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Meet a Gilt Technologist: Nikita and Diana

This summer Gilt hosted Nikita and Diana, two aspiring technologists and participants in Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program. A NYC-based nonprofit, GWC strives to achieve gender parity in tech through their summer program, field trips to technology companies and other initiatives. Nikita and Diana spent six weeks learning from Gilt technologists about software engineering practices, completing Gilt’s API lessons on Codecademy, and receiving mentoring from engineers Nabila Yusaf and Ruxy Staicut. At the end of the program, they gave a presentation on Gilterella, a phone app they created using the Gilt public API. We expect very bright futures for both young women!

How did you become involved in Girls Who Code?

Diana: My brother is a software engineer and emailed me about the program. It seemed pretty interesting since I enjoy working with computers/technology, so I signed up!

Nikita: My school’s summer bulletin is always filled with different opportunities. When I saw Girls Who Code on the list, I just had to sign up!

Why did you become involved?

Diana: I’ve always liked technology. I even took AP Computer Science when I was a junior because it just seemed interesting. So when I realized that this was an opportunity to expand my knowledge and see what the tech world had to offer me, I was excited to be a part of it.

Nikita: I love working with technology. In the summer after eighth grade, I was a part of Google CAPE, where I was first introduced to computer science and how a huge company like Google is run. A year later, I took a Java course at ID Tech in NYU. When I heard about Girls Who Code, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity for me to delve into computer science and experience the tech world first-hand.

Which areas of technology do you think you might study or consider as a career?

Diana: I’m an incoming college freshman this fall! I will be majoring in Computer Science. I’ve always wanted to be a computer programmer. The idea of making things that work and that people use is so awesome!!

Nikita: I am a rising high school senior. I am planning on majoring in Computer Science in college. I am also interested in studying Machine Learning/Data Analysis.

Did you decide to come to Gilt, or were you assigned to Gilt?

Diana: Nikita and I were hunting for some tech internships this summer, and with help from Girls Who Code we got the opportunity to spend it here. 

Nikita: Last summer, through Girls Who Code, we had a chance to visit Gilt. Both of us instantly fell in love with the company. I actually remember telling Kristen [Titus, GWC executive director] that I knew I wanted to work at Gilt this summer. Of course, it was only a dream at the time. Both Kristen and Ashley [Gavin, GWC curriculum developer] helped make it possible for us to come here.

Is this your first time working in an office? How is it different from attending high school classes?

Diana: This is not my first time working in an office! Last year, Girls Who Code was located in the offices of AppNexus. Office life is EXTREMELY different. I’m having a lot of fun being in an actual work environment–it’s much more motivating than a high school classroom. I’m currently surrounded by people who have the careers that could possibly be mine in a couple of years. It gives me the advantage that most kids my age don’t have. Going to the office gives one a sense of responsibility, even though we have more freedom here than in high school (especially when it comes to punctuality and lunch breaks).

Nikita: Technically, I spent a summer at Google when I was a part of Google CAPE and last summer at AppNexus with Girls Who Code. However, this is the first time I am a part of the real working environment at a tech company. I have to say, this has definitely set my standard high as far as jobs go. I really love it here. Everyone is super welcoming and our mentors, Ruxy and Nabila, have taught us so much about programming and the company itself.

It’s completely different from attending high school classes because it’s hands-on and we have dived straight into the Gilterella project–and, along the way, have asked for help. There is more freedom here and a lot more responsibility on ourselves. The classes that we took here are a lot more fun than school classes because we get to see how things work and how computer science is applied to real life and the real company.

What have you learned here?

Nikita: At Gilt, we have taken a few courses a week taught by technologists who specialize in topics ranging from Data Analysis to Quality Assurance. I have learned that there are many different teams that work on different aspects of technology, ranging from mobile development to web, and how they all come together to produce great results. It has been interesting to see how someone working in QA might address certain issues with the Gilt website via JIRA, and how someone all the way across the office might be working on fixing it.

Personally, I have really improved my JavaScript, HTML/CSS, and jQuery skills, and I’ve even learned how to create a server. [Diana and I] have been working on Gilterella, which incorporates the Gilt API and a weather API in order to put together a magical outfit for users with certain preferences.

Diana: Gilterella returns an outfit based on the weather of the day you would wear it.

These past few weeks has helped me envision my future as a programmer. Not only have I become better at coding, but I’ve discovered the different areas of Gilt Tech that I could be a part of.

Which of the courses were your favorites?

Diana: My favorite course had to be “Gilt Security.“ My second favorite was “MVC, the Web, and HTTP.” Both topics were extremely fascinating to me.

Nikita: My favorite courses were the ones about data analysis. I really enjoyed the Data Science class and Machine Learning.

Have you been able to apply what you learned here to some of your own personal projects?

Diana: The lessons that we’ve had here at Gilt have been useful in our development of our Gilterella application. Also, the things I’ve learned here will apply to the courses I will take in college.

Nikita: Most of what we learned here was to aid us in the process of working on Gilterella. However, I know that when I leave I will be taking all the skills and knowledge that I gained here with me. It will definitely enable me to work on projects on my own in the future.

What did you learn about yourself here?

Diana: Being here has taught me that with hard work and lots of practice I can have a career that I love. I’ve learned that I can wake up at 6 AM to get ready and commute to work. I’ve also learned that I have enough dedication to continue working even when I am completely frustrated.

Nikita: I learned that I can become a computer scientist, and that I want to work at a tech company in the near future. Also, I really like the combination of fashion with computer science because it’s something that you don’t see very often and it’s very innovative. The environment here at Gilt has inspired me to want to come back. The people here are so friendly and outgoing and the work itself is something I know I would love to do.

Did being at Gilt help you formulate ideas about the type of environment you’d like to work in when you get a job?

Diana: Gilt highly impacted what type of work environment I’d like to end up in. The diversity and atmosphere at Gilt is definitely different from anywhere I’ve worked. I would love to work in a place that combines tech and fashion.

Nikita: Gilt has definitely influenced what type of working environment I want to be in when I get a job. I want to be surrounded by hard-working, quirky people who are all focused on doing well but aren’t afraid to have some fun. I want to work at a company like Gilt, or even try and come back to Gilt because of its combination of fashion and tech. I want to be challenged and work somewhere where I can learn new things every day.

What are your tech-related goals for the next year?

Diana: After my work here at Gilt I definitely see myself participating in a hackathon and applying to other internships in tech companies. I’m looking forward to advancing my coding skills in other places, and even applying what I’ve learned here to projects in my CS class at college.  

Nikita: I am hoping to teach myself how to code in Ruby and Python with help from the Codecademy lessons that we were introduced to us here at Gilt. I would actually really enjoy participating in a hackathon. I’ve seen the results of hackathons before (people come up with really cool things under pressure) but I have never really been a part of one. I also want to work on using what I learned here to teach others and bring the skills I gained to GWC’s XX Hackers (programming) club, which I run at my school.

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