An Aha Moment: Unicodemy

November 22, 2022
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Introducing “An Aha Moment,” a special segment on Making Work Work where we bring you stories from founders, who share how they came up with the key idea for their business; their very own light bulb moment.

In this segment, we hear from Pamela Gonzales (she/her), the co-founder of Unicodemy, a nonprofit organization that empowers girls to find their best futures through programming and problem-solving. Pamela reminds us that great ideas can strike anytime–even at a J Balvin concert.

See Unicodemy’s characters in action:

Episode transcript.

[00:00:00] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Have you ever had an idea that made it feel like the world had clicked into place? An idea so powerful that it drove you to action?

You’re listening to a special segment of ‘Making Work Work,’ by DigitalOcean called An Aha Moment, where we bring you bite size stories from entrepreneurs and founders about how they came up with the key idea for their business. They didn’t know what the business would become or how their idea would evolve, but they knew in their gut that they had found something great.

Let’s dive in.

[00:00:35] Pamela Gonzales: My name is Pamela. I’m the co-founder of Unicodemy. At Unicodemy we use storytelling to create coding workshops and bootcamps for girls age at age 15 in Latin America. When I was 15, my mom, she signed me up into a coding contest. And I, I was very good at every subject at school, so I thought it would be really easy to win this competition.

But it was very difficult. I had no idea what was coding. I couldn’t solve any of the problems, and I said, I think I should learn how to code because that’s, this seems difficult. I have to find a way to do it. I understood that that was life changing for me and couldn’t have done computer science without that contest because I wouldn’t have not well with coding at all.

How Unicodemy started when I was, uh, a student and I was learning how to code, I remember all the activities and all the content that I had to learn from. It wasn’t very friendly. It was very frustrating because it was just numbers and words. And I also have seen the same type of content for kids, and I just started thinking that that wasn’t like the best way to do.

It would be nice to make this friendly for girls. It was a long journey to realize that there was not enough women in tech because it’s not like you just realized it at the first moment. I think I, I realized that just that in my class at the university was just boys.

And there was this time when I went to a concert, it was J Balvin’s concert.

And he, I was just expecting to go to, um, like a, like a concert, but he had a theme for his concert. He had a lot of elements, and when I got there, it was just like, oh, wow. Like I, I was very interested in every element he had in his concert. Like the Rainbow, like a Lama dancing. It was just a lot of colorful. So I think that that was the moment where I said there should be a way to learn how to code with art and colors and all those things.

So when we started Unicodemy, we just had no idea how to do it. Um, I remember we received a book for kids. And this, this book was really good. I really liked the idea and how it did look, but, and then I feel more confident when someone explains to me with graphics.

I had this idea that, that, that, that should also be part of the project. A storyline is very important to engage the kids and also to have them follow the story till the end, because we realize that they will be more interested in knowing what happens in the end of a story than just giving them examples and activities that are not connected.

During Covid, because in Bolivia, not everyone has internet in their houses, and there was a lot of kids who just had nothing to do because they couldn’t attend online classes. Since we’ve realized that they had no access to the internet and it was very difficult for them to just get a computer, there’s, we also understood that there should be, um, resources to learn how to code, but without a computer, without internet.

And there’s when we also understood that when you are learning how to code, you first need to understand the logic and that’s probably the most important part before you even start typing your first line of code. So, uh, that, that’s how we also created available offline in printed version that really help us to have a lot more students in our program who can have made it without it.

The book that we have is about the little p ony named Cody. She is in the, in the woods and she has her community there. And there’s this moment when suddenly a storm comes and starts destroying her community, and a cloud comes and the cloud says that if they want to stop what’s happening, they have to find the colorful unicorn in the lives in the end of the rainbow.

So no one in the community wants to go and find this unicorn because they have, they never seen the unicorn. It’s just like, it’s like a fantasy. But they, but Cody, who is very brave, decides to go and find the unicorn. She goes through the rainbow color by color learning something till finding this unicorn that in the end, like just giving some spoilers, it’s herself.

The main idea was to make the girls understand that you can also find the unicorn that lives inside of you, and you can just, um, find this magic and, and -or case this magic is coding- that can help you find your best future.

When we started, our main objective was to understand if this, this storyline, and all this crazy ideas and colorful ideas will really work. And I think we, um, it did work. All the data we collected show us it. It’s really engaging and it makes them easy to understand all this difficult concepts.

Where we are now is we finally know what’s our mission or what we want to do next. We know that Cody can help. Uh, since we started co with only five girls, we at the moment reach more than 2,900 girls. And right now we, we already have content, not just only in Spanish, and we are ready to go to the rest of the world to keep spreading this friendly way to learn how to code.

[00:07:26] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Great ideas aren’t born overnight, even though inspiration can come in a flash. We hope this Aha Moment story for ‘Making Work Work,’ inspires you to continue shaping, molding, and honing your own ideas because you never know what they can become.

Our theme music is composed by Mirco Altenbach.

Make sure to check out for more info.

Until next time, I’m Rachael Lewis-Krisky. Keep swimming friends.

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