Photo by : Wojtek Rajski

Author : Janel Hull, ChickTech Portland Program Manager

ChickTech’s High School VIPs Get an Inside Look at the Tech World at ACT-W Portland

For many young women, their interest in STEM begins to wane as they enter high school, which is a critical time in their lives. And while each girl’s personal reasons for losing interest in STEM varies, a recent study by Microsoft and KRC Research suggests that girls lose interest due to peer pressure, lack of role models, and insufficient support from parents and teachers. Since its inception, ChickTech has aimed to change this by sparking an interest in STEM studies among young girls and teens to create a more diverse tech community.

High School Programs Set the Stage for Success

One of ChickTech’s core programs is one that’s specifically designed for high schoolers. ChickTech: High School is a year-long program that provides hands-on workshops, mentoring, and internship opportunities. All of our high school workshops aim to heighten participants’ self-confidence and interest in technology to ultimately increase the number of girls pursuing technology careers.

More recently, ChickTech Portland hosted its annual ACT-W Portland conference at Portland State University, and for the first time, we invited high school girls to attend their very first tech conference for free. These students joined over 500 women in tech for a conference full of speaking sessions, hands-on workshops, one-on-one coaching sessions, a career fair, and so much more. Additionally, we hosted a VIP lunch, where high schoolers were assigned to tables with employees from Portland’s local TechTown companies.

Students like Ayantu Boriyu, a high school sophomore, attended the lunch. She, among other curious teens, met with TechTown companies (including Cloudability, EROI, Treehouse, AWS Elemental, Puppet, Cozy, Jama Software, Zapproved, Instrument, New Relic, Open Sesame, and, and spoke with employees from local technology companies. Through the mentorship event, these students gained an intimate inside look at what it’s like to work in tech. Ayantu also spoke at the conference and noted how programs like this only further her commitment and drive to become an engineer.

TechTown Gives Girls a Chance

Students like Ayantu might not be able to have opportunities like this if wasn’t for the generous contributions and support from companies like those associated with Portland’s TechTown. One company that was particularly instrumental in making this year’s VIP lunch a success was Cloudability, who has been a tireless advocate for youth empowerment in technology and was a platinum sponsor of the conference. Marcus Carter, a TechTown leader and Talent Acquisition Partner at Cloudability, co-created the vision for the VIP lunch and helped make the event a success. When he presented the concept to the TechTown leadership team, he was able to get their buy-in, as they could also see the value in high school students being able to connect with and create one-on-one relationships with people are who are currently working in the field.

Upcoming Opportunities for Women and Girls in Tech

In addition to this recent high school VIP lunch, we have several other events coming up where students can get involved and dip their toes into the tech world, including:

ACT-W Seattle: September 14–15, 2018 – The Seattle event will host a diverse lineup of speakers. Hakim Cunningham will discuss the crossroads of tech and social impact through women of color, Terra Cooke will explain how Cardi B helps her stay in tech and security, and Erin Loman Jeck will share how you can become an influencer within your company by applying communication and psychology. Check out the full line up of speakers and register here.

ACT-W Bay Area: October 20, 2018  – This one-day event is a steal at only $25 per ticket. Join Bay Area women in tech for a full day of networking and career development sessions. You can nab your ticket here.

If you’d like to learn more about ChickTech’s programs, please visit