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How Women in Tech program is changing lives: My experience as a volunteer

by Zena Kamel

Learning how to code is not as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, but what facilitates such an arduous task for programmers is simple Googling. As a self-taught programmer and a computer science student, I got to experience how difficult but rewarding this field is, and that is what fueled me to rise up and try harder every time I felt like giving up. The mission Women in Tech program has of arming women with the knowledge that allows them to break into the realm of coding aligns perfectly with my goals, and that is what made me interested to volunteer in this program. I first joined Paper Airplanes in August 2020 as an english tutor before I got introduced to the Women in Tech program, where I believed I could provide eager learners with ample help as a software developer, and applied as a mentor. As a Syrian first year computer science student with the goal of helping underprivileged women get more involved in the tech field and provide them with the job opportunities that war might have deprived them of, being part of the Paper Airplanes family has been a great experience to actualize my potential, build a powerful social network, and reach out to more women yearning for a chance.

Through social networking, I have always made sure to communicate and collaborate with diverse computer science students and professionals. However, I would like to use this special platform to ask my fellow programmers: has any of you ever tried to imagine coming across a bug and not understanding Stack Overflow? Even worse, has anyone ever thought about how the answer can be right in the documentation but is all in a language you barely understand? I reckon that this will forever remain the nightmare every developer fears. Unfortunately, though, some programmers live through this nightmare daily. Several refugees and underprivileged individuals try to escape their unfortunate reality by passionately designing their own virtual version of it. However, even their newly coded world can be full of errors they themselves cannot debug due to their lack of coding experience or financial ability to fund programming courses. Luckily, however, Women in Tech Program in Paper Airplanes is helping several female refugees become involved in the field of programming by not only getting more women into technical fields but also helping them secure a source of income and providing them with programming opportunities in collaboration with notable companies for free.

As a Web Development mentor in WiT, I had the chance to meet motivated and persevering girls and future programmers. Witnessing their improvement over the span of the course and assisting them to surpass any problem they faced has been immensely rewarding for me. As a mentor, I hold one-to-one weekly meetings with my mentees to assist them with their assignments and lessons throughout the course. I also mentor them during their final projects, where they are asked to build a website and present it. However, what drives me to give my best always remains students’ motivation and unquenchable thirst to learn.

I did not only have the privilege to become a member of the WiT family but also had the opportunity to participate in the hackathon they launched with Expedia, which was one of the most prosperous additions to my journey as a Computer Science student. Working alongside professional mentors was a thrilling experience for me. I developed my skills in using platforms like ReactJS and dalf more deeply into new platforms of web development. Moreover, having skilled mentors from Expedia to guide me throughout the journey helped me get introduced to and master new concepts more easily.

As an experienced Android developer, I am now working on developing an Android course as a new addition to the program. I believe that introducing more women to various fields of technology will allow them to discover their true potential and passion in this diverse field in order to spread their wings and launch their creativity to distant horizons. Last but not least, I cannot verbalize how much I faithfully believe in the power of the Women in Tech Program in transforming the lives of hundreds of female refugees and making their dreams come true. I hope that this program will continue to expand and empower more women every semester, and I am immensely glad, and proud to be part of this change!

About the author: Zena Kamel

I am a Syrian computer science student at the Lebanese American University, Class of 2024. I joined Paper Airplanes first as an English instructor in Fall 2020 and then became a web development mentor. I enjoy volunteering and giving back to my community. I also love cats, cycling, and playing tennis.

The views and opinions represented in this post belong solely to the author of the blog post, and are not representative of the views and policies of Paper Airplanes and its staff members.

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