Post by Gilt Software Engineers Paolo Lim (Back Office Team) and Paul Lee (Gilt City)
Last week Gilt volunteered to host a series of half-day office tours for students (and a few teachers!) from the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering–a new technology-focused public high school for under-served New York City children. A collaborative effort between BASE and Gilt’s tech, human resources and facilities teams, the tours (our second visit with BASE) enabled some of the academy’s bright and curious students to connect with some of our engineers, learn more about our day-to-day work, and have some fun. We wanted to encourage the students to continue pursuing their interests in tech for the rest of their high school years and beyond.
Over three days, three groups of 15-20 BASE students each visited our 2 Park Avenue office to meet and learn from small teams of Gilt technologists. Our team taught the BASE students some basic programming principles such as loops and arrays, and also created some Zumo robots with Arduino attached for the students to program (learn more about the robots here). The students guided the robots along a track, turned them into mobile videographers, crashed the robots into each other, “taught” them how to dance the Dougie, and learned how to operate the robots’ LED lights and music-playing capabilities. At the tours’ end, we served lunch.
“There was a LOT of learning going on both ways,” says Jennifer Shin, a software engineer on the Gilt City team. “I was so grateful for the opportunity to connect with the engineers of tomorrow.” Adds Alan Weissman, another of our engineering colleagues: “They inspired me to connect and explore technology further. Watching them bring plastic and metal to life as robots over the course of a few hours was time well spent.”
The BASE students’ love of technology and motivation to succeed was truly inspiring to us. Many of the students told us that they’ve already begun tapping into the NYC tech community for mentorship and networking opportunities. They were eager to learn more and build something of their own. We are glad we were able to play a role in helping them grow and to better understand what they can expect from the software engineering field.
“When I was a 13-year-old just learning to program on my own, I had no idea what kind of work I could do, but I knew how much it excited me,” says Gilt Director of Back Office Systems Chris Hazlett. “It was incredibly rewarding (and inspiring for me personally) to give the kids from BASE a glimpse of a future where they can still be as passionate as adults about the things that excited them when they were just boys. It reminded me of how much I enjoy what I do and why I do it still, 23 years later.”