Amazing Ladies in 2019: Programmer Samantha John

There are a lot of amazing ladies out there paving the way for a better tomorrow. They inspire us, they give us hope, and they galvanize us to make changes of our own. This week we are highlighting some of the amazing ladies of our day. Next up? Samantha John. 

Samantha John is a graduate of Columbia University. She noticed that there was a big gender gap in programming, so she created Hopscotch, an app that teaches kids to code, in hopes of closing the gap. 

Image via The Asian Entrepeneur 

 

John was raised in Detroit and came to Columbia to study applied mathematics, English and comparative literature. In her senior year she discovered that not only did she really like coding, she was also really good at it. She started out after college with jobs in programming, like as an engineer at Pivotal Labs. And more often than not, she found that she was the only woman in the room. 

When talking to hacker friends about how they got started in coding, most noted that they had found interest when they were 11 or 12. Boys would grow up playing video games and dream of makiong their own. Girls were often discouraged from playing video games as children, and were even further discouraged by stereotypes like that being interested in math and science isn't "girly." Even if they find that interest on their own, they might be disappointed when they are excluded from STEM fields that are so often a "boys club." There were a lot of systemic barriers in place that made it very hard for young girls to even get started. John wanted to fix that. 

Image of Apple billboard via Hopscotch Twitter

 

She and her friend Jocelyn Leavitt began playing with ideas of starting a company. The idea was to make a tool that would draw girls in. They experimented with different concepts, but Hopscotch was the one that felt right. They worked tirelessly for more than a year to build the app while trying to make rent on the side. 

The app teaches the building blocks of coding with bright, colorful patterns and demos. It was the first program of its kind to be made for touch screen devices, which made it easier for kids who might be more comfortable on an iPad than a computer. And it worked really well. It was downloaded more than 20,000 times in its first week. Now, eight years later, two of the app's top users even transformed their experience into skills that got them a coding internship

Image via Getty

 

“It can be hard when you want to be taken seriously in the field, but your gender makes you automatically considered a beginner,” said John in an interview with the Huffington Post. “You get used to being one of the few women in the room, especially at big conferences or if you work at a big company.”

John's goal was to make coding more accessible for girls so that situations like hers would never happen again. She wanted to give girls a chance to love STEM early, and by creating this app, she makes it possible for anyone, no matter their background. Pretty amazing? We think so.