At summer’s end, our Tech department and Audible Women in Engineering had the wonderful opportunity to host two field trips for Girls Who Code at our Newark HQ. The two groups were from Prudential in Newark and Amazon in New York City. 

New York group photo Newark group photo

Why I Code…

“I code to make the world faster”
“Because coding is the future”
“Can be combined with any field”

Both days started with students crowded in front of the entrance board, telling us why they code. We wanted to kick off each day by hearing each student’s story. With the Newark group, Alexa led a storytelling improvisation activity: she played a snippet from a popular audiobook, and each student added a twist to the story by writing their own ending. All the while, their stories transformed to unexpected endings—some had Beyoncé, and others had zombies.

Students writing on the entrance board on the wall

With the New York Amazon group, Francis Shanahan, SVP of Tech, took the stage and led an interesting discussion about the most-desired super powers and what they could be used for, below are some highlights:

  • Read minds
  • Live and breathe under water
  • Fly and move fast
  • Invisibility
  • Move things
  • Fill things up
  • Time travel

Finally, we got to the different motivators behind learning Computer Science and the types of things they envision using their coding super powers for. 

How did she get here?

The groups got opportunities to converse with emerging and established Women in Technology at Audible via a panel, followed by lunch. The panel consisted of: Nicole Richardson–Sr. Director of Data Science, Lisa Stringer Abdullah–Sr. Product Manager, Akanksha Gupta–Software Engineering Intern, Amie Greenwald–Software Engineer, Cynthia Chu–Chief Financial Officer, and Caroline Mwaura–Product Manager.

Discussion panel members

After each Audible panelist gave an overview of their role, the students asked them “What did you want to do when you were 16?” Some of the panelists knew, but many didn’t. Everyone seemed to have tried and tested different fields and majors, and some even came from different countries and backgrounds. However, after much exploration, every one of their paths have led them to Audible.

The girls learned about how each woman found technology and how they used it in their personal lives. Amie spoke to using her coding skills to build educational Alexa skills with her son and to create apps that allowed her to run. Nicole shared how data science has changed her day-to-day outlook, i.e., walking into a room and immediately observing and recognizing patterns in everything. Cynthia shared how she identifies development opportunities for herself and her peers.

If you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried hard enough. In the spirit of innovation, we got onto the topic of celebrating failure as an individual and as an organization. Each panelist agreed that failures and successes are equally important for growth, and how fundamental it is to celebrate both.

The panel concluded with a round of rapid-fire questions for each panelist:

“What are you actually listening to on Audible?”

“It’s Friday night 9 PM, where can we find you?”

Audible Studios

A field trip to Audible is incomplete without a tour of Audible Studios. Audio Engineers shared insider info on the behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing an audiobook—from picking voice actors to the process of narrating and engineering the final product. 

Student entering Audible Studios Group of students touring Audible Studios

Newark Venture Partners

Newark Venture Partners (NVP) is a unique tech hub just a few floors beneath us. Excited to showcase a different flavor of technology to the students, NVP showed us around the modern space, spoke to the process of entrepreneurship and how they make decisions about determining a company’s potential, and funding their ideas.

Discussion with Newark Venture Partners As we discussed the types of ideas that come through and how ideas transform, we walked around the space and hung out with a few different companies. The girls walked out of with fun freebies, and had the opportunity to speak to entrepreneurs firsthand from various companies like Claim It. 

Students discussing with people from the company Claim It

Building Alexa skills

Amie Greenwald led a tech workshop on building Alexa skills building off the ice-breaker activity. The girls got Alexa to play samples from specific books, pick a book from a particular category, and more. 

Amie Greenwald providing instructions regarding the Alexa technical exercise Students working on Alexa techical skills with Audible employees

Together we learned, debugged, and ended the session with each student being able to demo their projects on Echo Dots. Alas, we had to continue the tradition of technology puns. Last year when developing on Raspberry Pis, we had raspberry pies for dessert. This year, we couldn’t resist giving away Dots candy along with the Echo Dots.

Amazon Echo Dot and the candy Dots

The field trips may have come to an end, but impact and engagement are building momentum.

To share a few words from the students:

Today I learned that…

“Taking risks are fun”
“Failure should be celebrated”
“Going into tech can lead to many careers”
“There’s a lot I can do with tech if I have a background in computer science”
“I want to work at a company like this”
“It’s okay if you don’t know what to do”
“It’s never too late to pursue an interest in computer science”
“There are many aspects of the tech field that I do not know about”
“It takes so much more than just a recording to manage audiobooks, and tech has such a huge outreach”

Even as employees, panelists may continue to reminisce about what they were thinking at the age of 16, organizers continue to use feedback to add value and celebrate the successes and failures, and so our mission continues.

Students and Audible employees working together