Before I discovered code, I wanted to be a digital artist. My dream was to be a Pixar animator and be part of bringing joy to millions through cute, quirky characters and heartfelt stories. In the summer of tenth grade I went to a computer graphics camp at University of Pennsylvania, thinking I would learn the ins and outs of digital art and kickstart my career as an animator – but when the professor showed us an animation he’d made with code, my plan for my future changed completely.
I had heard about coding, but until I saw it used to make an animation of fire, I had no idea how empowering it was. Just one line of code could change the colour, shape or direction of the fire, and it was mind-blowing to see what a big difference just a few words on the screen could make. I was amazed. Coding was like math with words, and coders were people who knew how to speak to computers and make them do amazing things.
The very first program I wrote was Turtle.vb, a simple program that made an 8-bit turtle crawl around the screen drawing shapes. It was by no means complex, but making it work was exhilarating! The great thing about coding is that anyone who tries it can make cool things right from the get-go. Learning to code is so much fun because it’s creative and very hands-on – you learn by doing, and you get instant results. When my turtle drew a triangle for the first time, I felt like I had unlocked the beginnings of a new superpower; I could now communicate with technology.
Now, six years later, I am studying computer science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, working as a Technical Evangelist at Microsoft Canada, and writing and operating Trendy Techie. In the six years that I’ve been coding I’ve learned seven programming languages and used those languages to make dozens of apps, games and websites. What I love about coding is how versatile it is – once you learn to program you can work on projects across all industries.
Today the second annual #YouthSpark Live event brings together 100 youth from around the Vancouver area for a one-day conference focused on skill development, coding, and careers in technology. YouthSpark is Microsoft’s global commitment to empowering young people with opportunities for employment, education and entrepreneurship, and it comprises over 30 major resources and programs to inspire youth around the world to explore technology. In celebration of YouthSpark Live, I encourage you to tweet and share your #YouthSpark – what was it that inspired you to start down the path to where you are today?