Dr Julia Freudenberg and Stefanie Susser inspire children and the young generation to learn computer programming with the Hacker School. In our interview, they tell us why it is important to secure the next generation of women in the IT industry and how companies and IT specialists can get involved with the Hacker School.
Anyone who would like to get involved with the Hacker School and advance digital education in Germany is warmly welcomed. All companies that are involved in digitalisation in the broadest sense can participate. It doesn’t have to be the classic IT group. Any form of support is gladly accepted, whether in the form of time or financial resources. IT professionals who volunteer to teach children programming as so-called “Inspirers” are also being sought. Dr Julia Freudenberg, CEO of the Hacker School, and Stefanie Susser, Inspirer at the Hacker School, told us in an interview exactly how this works and what can make it happen.
With the Hacker School, you get children excited about programming. During the pandemic, you launched a Special GIRLS Edition for women and girls and the Hacker School@home format, and are expanding cooperation with schools in 2022. What is the concept of the Hacker School and what is its goal?
Dr Julia Freudenberg: Our goal is to ensure that all children and young people have the opportunity to participate actively and digitally. Far too few can still discover how much pleasure it gives them to programme something themselves. As a result, they remain the passive bystanders of digitalisation and miss the starting shot into the IT world and professions of the 21st century. We are changing that with our offers. Although our @home format came into being somewhat unintentionally due to the pandemic, it will remain a central offer because it allows us to reach rural areas on a far better scale. The GIRLS Hacker School, which we hold once a month, is very well received. It shows how important it is to give young girls a protected space to experiment and develop creatively. However, there is still a lack of young female talent in the IT industry. This is where we can really make a difference. And @yourschool keeps growing. At the schools, we really do reach all young people. That’s why the focus will clearly be on this in the near future. There is a huge demand from the schools. We urgently need more committed companies and their employees who are keen to tackle the topic of digital education effectively with us.
For all eco member companies and IT people who are now thinking: This is great, I definitely want to participate – how can tech companies or IT people become active with you as private individuals?
Freudenberg: Just send an email to email@example.com and the planning can start. We have a great team that takes care of the organisation and coordination. We have ready-made course concepts to fall back on. We provide onboarding on all technical and other issues. If you’re interested, you can just drop in on a course and take a look at the whole process. Many questions are then usually answered by the IT staff themselves, and we are happy to provide support. It’s important that companies and their IT staff, or freelancers, have the desire to show young people how cool and creative programming is and how much fun it can be to end up in IT. And last but not least, it’s a great opportunity for companies to put their corporate social responsibility more on the agenda and also show the outside world how cool it is to work in their own company.
Who can become an Inspirer in your school?
Freudenberg: For someone who works professionally in IT, the hurdles to become an Inspirer are really low. The Hacker School offers entry-level courses to help young people learn the basics of programming and develop a flair for algorithmic thinking. Anyone who codes professionally with Python on a daily basis, for example, can quickly explain what loops and variables are. The concepts we use are simple and step-by-step. If you start as an Inspirer at the Hacker School, this is a good orientation and you don’t have to contribute much more, apart from your own enthusiasm. Experience has shown that after the first course, our Inspirers enjoy contributing their own ideas. And that’s exactly how it should be. The spark should take off. Not only among the young people, but also among the Inspirers.
Why did you decide to volunteer to teach children programming?
Stefanie Susser: I know from my own experience that it is often not easy, especially for girls, to gain access to such topics. Committed teachers and mentors have played a very important role in my professional development; otherwise, I would never have become aware of the topic of programming. That’s why it’s important to get children excited about it at an early age and to encourage talent.
Your Top3 arguments: Why should IT professionals become Inspirers at Hacker School?
- The quintessential argument: It’s just so much fun to share your enthusiasm for tech topics with children and young people.
- You have the opportunity to actively promote more diversity in IT. We want to reach all children – regardless of gender or social background. It’s a great chance to share your own career and inspire the kids for their own future.
- You understand your own knowledge better when you prepare and formulate it for young people. The participants’ courageous and unbiased way of thinking often triggers new thoughts and impetus for their own everyday professional life.
What was your best experience as an Inspirer at Hacker School?
Susser: It’s always that moment when you can hardly get the kids away from their project at the end of the session because the time has simply gone by far too quickly. The fact that the participants very often continue after a course and want to stay on the topic is also always a great confirmation of what we are doing.