Forever True, For Iowa State

A code of their own

Girls tend not to choose computer science careers partly because of a lack of role models. That’s where 2017 computer science graduate Kelsey Hrubes comes in.

“When hearing the word ‘programming,’ most girls think of the stereotype of the nerdy guy with few social skills, working all by himself at a computer,” Hrubes says. “That’s definitely not what most girls want to see themselves doing.”  

That’s why she founded the nonprofit Iowa Girls Code, a website coding workshop for young girls. The friendly and chatty way Hrubes teaches makes it easy to see how she would be a role model for girls with an interest in science.

“Kelsey tends to see things the same way I do, and she’s good at sharing what she’s learned,” says one former workshop participant.

Hrubes chose her major at Iowa State almost on a whim, thinking she’d change it later in her college career when she figured out what she really wanted to do. Instead, she found that she was profoundly interested in – and good at – computer science.

Hrubes was able to pursue her degree free from financial worry thanks to the support of scholarships, some of which were established by generous donors during the historic $1.5 billion Forever True, For Iowa State campaign.

Throughout her undergraduate years, she snagged internships at Google, Workiva, Microsoft and Rockwell Collins in Germany.

While working at Google’s headquarters, Hrubes noticed what news stories have pointed out: There’s a problematic lack of women in Silicon Valley and other tech innovation hubs. Now a software engineer at Microsoft Corporation, Hrubes says that early exposure is key.

“Sure, some girls are totally aware that they want to work in computers and technology – usually because their parents are familiar with that world – but other girls might see it as nerdy and uncool. And when you are younger, that matters. I’m trying to show them all that they can be.”