How Learning to Code Can Change Your Life
Before Karlie Kloss was a massively famous supermodel, she was a self-described "math and science nerd," as she put it in an essay for Teen Vogue. But it wasn't until recently that she decided to return to her interests of yore and found herself entering a brave new world: coding. After signing up for her first coding class three years ago, she came to believe that coding “is a superpower every young woman should be able to access,” and has since gone on to found Kode With Klossy, a summer camp and scholarship program dedicated to encouraging girls to learn coding.
And Kloss, of course, isn’t alone in her passion for the ever-relevant language. Coding scholarships, classes and educational online platforms have proliferated around the world in recent years, making it easier than ever to add a tech bent to your skill set. But is it worth it? According to Nicole Kelner, COO of New York’s The Coding Space, learning to code can be life-changing; it certainly was for her.
Early in 2012, Kelner had a vision. She had created the SmartPurse, a clutch designed to keep your smartphone easily accessible, and she wanted to start a website that would allow customers to custom design their own versions of these bags. The only problem? “I tried to code it myself,” says Kelner, “and found it impossible.” In the end, the product launched with a single style; Kelner had to nix her vision of a customization option because she couldn’t execute on the site-building end.
Fast forward to 2015 and Kelner had folded SmartPurse. She was traveling the world while working as the program manager for Hacker Paradise, and once again, she found herself at a career crossroads because of coding. “I was constantly surrounded by engineers speaking about coding languages. And I was curious, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying.”
This time, Kelner had a realization: “I don't think I specifically wanted to learn to code to move my career forward,” she says. “It was that I felt coding was such a challenge that I realized I wanted to tackle it.” Arriving back in New York City, Kelner met up with her friends Eli Kariv and Steve Krouse. A month earlier, Kariv and Krouse had started The Coding Space, an after-school program in Manhattan where students of all ages can learn to code. Kelner jumped on board: “I was planning to just help out for a month or two. But I ended up falling in love with the company we were creating.”
Krouse wrote all the curriculum for The Coding Space and Kelner ended up learning to code right alongside the kids who attended the classes. Almost two years later, Kelner is COO of The Coding Space and has created an all-girls coding program, Girl Code, that operates within The Coding Space.
“I was inspired to start an all-girls coding program to inspire girls to develop critical thinking skills and feel strong and smart. Coding has allowed me to inspire the next generation of tech leaders and help change the gender gap,” Kelner says. But she didn’t stop there; in addition, she’s launched Lemonaid.io, an online support community that allows women from around the world to speak openly about mental health, human rights and professional goals. Naturally, Kelner wrote the code for Lemonaid.io herself.
“[Learning to code] is a huge key to why I feel more confident intellectually,” says Kelner. “I feel that I can conquer and solve any problem that comes my way now.”