Alley-Oop! Assisting Girls into Technology

September 25, 2018 - 9 Comments

She dribbles down the court on a fast break, fakes to the left, she shoots – Swish! The app records the score! Think technology and basketball don’t go hand in hand? Think again.

Austin-area high school girls scored big at Cisco’s Girls Power Tech event where Bluetooth-enabled basketball was just one of seven inspiring workshops offered. Other workshops included PHP scripting to analyze public Instagram profiles, speed mentoring with Cisco employees, and Pitching Packets, a beanbag game that teaches Internet routing concepts.

The girls cheered on their teammates as the connected basketball recorded (and displayed) statistics of their shots on the coordinating mobile app. Several girls who were on the school basketball team were excited to learn about a technology career that incorporated their love of sports. Others began brainstorming what other everyday objects from their hobbies they could connect to an app.

Girls Power Tech (GPT) is Cisco’s global mentoring initiative to increase the pipeline of women in technology. The Internet of Things has brought computing to everyday life, and we need a workforce that better reflects the demographic of the public.  According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, only 26% of the computing workforce are women and less than 10% are women of color. Cisco and Girls Power Tech is out to change that.

Each site creates their own agenda, and here in the Live Music Capital of the World (Austin, TX), we also wanted to ensure that musicians felt at home in the technology industry. For this demonstration we showed the principles of electrical conductivity and resistive touch, where bananas acted as the piano keys. This activity also showed them how innovation was possible with multi-purpose small electronic kits, such as the Makey Makey and Arduino systems.

Photo taken by Amparo Diaz.

One workshop that was personally important for me to host this year was Desktop Disassembly. This year, we were fortunate that my business unit, the Security & Trust Organization, had some desktop computers to spare. I earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in electrical and computer engineering degree before I had the confidence to build my own computer, despite frequently hearing how easy it was from school peers.

When we first told the students they’d be removing and adding desktop computer components, many voiced the same fears I held for years. “What if I break it?” “I don’t know what all these wires do!” “I can’t do this!” Working in small groups, we covered everything from electro-static discharge to motherboards and heat sinks.

The girls’ curiosity shined as they inspected and inquired about every nook and cranny of the desktop, and they worked through their initial hesitation as they upgraded the memory and video card. As the workshop was wrapping up, the girls assertively rewired and booted the computer with success.

What’s a moment that matters to me? Watching these girls walk away with new-found confidence in computer hardware nearly eight years earlier in life than I did! This is what inspires me to begin planning the next outreach event as soon as one wraps up. And, we’re showing them that technology is EVERYWHERE – from the basketball court to the band hall – and they can absolutely grow up to be part of the #WomenInTech movement too.

Interested in a technology career? Go for it! Remember, you miss a 100% of the shots that you don’t take. We’re hiring! Apply now.


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  1. You are always an inspiration, Jennie! And I am proud to be part of the company that not only believes in this initiative and backs it up with actions.

  2. This is great! If there is a similar initiative that will take place in SJ please let me know!

    • Great initiative there. If there is a similar activity in APJ region, please do let me know as well.

  3. I love this! I would love to have my team participate in this and give back. How did you go about organizing the event?

    • We actually begin planning about 5 months ahead of time! We recruit a variety of Cisco employees to provide the workshops (from groups like IoT, Security, Networking, Cloud) and have a small organizing committee (shout out to Stephanie and Nicole) to handle the details.

      Since GPT is a global event — there might be one in your area next year! It's organized by the Connected Women chapters, so be sure you're on their mailing list!

  4. Love this. I would also love to see girls in entrepreneurship since we know that there are several ills that women want to try to solve with technology but cannot get the funding.

  5. @Jennie … How can i get connected and involve my daughter too for #WomenInTech movement..

  6. Are there of these activities going on in NYC, I would love to volunteer and introduce my daughter to Cisco.