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Do high school girls and IT go together in your mind? Be prepared to see such image increasingly more in the future because the girls at Summer IT School, organized by non-profit organization Czechitas, just completely floored anyone who was part of the project. Their approach, imagination, manner of cooperation, and mostly the ability to learn and troubleshoot on the spot should be an inspiration for developers and creative teams of quite a few corporations.

 

Czechitas is a Czech non-profit organization that educates, inspires, and motivates women and girls to give the information technology world a try. Founded by Dita Přikrylová, the organization gives intensive courses in the areas such as web design, graphic design, data analysis or programming basics. In 2016 alone they managed to prepare 90 workshops and courses for 2,225 women regardless of age, education, previous experience, and technical skills.

 

A Promising Field

Thanks to Czechitas, a number of housewives, mums on maternity leave, or female graduates, hopelessly looking for a job in their field, found use in new and attractive areas with huge future viability. The organization raises awareness through their highly active social media community and also thanks to numerous ambassadors visiting high schools and colleges all over the Czech Republic. Summer IT School was in such a high demand this year that not all applicants got to participate. The best part is that the girls chose to voluntarily attend the course to broaden their knowledge in the IT field at the time of their summer holiday, when they could be spending their time sunbathing or relaxing.

During the Summer IT School course, Czechitas scheduled a programme that was supposed to introduce the girls to programming, vector graphics, app development, working with Legorobots, and a number of other activities. On Thursday, they got a taste of the ŠKODA IT department and visited the headquarters of the ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab division in Prague, which engages in innovative digital solutions, services, and technologies that have a great importance for the carmaker’s future development. “We like what the Mladá Boleslav car manufacturer and its digital department do and how they push forward in the IT area,” commented Pavla Verflová of Czechitas when asked about the connection the two organizations have created.

IT Girls Are in Demand

Modern ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab premises located in Prague’s Holešovice quarter welcomed the girls with five stands where they could give a try to various tasks, related not only to ŠKODA’s IT world. After dividing into five groups, they could walk in the shoes of the carmaker’s designers and visionaries, get their hands on virtual reality or change a sports car’s tyre while racing the clock.

Even the welcome itself could boost the interest in information technologies right away because it was taken over by Michaela Tomíková of ŠKODA AUTO and Petra Hubačová of ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab and their personal stories telling how they got into the IT field. Adriana Velechovská, ŠKODA AUTO’s HR Marketing specialist, put an emphasis on the Mladá Boleslav automaker’s interest in engaging girls with education in IT areas. The greatest surprises were created at two specific stands where the visitors could design a logo for the carmaker’s new model and where they could have their say on how they imagine a car of the near future. Biases and deep-rooted methods were thrown away and the collective brainstorming was focused on all aspects of transportation means of tomorrow.

Can Your Car Do This?

What would be next ŠKODA cars capable of, if they got in the hands of the Summer IT School participants? They will be able to manage even big asperities like for example stairs, thanks to the flexible hydraulic wheel frame. All windows will close when air conditioning gets turned on. An infrared camera built into the windscreen will prevent collision with animals. Security was a widely discussed topic in general. According to the girls, window frames restraining side vision, should be replaced by glass edges. Bulletproof windows and indestructible tyres will become standard. The car will constantly monitor life functions of its driver or other people in the car as well. In accordance with latest trends, it will be possible to control the car by voice.

The cars will also get a whole range of independent features: as soon as fuel or energy levels drop, the car will drive itself to the petrol station or charging station, where it will look after being prepared for the next journey, completely on its own. The car will be interconnected with your fridge, which will automatically prepare a shopping list and send the car to the shop. All parts will be automatically watched and when the time for replacement comes, the car will take itself to the service. Of course, there will be wi-fi, an onboard coffee machine, a possibility to set profiles of different drivers, or easily washable and removable car seat covers. You can look forward to hydrogen fuelled cars or foldable wings in case that the roads down there get too jammed…

New Apps

In the frame of one task, the participants got a chance to try out the ŠKODA Connect service which already today makes lives of new ŠKODA car owners easier. It is a great deal of help for those who sometimes get lost in underground parking houses or at packed carparks, trying to remember in which sector they had left their car. The app is compatible with smartphones and tablets, which lead their owners to their lost car. The other way of localising your ŠKODA, is to remotely hoot or blink its lights. All the young ladies were highly praised by Petra Hubačová from ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab. “I was surprised to see where 16 year old girls are today and was thinking about what I was doing at their age.

On Monday they knew almost nothing about IT, and on Friday, during hackathon, they programmed and created a tool, which is able to detect colour of the surface it has been put on, for colour blind people. They programmed their mobile app just within a couple of hours. Professional IT departments should see that!” says Petra Hubačová. She highly appreciated their proactivity. Later, when mentioning a team testing new ŠKODA cars in extreme temperatures from Africa all the way to Siberia, during the opening lecture, one young lady came up with the question how to become a member of this department. How the girls liked the Summer IT School, can be best told from several cards left in the “Bořek” box, where the participants would anonymously throw their comments:

 

Girls’ view of the IT world is completely different,
says Adriana Velechovská, HR Marketing specialist for IT from ŠKODA AUTO

Common workshop of ŠKODA AUTO, ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab and Czechitas NGO during their Summer IT School, focused on teenage girls interested in IT. What lead you to this cooperation?
We are trying to support diversity and tell that ŠKODA IT is open to women. That is why we like organisations like Czechitas which aims to attract more women and girls to this branch. As there is higher demand on IT specialists on Czech market, we want to make already pupils of elementary schools interested in this area. At the same time, we are cooperating with universities whose students get regularly invited to IT Days in ŠKODA. The students get an opportunity to have a look at our museum, production, data centre, and take part in different workshops with topics like virtual reality, connectivity etc.

Why is it a good idea to attract girls to IT and moreover to a car factory, which is on the first sight twice as much a male domain?
Girls see things from a bit different perspective. Apart from other things, our IT specialists are in charge of different projects and communicate with deliverers and developers, concerning what should be programmed and how. This makes them rather project managers. Women bring more subtle view to project management. Satisfaction is on both sides, because men are happy to have female colleagues in IT.

 

Adriana Velechovská
HR Marketing specialist for IT, ŠKODA AUTO
Can you tell how many IT specialists currently work for the car factory in Mladá Boleslav?
Currently, we have around 1,500 IT specialists working for ŠKODA and this number is not definite. We are still opening new positions, which are created due to the great IT boom in automotive. Women and girls are of course welcome too.

How did you like the event in ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab?
The event organised in cooperation with Czechitas exceeded my expectations. I hadn´t expected that girls would enjoy it that much and we would definitely like to stay in touch. I hope we succeeded in motivating them and telling them that work at a car factory is not just about car production and mechanical labour, but also about modern technologies and realization of future visions.