitely be that person’s assistant. I didn’t envision that I would be that person taking on the role. But, it ended up aligning with my interests in social change, technology, and empowering women and has been a huge learning experience thus far. I couldn’t be more grateful that I took that leap.
R: What do you think is the biggest challenge women face in tech?
C: A lot of women face daily microaggressions. The culture of tech does not have enough diversity and inclusion, and it is not catching up to the amount of women who have and are learning technical skills. Many women find that once they get a job in tech, they are not always welcomed by the culture.
R: What do you think we can do to get more women to be leaders in tech?
C: The main goal is to get more women interested in tech by equipping them with the necessary skills to succeed. We have women who come to classes and are encouraged to be teaching assistants for the next class. We encourage them to give back to the community by becoming a teacher, for instance.
I think we should encourage women to level up their leadership skills in the community, and from there they can feel empowered to take on more leadership roles. This can be done by providing a supportive community. I have seen many women positively affected by our welcoming, supportive classroom environment. This has lead women to go and start successful businesses or speak at conferences. Community lends to supporting women in tech. It is absolutely crucial.
R: Do you have any advice for millennial girls?
C: Take risks. The best things that have happened to me in my career were because I wasn’t afraid to put myself outside of my comfort zone. We can hold ourselves back sometimes because we think we aren’t experienced enough for a job, but pushing yourself to be uncomfortable is a positive thing. For example, you can try going to a networking event by yourself which would force you to meet more people and build a network.
R: What is a fun fact about yourself?
C: I hiked the Grand Canyon from the top to bottom and back up recently.
Contributor: Ricky Rajani