Sage Franch, Top Developer Evangelist, Blogger, Computer Science Guru Innovator, and YouthSpark Advisor and Ambassador at YouthSpark Live in Vancouver

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Sage Franch.

Sage FranchSage Franch is a Developer Evangelist and student with a passion for equality in technology. Through her work with YouthSpark and her blog Trendy Techie, Sage works to be a positive role model for women and girls and anyone interested in a career in technology.

Sage is a Computer Science major at Dalhousie University in Halifax, works as a Technical Evangelist intern at Microsoft Canada, and writes and operates Trendy Techie, a blog about technology, fashion, and life as a young woman in tech. In the six years that she has been coding she has learned more than six programming languages and used those languages to make dozens of apps, games and websites. What she loves about coding is how versatile it is - once you learn to program you can work on projects across all industries.

When Sage first started working in tech, a lot of people told her that she didn't look like a coder. Those people were thinking about old-school stereotypes about "geeks" and "nerds", but nowadays those stereotypes simply don't apply. Anyone can code, and your ability to do so is not determined by your looks, gender, race, or age - it is only determined by your interest and initiative to take the first step.

To listen to the podcast (a dynamic exchange based upon and adding to the Q & A), click on this MP3 file link


Q: Sage you have such a passion for contributions in technology and beyond. Thank you for sharing your considerable success history, deep accumulated insights, and wisdom with our audience.

A:  "Thank you Stephen, the YouthSpark initiative is something I'm very passionate about, so I'm really happy to talk with you about it."

Q: What are you accomplishing at YouthSpark Live in Vancouver?

A:  "YouthSpark Live is under the umbrella of our global YouthSpark initiative. This year, the event will bring together 100 students from the Vancouver area for a day-long conference focused on three main areas: skills development, coding, and careers in technology. Currently, 50 per cent of the job market requires technical skills and it is estimated that that number will increase to 77 per cent in the next decade. YouthSpark is really about providing students with resources so they can develop the skills needed for the competitive 21st century workforce. YouthSpark Live is centered on providing youth with an opportunity to learn basic coding skills (which opens up a world of career opportunities in technical fields), and to hear from inspiring professionals including government elite, Molly Burke from Me to We, interns from Microsoft's Foundry internship program, YouthSpark Ambassador Genevieve L'Esperance and Microsoft Canada representatives."

Q: How do you measurably contribute as a YouthSpark Ambassador?

A:  "YouthSpark is all about providing youth with opportunities to explore technology. Being a YouthSpark Ambassador is like being an evangelist of these opportunities. Providing students with opportunities is half the battle finding creative and inspiring ways to help them discover these opportunities is the other half.

As a Technical Evangelist and YouthSpark Ambassador I have participated in a number of engagements that inspire youth to build coding skills. Most significantly, I co-presented Microsoft's Hour of Code tutorial, which reached over 16,000 viewers worldwide. I also co-present the CODExist courses on Microsoft Virtual Academy, the first of which reached over 5,000 students in its first month online. Both these initiatives are training materials centered on TouchDevelop, which is a free, browser-based tool through which people can learn to code in a pseudo code-like language and create publishable apps. TouchDevelop was developed by Microsoft Research and it is the language we will be teaching during our coding session at YouthSpark Live."

Q: Why did you choose a Computer Science major at Dalhousie University?

A:  "I had always loved science and math growing up and when I took my first coding course in tenth grade I was hooked. Coding is like math with words that makes magic happen, and the limitlessness of technology careers really appealed to me. Studying Computer Science was a natural choice, and Dalhousie has been fantastic."

Q: What are the most important lessons from your top 10 Trendy Techie blogs?

A:  "Trendy Techie is really about showing people what it's like to work in the tech industry. I was inspired to start Trendy Techie after going into an electronics store to purchase a new PC. I encountered an employee there who, after I expressed my need for a computer with the power to support coding, told me I didn't look like someone who knew how to code. That moment was shocking for me seeing the stereotype come to life so I started Trendy Techie to counter those stories. I wanted to provide youth, girls and women with a relatable example of a real woman in tech and not to be deterred. I wanted to show that you can be smart and stylish you dont have to choose between looking good and being good at what you do. I also firmly recommend to others to say yes to opportunities beyond their skillset and to challenge themselves to learn."

Q: Why should women and girls choose STEM careers?

A:  "It's not a question of why women should choose STEM careers, it's a question of why people should choose STEM careers. Women and girls should choose STEM careers for the same reasons men and boys do. When it boils down to it, if your passions and interests line up with STEM careers, you should choose those careers, regardless of your gender."

Q: In your current role, what top 10 resources and lessons can you share with the audience?

A:  "I'd say the YouthSpark Hub is probably the best source for youth who might want to get involved. It contains more than 30 great free resources for youth and anyone interested in embracing technology. Some key resources include: Microsoft Imagine, helping students to create apps and games; Imagine Cup, which is a global student tech competition; and the Microsoft IT Academy, providing tech skills and certification to students and educators. It all ties back to what we're looking to accomplish at YouthSpark Live."

Q: You have many interests. Can you talk further about them?

A:  "I do have many interests, spanning a variety of fields, but the great thing about what I do is they all go hand-in-hand within Trendy Techie and within my role at Microsoft. Working in tech lets you find a way to combine many interests into one role for example, my work as a Technical Evangelist combines my interests in technology, development, writing, art and even photography since Im doing a lot of work with the Kinect, one of our augmented reality devices. It's truly great to have found a role that combines all these interests."

Q: From your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share a story (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).

A:  "I'll share an uplifting story that just happened about two weeks ago. A father of two young girls (aged 9 and 10) contacted me on Twitter about Trendy Techie, saying that he showed my blog to his girls and that I might be their new hero. That was rewarding in itself, but it gets better. He asked me for help finding resources to foster his girls' interest in technology and keep them on that digital path, and I pointed him to the Hour of Code materials that I recorded with my colleague Susan Ibach in December of last year. I didn't hear from him for a few days, but then the following week he tweeted me again, this time sharing pictures of his two daughters on their computers with the Hour of Code windows open and said, "Look what you've done to my Saturday." That was a really uplifting moment for me."

Q: If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?

A:  "I think you've actually asked what I would have! As I'd mentioned, I'm really passionate about YouthSpark and feel it's a great program for youth not only in Canada but around the world. I'd want to know more about it and how youth can benefit. It's really a great way for young people to capture opportunity and see a path to the jobs of the future."

Q: What are added key messages you wish to share with youth?

A:  "The best action young people can take is to explore different interests. Youth is a fantastic part of life because you get to experience things anew and discover what really interests you my advice to youth is to try everything and say yes to as many opportunities as you can."

Q: Who do you admire and why?

A:  "I admire a number of people, for many different reasons. My parents for their dedication and tenacity; my grandfather for exploring and building technology despite his rural background; the women in technology who have come before me and paved the way for the rest of us to be respected and valued in technical industries; and the fathers and mothers - of computing, including Microsoft's own Bill Gates, who continues to shape and inspire the world through his outstanding philanthropy."

Q: Sage, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your substantial wisdom with our audience.

  (Editorial Note regarding podcast: We have included as reference a question which Stephen posed earlier to Maria Klawe and her response.)

Question to Maria Klawe: With your incredible success history of many significant international leadership roles and recognitions, from Harvey Mudd presidency, Microsoft and Broadcom board directorships, and most recently the CACSAIC Lifetime Achievement Award, if you could sum up your life experiences with career tips for our youth audience at YouthSpark Live and the ICT professional, what would be your tips and the reasons behind them?

Response from Maria Klawe:  
  • Learn the creative problem solving approaches of computer science.
    ....It will help no matter what career or discipline you end up pursuing.
  • Embrace your inner imposter, but don't let it keep you from aiming high and persisting. ....People (like me) who often feel like a failure are often successful because the feeling of failure comes from having high expectations for our performance. Moreover, we all learn more from examining what we see as our failures than our successes. The only downside of 'imposteritis' is if it keeps us from taking on challenges and sticking with them until we succeed.
  • Take the time learn something that you are naturally bad at. learn how to learn much better from working on something which is difficult for you.
  • It doesn't matter how successful you become, there is no excuse for not treating others with respect.
  • Be crazy 20 percent of the time (could be less), but don't spend all of your time trying to optimize your career or whatever.
    ....take some time to do something that is totally unrelated.
  • Generally it is very important to get feedback from others about what you are doing. will actually do better hearing from people who don't like what you are doing than just hearing from people who are your supporters.
  • Don't polarize or depolarize.
    ....the world is not black and white, but many shades of grey and the more people realize that and keep an open mind the better off we will all be.