“The male-to-female ratio was a pretty big difference,” she said. “In the computer field, you don’t see as many women involved. I don’t really know why, they just don’t seem to lean toward it as much.”
It was because of her studies at FSU that Rivera was hired to work at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster as a computer science programming instructor. During the year she worked there, she also helped found the local chapter of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching young women about programming.
Rivera has since gotten a new job with DRS Technologies, but has remained on at the club as instructor for Girls Who Code.
“She absolutely loves it and she’s recruiting girls all the time,” said club Executive Director Donata Martin. “I think she’s a good example of another woman, and a younger one, who is successful. She’s a role model for them.”
The club works mainly as an eight-month training course that teaches young women how to do web design, coding, edit photos and video, and even create video games. As Rivera explained, it serves as an early introduction to many of the skills that would likely be encountered in college or a computer science-related workplace.
“I love working with the kids, and when you see them learn something and get excited,” she said.
“They get to the point where they can do things by themselves and then want to show their friends.”Abby Muller, an 11-year-old from Leominster, has been in the club for almost two years and said she initially wanted to join because her father is a computer coder. She said it’s a field she’d want to someday enter, too, but she’s also considering a career in ice skating or dancing.
“I don’t really know what I’d be doing without this,” she said. “I don’t think I would have ever known about a lot of what I’ve learned, or that I could actually code something.”
Thus far, Muller has made a computer game that she modeled after the classic arcade game “Frogger” and is in the middle of developing a website.
The club meets once a week and is open to girls in grades 6 through 12. It is also planning upcoming field trips to Becker College and Google so that members can see the practical applications of what they’re learning.
“When I was their age, I really didn’t know that much about this. I didn’t really learn until I was in college,” Rivera said. “It’s an important field because it’s growing, but to get a job you really need these skills.”