Girls from Turkmenistan programming their way into the future
UNICEF joins the girls around the world to mark the “Girls in ICT Day” and shares the stories of Aylar and Shirin, two girls from Turkmenistan, who are studying programming for computer systems.
Today, on 27 April 2023, UNICEF joins the girls around the world to mark the “Girls in ICT Day” and shares the stories of Aylar and Shirin, two girls from Turkmenistan, who are studying programming for computer systems. In this article, the girls talk about their journey in the field of programming and what it took for them to succeed in this field.
Aylar is a 3rd-year student at the International University of Humanities and Development in Ashgabat studying computer programming. Prior to that she graduated from the Special School of Gifted Children in Turkmenbashi, Balkan velayat. During her school years, although Aylar excelled in information technology and mathematics, she was not too enthusiastic about these subjects until when the time came to choose her career path. Then was the time she knew she wanted to study software development and began her journey in programming.
As Aylar was learning and practicing more, she became more and more interested in this field. She started to work on small projects in order to gain more experience. She believes that hard work and enthusiasm will help her to succeed in this industry.
“Programming is not just for boys, girls can do it too, what matters the most is your experience. If you want to become a skilled IT engineer, you will need to start from small projects and even work for free”, Aylar noted.
Currently, Aylar is developing apps for Android and working on several small and large projects.
Aylar initially learned to code in Kotlin. Kotlin is a modern static programming language used by over 60% of Android mobile developers. She also used to work in Java language when she started. “Some languages are easier to work with than others. Although you might have your own preferences, it is worth to know as many as you can, to be able to provide services to different companies and clients", mentioned Aylar.
“Being a girl programmer means going through many obstacles, one of them being gender stereotypes. Ever since I started this journey, I came across strong opinions and expectations about my future and what I should and should not be doing as a girl. But I never gave up and followed my dream" said Android developer, Aylar.
Shirin is Aylar’s friend and is also enrolled at the International University for Humanities and Development studying programming. During her school days, Shirin enjoyed actively participating in computer science classes and solving difficult equations. Although she was good at math, she still did not know where or how to use her knowledge in practice. During her first year at the university, Shirin began her internship at a local small startup company, where she learned the Swift programming language. Swift is a reliable and intuitive programming language designed to write any apps in the Apple ecosystem, such as, iOS, Mac, Apple TV and Apple Watch. Shirin also learned the coding languages such as Python, Dart and Kotlin.
Stepping into the programming world Shirin did not have a mentor to guide her along the way. But constant learning, strong discipline and persistence led her to becoming an iOS mobile developer and working on complex projects.
“Not having a mentor who can guide you in the right direction is very difficult. Since I didn’t have one, Aylar and I were spending a lot of time learning together and helping each other. Now, when someone says that he or she wants to learn coding, I always try to help that person, because I know from my own experience how difficult it is to learn and understand it all by yourself," noted iOS mobile developer, Shirin.
They continue to improve and explore new ways of programming and have big plans for their careers. Despite the outdated gender stereotypes around them, Aylar and Shirin are very optimistic about the future. The girls point out that if anyone is willing to learn something and works hard to master it, nothing is impossible.
According to Aylar and Shirin, one of the things every software engineer should be able to do is acquiring the habit of Googling, that is, the practice of searching on the Internet.
In their free time, the girls enjoy doing sports and outdoor activities because, they say, sedentary work can take its toll on a programmer's health.
UNICEF asked Shirin and Aylar to give advice to girls and women, who are begining their journey in computer programming and this is what they think is important:
1. Find a mentor, that is, someone who can guide you in the right direction.
2. Proficiency in English. It is possible to enter the world of programming without knowing English, but it is important to know English to write codes in depth and to understand its core. Almost all sources related to programming are in English.
3. Be patient and work hard. No profession or business is acquired easily or in one day. When you enter the world of programming, you must accept its challenge. “There are people with outdated gender stereotypes that think some jobs are only for men or only for women. Although old gender stereotypes persist, I believe that if girls’ study and work hard day in and day out, there is nothing they cannot do. It's inspiring to have loved ones who support us in pursuing our dreams and goals, and I'm very happy that my parents have been supporting me and my every step", Aylar added.
Shirin and Aylar wish the girls, who want to start and learn coding and programming to be brave, believe in themselves and to do what makes them happy. They hope that sharing their story will encourage more girls to follow their dreams, overcome difficulties and stereotypes, and succeed in the field of ICT.