Learn to Code Workshop with Microsoft

On May 13th, IGNITE Worldwide welcomed high school girls and non-binary students to a virtual coding workshop with Microsoft! The workshop began with the students learning about various coding languages used in the tech world. Students participated in a poll to guess which, from a list of coding languages, was not a real coding language. They were surprised to learn that “chicken” was the name of a real coding language! Students learned about roles at Microsoft and the programming language, Small Basic.

Then, the students enjoyed a wonderful panel session with women in STEM from Microsoft. 

Michelle Chamberlin, Software Engineer II, works on Windows and got her degree in astronomy. She was into science and computers in middle school and especially liked analyzing data with software. Michelle shared about how software engineering is both intellectually rewarding and pays well, and how we really need diversity in this field! 

Sufen Fong, Senior Program Manager, is originally from Singapore and works on things like streaming and e-commerce. She has also worked on Xbox controllers! Sufen loves reading and credits the book “Journey to the Center of the Earth” for sparking her interest in technology.

Ria Chang, Program Manager, works on Xbox experiences and showed us her new Xbox! She grew up loving drawing, painting, and writing, and tried everything, including a coding class (which she loved!). Ria went to college for computer science and became a Program Manager because she loves working with people to build solutions.

The students enjoyed hearing how the women got involved in tech and about their different experiences and paths. Excellent questions were asked, including: 

  • What do you wish you would have done sooner?
  • What is it like to be a woman in STEM and are you ever treated differently?
  • What should we aim to accomplish by the end of high school?

Panelists’ responses and advice to the students included:

  • Begin exploring your interests in STEM now and start making connections!
  • Find a mentor to guide you and help you accomplish your goals.
  • Take as many STEM classes as you can in high school and college to figure out what you enjoy most.
  • Try as many things as you can, especially extracurricular activities.
  • Know that there are a lot of different jobs in tech.
  • Passion for what you are doing is what matters! 
  • Never give up! If you fail, try again!
  • Microsoft’s success is built on diversity in the workplace, so don’t be afraid to enter STEM just because you’re a woman. There is so much that everyone can bring to the table!

The question and answer session was a highlight for the students and they appreciated how relatable and genuine the panelists were in their responses. 

For the breakout activity, the students were given the task of using Small Basic coding to move a turtle through a maze to the finish line! Students were extremely engaged and were able to problem-solve together to accomplish the task. They loved the hands-on introduction to coding and really enjoyed being able to see how a description can be turned into an animation using code. Many students felt accomplished and successful and by the end of the event, everyone felt inspired to work for a company like Microsoft!

We’d like to thank Kristi Yankacy, who did an amazing job of guiding students through the event, and Tech Host Casey Schaertl, who kept everyone online and on track! Thank you to Panelists Michelle Chamberlin, Sufen Fong, and Ria Chang, and Breakout Room Leaders Marcela Alvarez Rodriguez, Balaji Balasubramanyan, Cassandra Collins, Sumita Verma, Cindy, and Genevieve for this fun and educational workshop!

After attending this event:


of students are interested in STEM


of students know more about STEM career choices and the benefits of working in a STEM field


of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

“Today’s event inspired me and I learned to not let being a woman stop me from doing what I want to do.” – 9th grade

“Seeing the women loving their jobs and working so hard in STEM inspired me to do the same! I loved this panel!” – 10th grade

“Today’s event inspired me because it ignited the spark I had for coding, which I haven’t done in a long time.” – 9th grade

“I think the event today was very entertaining and it was refreshing seeing such great diversity.” – 9th grade

“I learned that we should not be afraid to do something we enjoy. Since I enjoy building and 3D CADing, I will pursue a career in that field in the future (such as civil engineering).” – 10th grade

“I’m inspired by each of the panelist’s individual stories and how that all led to where they are today. I learned a little bit more about programming specifically and how that impacts the world today and I found that very interesting.” – 9th grade

“I’m thankful for them taking time out of their day to get on Zoom with us and teach us. Also, how great it is for them to strive in STEM as women proving that we can do what men can too!” – 9th grade

“I thoroughly enjoyed it and having a job and starting a career seems so far away (I do still have a couple years) but hearing your experiences helped make it seem more possible and made me more motivated to pursue a career in STEM.” – 9th grade

“I have an idea of which field I want to go in for a job (it may change though), as I think I might enjoy a career in coding, but people in those jobs always felt so distant and almost far away. After this event and getting to more closely listen to others’ experiences, I feel like I can start to see myself having a job like this.” – 9th grade

“It was really inspiring to see the cultural diversity of the women that spoke today.” – 10th grade

“This is one of the two events I have attended that I LOVED because we got to do an activity. I would also like the volunteers to know that they did an awesome job explaining and answering each question.” – 9th grade

“The event today inspired me to get a career with coding like a computer science engineer, and to keep my education going. This event also inspired me to not only pursue my career but teach others the basics of coding.” – 9th grade

“Seeing females working in STEM has really inspired me to pursue my interest in STEM, because I was hesitant about me going into STEM as a woman.” – 12th grade

“Today’s event inspired me by helping me see other women’s experiences in STEM. After hearing their stories, it has interested me and I want to explore more in programming.” – 10th grade

“I felt more inspired to pursue a future career in the STEM/engineering field. Before today, I was hesitant as I did not have much prior experience in coding and software.” – 10th grade

“Thanks for the fun lesson!! It changed my perspective about getting a career in STEM.” – 9th grade

“Today’s event inspired me by teaching me that you can work in the STEM field and not necessarily just in computer science. I loved the idea of working in the business field of Microsoft.” – 9th grade

“Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences. Not only did this workshop expand my knowledge, it also inspired me a lot seeing how successful you are as women!” – 10th grade

“I felt more confident about having a career in STEM. This has changed my perspective, by meeting women in STEM.” – 9th grade

“I’ve become more interested in STEM and I’ve learned a lot!” – 11th grade

“Today’s event inspired me because there were women showing that sexism in jobs doesn’t mean you can’t do that job. It was also cool seeing women of other races striving in coding.” – 9th grade

“It was great to see women talk about STEM. I liked how they thoroughly answered all of my questions.” – 9th grade

“I thought that you guys were really amazing women! It was comforting to hear from other women that work in STEM field whether you were actually coding, or just doing the business or marketing side of things.” – 9th grade