Sarah Filman is smiling.
Teaching Confidence to Girls Who Code

Sarah Filman

  • ShareShare this page on LinkedIn

Teaching Confidence to Girls Who Code

Photos by Scott Eklund / © Microsoft

As a kid, Sarah Filman spent so much time at the Boston Museum of Science that she jokes, “I probably could’ve become a tour guide there by the time I was 10.”

Sarah Filman smiling in the corridor.

While young Sarah showed promise in math and science, she didn’t experience a Computer Science class until she attended Brown University. “There were very few women in the course and I struggled a lot my confidence,” she remembers. “It was full of guys who had been programming since they were kids and, at many points, I came close to giving up.”

Along with three other Brown undergrad female CS students, Sarah was selected to teach at The Artemis Project, a 5-week summer tech camp for middle school girls.

She notes, “Industry mentors came in to talk to the girls about careers in technology it actually gave a huge confidence boost to us as instructors too. Without that experience, I would have likely pursued something other than Computer Science. It was thatpivotal.”

Now, years later, Sarah is well established in her technology career as a Senior Program Manager Lead at OneDrive. But, she says, “I’ve been reflecting and wanting to help other young women have a pivotal moment like I had.”

It was full of guys who had been programming since they were kids and, at many points, I came close to giving up.
Sarah researched various programs about girls and technology. She was particularly interested in more immersive programs and found the seven-week-long Girls Who Code.

“I pitched my manager about me taking off some time to teach in the program and he was immediately onboard,” she says. “He knew this is something I’m really passionate about. It’s so nice to have such a supportive team.”

All in all, Sarah took a leave of nine weeks in order to have time to prepare for the program and to wind it down at the end. Sarah and two TAs taught the group of 20 high school-aged girls right on the Microsoft campus.

Sarah argues, “The key for me was that the students get an early opportunity to take some chances in a safe learning environment. There are no tests. It is all about being able to struggle without the fear of judgment. That’s how people build confidence.”

Sarah Filman posing in different ways

She too was challenged as a teacher. There was a wide range of skill levels when the students started the program. Sarah had to navigate all of that range and be sure that all students were appropriately challenged.

Another big goal for Sarah was that she wanted the girls to build connections that would endure beyond the seven weeks. “We’re already seeing the benefits,” she says. “They allowed themselves to be vulnerable and share aspects of their lives with each other and that helped to build a community. They’re still helping each other and I’m a big cheerleader for them as they get their first internships and coding gigs. Trust me, these girls will be starting companies in the future.”

As for next steps, Sarah says from her office at OneDrive, “I would love to teach again, but there are a lot of exciting and important things going on at work. For now, I plan to stay involved by volunteering at some of Girls Who Code’s afterschool clubs.”

  • ShareShare this page on LinkedIn