After Learning to Code, Darlene Holland Helps Young Women Do The Same
As a science teacher and professor, Darlene Holland has noticed a trend in STEM fields.
“When minority and female students don’t see themselves represented in certain careers, they seem to think ‘those people doing those jobs don’t look like me, so why should I do them?’” she said.
Thanks to the University of Miami Coding Boot Camp, Darlene discovered a way to inspire young female students to pursue careers in STEM—while becoming a skilled coder herself.
Curiosity starts at home
For years, Darlene watched her husband, Jeff, work as a software engineer—always wondering what he was doing.
“I found it interesting, but weird. I’d always ask him what all the little characters on his screen were, because to me, it didn’t make any sense,” she said.
Jeff assured Darlene that what looked confusing and complicated really wasn’t—encouraging her to give it a shot herself.
She took free online classes, but never committed to pursuing coding—until a Facebook ad for UM’s boot camp changed her mind.
“I was already teaching science, so going even further and getting into coding would be a great way to inspire my students—especially young girls and minorities—to do it themselves,” she said.
Growing her skill set
With a full work schedule and family at home, Darlene knew boot camp would be a challenge. Luckily, she found an amazing support system in her instructors, TAs, and fellow students.
“It moved very fast and there was so much information. At first, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. But we all came together to support each other and keep each other focused,” she said.
She also received support from her career coach, who challenged Darlene to merge her passion for education with her coding skills.
Her first glimpse of the possibilities came when she built her second in-class project—an educational app to keep kids engaged and learning during the summer.
What happened next opened her eyes even wider to the opportunities she had as a coder.
Closing the gender gap
In late spring, Darlene received an email from her career coach. Girls Who Code—a nationwide organization dedicated to teaching young women how to code—was looking for a Summer Immersion Program instructor. Was she interested?
“I was so thrilled. It’s educating and empowering young women. It’s everything I want to do,” Darlene said.
She passed the technical interview with flying colors—and spent seven weeks preparing and encouraging 20 high school girls to pursue careers in computer science.
Girls Who Code is heavily focused on Python, a language Darlene hadn’t learned. But the skills she learned at boot camp allowed her to quickly grasp and explain it to her students with ease.
In the long term, Darlene knows she’ll remain steadfast in her commitment to education. She sees herself eventually working as a curriculum developer for a learning-focused software or tech company.
But in the meantime, she has other goals to achieve.
“I’d like to start my own girls’ coding club through my local school or community. That’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gone through the boot camp,” she said.
Darlene recently shared her experience teaching young girls to code with ABC 10 Miami: