The tech workforce in the US is not growing at an optimal pace. The number of schools offering computer science is not enough which is impacting the access of computer science to young women and students from marginalized communities.
This is because only 47% of public high schools in the US offer computer science which deeply impacts its access to young women and students from marginalized communities.
To address this pressing issue, we have launched #MyStartInTech, a campaign dedicated to drawing attention to this cause and in turn, help widen access to computer science in schools.
As part of this campaign, we present the #MyStartInTech interview series where some of the esteemed tech entrepreneurs and professionals in the industry share details about their journey in tech. With this, we hope to draw attention to the infinite opportunities that will lay open if young women and students are given the opportunity to study computer science.
In this interview, Sanchali Pal, Founder, Joro.Tech, talks about how she got her start in the tech world.
Sanchali founded Joro to empower people to take climate action that matters, starting with how they spend money. Prior to Joro, Sanchali worked on sustainable development in East Africa and South Asia at Dalberg, where she saw firsthand the devastating effects of the climate crisis for vulnerable populations, and at Tesla. Sanchali holds a BA from Princeton and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Let’s find out what she has to say!
When was your first interaction with Computer Science?
My first meaningful interaction with Computer Science was when I was in college and took the Intro to Computer Science course. As an Economics major, it was like learning a new language.
It was fascinating to try to put myself in the mindset of speaking with a computer – a different way of using my brain. After that semester, I took a follow-up course on web-based entrepreneurial ventures.
For my final project, I built a simple website called regressaurus.com that would run a regression on any two variables inputted. That project opened my eyes to a whole world of using technology to interpret data and concepts from other spheres.
What nudged you into taking up a career in technology?
It’s difficult to see myself as someone who has a “career in technology”. I’m not a software developer. But I do run a climate software startup.
Before founding Joro, I was living and working in India and then in Ethiopia, focused on economic development. Seeing the way that the Internet and smartphone access was revolutionizing service delivery in both countries gave me a newfound appreciation for technology.
Smartphones were allowing people to leapfrog old systems in everything from healthcare to finance – unlocking new and more effective ways to access services. It felt like a revolution. It inspired me to think about how I could use technology to scale up tools that were not otherwise accessible.
What are your earliest memories of using a computer in school?
My earliest memory of using a computer in school was in middle school when we learned to use Microsoft Paint. I remember my delight at discovering I could use Ctrl + Z to turn my static diagrams into simple animations.
I was lucky to have a computer at our house, too, and learned to type from Mavis Beacon and math and science from Carmen Sandiego. Those early days of typing, learning, and playing on the computer gave me the confidence to navigate new technology.
What is the importance of technology to you now and how does it impact your life?
Especially in the pandemic, technology is ever-present in my life. It enables me to connect with my team, family, and friends from whom I am physically separated. And it has allowed us to build Joro – a tool to start taking climate action – accessible to anyone with a smartphone.
How important is it to increase access to computer science and technology to underrepresented communities and young women today?
Young women and minorities don’t see enough people like them represented in innovative fields like technology.
It’s hard to feel like you can something if you don’t see anyone like you doing it. I certainly felt that way. But having access to technology and computer science from a young age builds confidence – the confidence to try, to learn, and to build.
Why do you think access to computer literacy in school is important?
When we limit access to computer literacy, we limit outcomes for individuals, but we also limit innovation. If we truly expand access to computers and technology from an early age, we will see more technology built to serve underrepresented communities.
Maybe the next Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg will be women of color, building platforms to serve the needs of their communities.
What do you think about .Tech Domains taking up this cause?
I’m glad to see mainstream tech platforms raise awareness about inequities in access to technology. We need more people to be thinking and talking about this, regardless of background!