Women Tech Founders introduces Carolina Hadad, our 2018 Women Tech Founder Award Winner! Carolina is the Co-Founder of Chicas en Tecnologia, an organization whose goal is to raise the number of female leaders in the tech industry through school and community programs. Her determination and passion for the field of technology make her an inspiration to us all. We recently interviewed Carolina and learned about her story and how Chicas en Tecnologia came to fruition.
We began by asking Carolina to go back to the beginning and tell us how she got into tech. She said it was almost by chance and was pushed to research careers she wasn’t familiar with. During her research Computer Science piqued her interest. She began to investigate and connect with people in the field. This led Carolina to study Computer Science and later enter a career in tech. Her lack of information about the field fueled her fire to make tech more available to girls. “We don’t want this to happen to any more girls in our country. We want them to know what programming is and the impact they can have through programming.” From this point on Carolina knew she wanted to change the world. “For me, technology is about changing your reality and creating something out of nowhere that can impact a million lives.”
Carolina was a Girl Scout when she was little and always had a passion to help people. She views technology as a tool to conquer the challenges in Latin America. The tools that were created for these challenges were made in other places such as the U.S. and Asia. She says you don’t need a big investment for tech. “You just need a computer and the knowledge to reach a lot of people. It is an opportunity for Argentina to create tools that are helpful to us.” A vast knowledge base is a key factor to create technology that will benefit your reality. When you begin to change your immediate reality you start to change the world.
A big way technology has worked for Argentina is through their feminist movements. Women’s voices in tech are being more heard and technology is changing women’s realities. Girls in the Chicas en Tecnolgia have created apps to address sexual education and sexual harassment. These are things the girls encounter in their daily lives and they are creating tools to address the problem. Carolina says, “They are civilizing these problems are sharing them with their communities.”
Chicas en Tecnologia was started in 2015 by Carolina and co-founders Melina Masnatta, Sofia Conteras, & Mariana Varela. They had different skill sets but the same vision. Their first MVP “Programming a Better World” went very well and they had a large number of girls signing up. This is when they started to see success and demand. Carolina wanted the program to expand beyond Buenos Aires to other locations. CET began to train teachers so the program could run in several schools. They are now reaching 4 provinces in Argentina. The CET program began with 24 girls and it has expanded to an enrollment of 1700 in 2019. CET has two programs, one that runs in schools and the other in companies. Both programs are free but the girls have to apply to secure a place. The formal application process alone builds self-esteem because the girls feel they were selected.
CET reaches girls who don’t know much about tech also through the application process. To achieve this, they have girls apply in groups of three. There is usually one girl who is interested in tech and takes the initiative to apply while her friends then follow her. Carolina explains, “The girls who apply to the program already know what coding is. We want to reach the girls who don’t.” In the next couple of years Chicas en Tecnologia’s vision is to become part of the official curriculum in Argentina. This is why they have piloted the program in different provinces. After this is successful, CET plans to expand to all of Latin America.
Feedback from the girls in the program has been optimistic and CET is impacting them in a very personal way. After the girls go through the program they are part of the CET network and become ambassadors. They then bring the knowledge they have learned to their schools and peers. From this many receive access to scholarships and jobs in the tech industry. The program is empowering to them and also CET. “Something that really empowers us that the girls are not just doing an introductory course then leaving. After they do the first program they continue to follow the network.” Carolina gave us some statistics that 50% of the girls in the program said they would consider a career in Tech. This was music to Wtf’s ears!
When you start an organization there are surprises and lessons. Carolina shared things she learned along the way starting Chicas en Tecnologia. The first was that teenagers surprised her. “You think teenagers are not interested in stuff and maybe they are apathetic. It’s the opposite. Teenagers are passionate about social issues. They want to change things for themselves and their communities.” A brilliant example is an app one group of girls made to target bullying. Many schools have a person kids should go to if they are being bullied and most of the time they do not. Through their app, you can anonymously say you are in a classroom where bullying is happening. The idea is simple, but this will change schools for a long time to come. It’s an example of using technology to change your immediate world. Once the girls do that there is no telling of what they’ll change through technology on a global level.
We ended the interview asking Carolina her advice for founders who are just getting into this world. One of the most important things is that we all believe in ourselves, which is something that is often difficult in the beginning. Many of us suffer from Imposter Syndrome and that is something to move beyond. Carolina reassures us, “If you have done your research you’re going to create great things.” She urges to always test something first to see if it works. That is the reason for the success of Chicas en Tecnologia. Another big lesson she shared is to always communicate and the idea of learning on the go. “Learning on the go is a big lesson for founders.” As a founder, you know how busy you are and this is probably something you’re already getting accustomed to. Her final thought is, “Take advantage of your networks! There are people always around who can support you, but you must communicate that.”
Wtf is excited to have Carolina Hadad as a role model for founders. She and Chicas en Tecnologia are the voice of the future for women in tech. We look forward to hearing her speak at the conference in May. To learn more about the remarkable work of CET go to https://www.chicasentecnologia.org/.