It was Karen He’s freshman year of high school, and she still wasn’t sure what she wanted to do in the future. She knew she wanted to pursue college, but felt confused about all of the majors and programs with so many around her talking about pursuing careers in medicine or psychology. Karen thought she should try a few different things to help her hone in on what she was most interested in. Code Nation was a new offering at her school, and Karen was hopeful that it would lead her to develop something she could explore. “I went in blind,” Karen remembers. “And now, here I am! I stuck with Code Nation for three years and now I’m pursuing a career in tech.”

Karen first enrolled in Code Nation’s Intro to Web Development class, which was held as an extracurricular activity after school. “Writing my first few HTML <p> tags just felt like magic, because I would type and then I’d see my work change in real time.” Karen’s class, like other Code Nation programs, was taught by a small group of volunteers who work in tech, and are looking to give back by teaching coding in classrooms in their city’s high schools. Even though her class had 30 students, Karen remembers connecting with the volunteers and staff – and even stays in touch with a few of them to this day.

After finishing her Intro class, Karen continued into Fellowship I, hosted by Salesforce. She remembers watching the final touches being put on the brand new Salesforce tower, and she couldn’t help but smile when remembering how awesome the food was – an undeniable perk of working in a tech office! Karen then went on to Fellowship II, also hosted in partnership with Salesforce. By this time, Karen was a senior in high school and she was so excited to have finally discovered something she knew she wanted to study in college. “As I took more and more classes with Code Nation, I learned it was something I really enjoyed doing,” Karen shared. “Code Nation helped me define goals for myself. I found a passion for being able to create things digitally, and I find out that I can potentially help people with software. Coding became my weapon of choice for helping the world.”

Now, she’s a third year student at University of California Irvine, where she’s studying Computer Science. She’s on track to graduate early, and is considering tacking on an Informatics minor to her degree so she can dive into the world of UI/UX before she graduates. She hopes to stay in California. “I’m just so comfortable here!” she shared.

Karen wants to be a front-end software engineer. Like many aspiring tech workers, Karen would love to work at a tech company like Google. But she also has a love of music (specifically K-Pop!), and lately, Spotify has been on her short list of dream companies to work for.

Karen also wants to use her coding skills to help others. “Coding provides a really big space for creativity and expansion, and that’s how we can solve problems and create new technologies,” she said. In 2020, Karen had an internship with LaunchDarkly, one of Code Nation’s company partners in the Bay area. “I think it’s just amazing that I’m a person, but I’m also an engineer, and at LaunchDarkly, I worked on tools to help other engineers, which in turn helps me. Helping engineers helps everyone because everyone somehow depends on one another and on technology.”

Code Nation has impacted Karen in many ways. It helped her discover the magic of coding, introduced her to volunteers who work in tech (and a group of peers she still keeps in touch with), and even helped her define a future career path. But exposure to technology through Code Nation also showed Karen the powerful difference between interacting with technology and creating it.

“Before Code Nation, I was just a user of technology. I didn’t think about how something was built. Now, I think about my users, how they’re being impacted by technology I create, and what impact that new technology has on the world.” Karen shared that she believes there is added value in exposure to coding, even if a person doesn’t pursue it as a career. That exposure provides a lot of insight into how things are developed in tech – and creates added appreciation for aspiring engineers like her.

This post is part of our #10YearsOfCodeNation celebration. We’re sharing the stories of our people: students, alums, volunteers, partners, and the committed staff who bring our vision to life.

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