We have reached a very special milestone at Verify Recruitment today, one we have been looking forward to all year! In May of 2015, we launched The Ada Lovelace Initiative to promote technology careers to female pupils in secondary schools. We are delighted to announce that our very first school visits are kicking off this week, with the first talk taking place at Muckross Park College in Donnybrook, Dublin today. During this visit Dublin’s first Startup Commissioner Niamh Bushnell spoke to the Transition Year pupils of Muckross Park College to tell them about the importance of technology in business in today’s world.

On this occasion, Róisín Healy from Verify reflects on the journey The Ada Lovelace Initiative has taken so far in the Irish technology community…

THE old proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child, meaning that the upbringing of a child is a communal effort. If the community of the child influence their outcomes, how would one deliver a message and then expect a positive result? At Verify, we’re have made our decision…Join their community.

In 2010, when I was working as a journalism intern, I was given a piece of advice which always seems to present itself at pivotal moments to this day. I had been given a topic to cover but I quickly ran into a roadblock – I didn’t really have a point. I would write a sentence, then delete it, write another, then delete again. The editor happened to be seated facing my screen that day, watching as I turned my cursor into Ms.Pacman, gobbling up all my sentences. It was then that he decided to give me this advice;

“Michelangelo said that every block of stone already has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. Lay out all the facts. Instead of building from the ground up, put a block of knowledge in front of yourself first and then chip away at the block until you have your story – your statue of David if you will.”

Fast-forward to 2015 and I found my self asking, what is the biggest roadblock faced by our technology community here in Ireland and worldwide? The answer seemed obvious; we are facing a skills shortage and with the ever-growing demand for skilled I.T professionals, we are missing a high volume of candidates from one group in particular – women. Only 25% of the STEM sector consists of female employees and this is further amplified in the schools, with the vast majority young women not seeing a career in technology as an option for themselves.

Now it was time to carve out a solution from this roadblock; if the lack of visible role models is a barrier for young women to STEM, then it is our responsibility in the technology community to remove it. This is why The Ada Lovelace Initiative was founded here at Verify Recruitment. Our mission with The Ada Lovelace Initiative is to connect Transition Year students with female professionals working in technology for one hour,  once a year. The role models volunteer to visit a school from our waiting list that is convenient for them and the school receives the visit free of charge. The role models will tell the students their own story so far to help the pupils relate to role model as ‘someone like them’ and hopefully encourage them to consider this career for themselves.

The proverb I mentioned at the beginning of this post is attributed to African culture, where it literally translates to ‘A child does not grow up only in a single home.  With the recent announcement of The Ada Lovelace Initiative here at Verify, we have one question for the technology community of Ireland – do you want to join our mission to promote technology careers to female pupils nationwide, in their own communities?

If there is truth in this old proverb, then we can’t place the responsibly solely on parents to encourage their daughters to consider a technology career, nor on their teachers, nor on any one single initiative. Instead, we must all play our part, together, as a community.

It is now time to cross the Rubicon, take what we have learned from the discussions happening all across our industry and move from words into action.

Amanda Hay, Software Engineer with TripAdvisor visiting Mount Carmel Secondary School.

The pilot visit for The Ada Lovelace Initiative took place in May of 2015, with Amanda Hay, Software Engineer with Tripadvisor and myself visiting the Transition Year pupils of Mount Carmel Secondary School (pictured above). It was during this visit that Amanda taught me that the most powerful way to explain a role is to forget all the industry jargon we use daily and really just try to show the pupils what programming means in real life. Amanda Hay told the students:

Software engineering is at its core simply finding ways to turn the same routine or process that we might do over and over again into an automatic process. For example, in my job we help users book hotel rooms. Instead of one person keeping track on paper how many hotel rooms are available at what times during the year, we have a computer keep track of it. That  way customers don’t have to call hotel desks directly and have the hotel staff manually look up free rooms.

At Verify Recruitment, we are committed to continuing to grow The Ada Lovelace Initiative nationally. Wherever there are role models, there will be school visits arranged by us, but the success of A.L.I. relies on the participation of our female role models and the help of professionals and companies to spread the word about volunteering.

A testament to the community spirit of Ireland’s technology industry is the enthusiasm of the role models who have signed up from over 75 companies.  The endorsements of companies countrywide have been humbling with supporters such as Tripadvisor, Udemy, The TAS Group, Tapadoo, Restored Hearing, Oneview and more, all getting on board to support the mission of The Ada Lovelace Initiative.

Our very first A.L.I. school visits have started this week and we would like to thank every person that has helped us to reach this milestone; the role models, the teachers, the companies and every single person who has spread the word about A.L.I. – My Story!

On behalf of the Verify team, I would like to wish the best of luck to Fiona Savage and Amanda Hay who will be telling their own stories at St. Dominic’s College, Cabra and Mount Carmel Secondary School, Dublin City Centre this week.

One hour. One School. Once a Year is the only commitment required to sign up as an A.L.I. role model. If you are a female professional who would like to sign up as a role model or if you are wondering how you might be able to help, please get in touch with us here at Verify.