Interview by Breanne Thomas
Hi Katie! How did you first get into computer science, and how did that lead to the creation of Code Circle?
I actually used to be solely focused on humanities. When I was 10, I won an honorable mention in a New York book pitching contest, and since then have published 3 books. Going into high school, I was set on becoming a professional writer.
At my school, each grade has an assigned color (the freshman are green, for example). Early in freshman year, I had nothing green to wear for spirit week, so I signed up for Gatorbotics (Castilleja’s first robotics team) simply to get their free, green t-shirt. I had no intention of actually participating in the team, but I felt bad, so I went to the season kickoff in January. Immediately the energy and community of robotics captivated me. The upper classmen devoted their time to teaching me how to code, and I got to work hands-on with the robot, both designing and building mechanisms. For days on end, I learned college level math, complex machines, nitty gritty circuits, and everything in between. During that six week season, the lab became my second home.
After cultivating my computer science knowledge in robotics, I taught Google’s CSFirst Curriculum at Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula (BGCP) last spring in an effort to share my own passion for programming. However, every week I would be disappointed when most of the 4th and 5th grade students begged to play video games instead. So that’s when I founded Code Circle to share my own passion for programming with others.
As a young CEO and entrepreneur, what has been your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
I thought that my biggest challenge would be my lack of experience, but it has actually been the opposite. Everyone I’ve reached out to has been extraordinarily welcoming and helpful, and I’ve secured amazing opportunities even at 16 years old. I can truthfully say that I’ve learned more about myself and real-world skills in the past three months of running Code Circle than I have in my entire life of schooling.
Rather, my biggest challenge has been time. I am a junior in high school with rigorous classes, standardized testing, social events, and numerous extracurriculars, all on top of Code Circle. My dad jokes that I’m the absent father of the house because I always have meetings, emails, and work to do. Occasionally, I’ve let Code Circle consume my life and I’ve always seen the negative effects of being a workaholic on my personal health and my relationships.
Therefore, I had to adopt many habits to prevent my business ventures from taking over my life. The first is maintaining a routine sleep schedule — going to bed no later than 11pm and waking up at around 6am. This allows me to be more alert during my working hours and ultimately more productive. I also find my productivity to be increased by exercise, so I fit workouts into my schedule. Finally, I love lists. I have them for everything: school, work, social plans, events — you name it. These lists allow me to organize my life and break down what I need to do, so I can finish tasks more efficiently and take smaller steps toward larger goals.
What do you hope to do once you graduate from high school?
Once I graduate from high school, I plan on attending college to obtain a double major in computer science and business, specifically entrepreneurship. Many entrepreneurs believe that college isn’t necessary because they think can learn all necessary skills in the real world. However, I believe to be a successful entrepreneur you also need a technical skillset, which in many cases can only be truly solidified through college.
If you look at the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, they fall into three categorical backgrounds: business, technology, or both. A handful of extraordinary executives fall into the first two categories, such as Jeff Bezos and Marissa Mayer. However, the majority of successful executives fall into the sweet spot of the third category, with both a business and technical background, including superstars such as Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai.
I want to double major to obtain both a technical and business skills that can be utilized in my future entrepreneurial ventures. In the coming years and in college, I aspire to launch a for-profit startup to solve a real world problem. I don’t plan on attending graduate school, but instead hope that by the time I graduate from college, my startups will have made a significant impact on the world.