Hi, Could you introduce yourself?
I’m Jessie de Grano, 18 years of age, and an incoming freshman at the University of the Philippines. I would describe myself as a teenager who runs on (a lack of) sleep, Netflix, books, and furthermore, the drive to shed light on the gender and socio-economic gap in technology in the Philippines and make a change.
What are you working on?
I have been the Vice President for Community Development at WiTech for the last year. Included in the amazing job description are organizing networking opportunities for the WiTech members as well as managing our sustainable outreach initiative Wi-Teach (Women in Tech Teach). So far, we’ve held 4 Wi-Teach programs in and out of Metro Manila. We’ve taught more than 100 students, teachers, facilitators, and even mothers! We’re excited to keep this project up and running for the next years.
How did you get into your current field?
I’ve always been interested in STEM and more specifically, technology. I’ve been taking a STEM track for my high school life. Additionally, I’ll also be entering a science course in college. I joined WiTech even if I was just a high school student because I felt that I could be heard and I could make a change. I wanted others to experience the introductions to science and tech that I received. To this day, to educate, inspire, and empower others are still my goals along with WiTech’s.
Why is it important to bring tech to marginalized communities?
At WiTech, we recognize the enormous potential that technology has to make a difference in society. However, in order to advocate for true equality, we need to be able to provide all Filipino youth with the tools necessary for them to even consider science and tech for the future. Because tech education is a privilege when it should be a right in the Philippines, we launched Wi-Teach or Women in Tech Teach, which is a project that aims to provide technology and technology education to the students of marginalized areas. It may sound cliché but the youth are the future. Introducing them to science and tech at a young age is a step in destroying these gaps in our society.
Can you tell us about the challenges and successes of your program?
As a non-profit organization, our biggest challenge is gathering our resources to make the most out of our programs. We overcome this by reaching out to as many people as we can and finding people who are willing to help us. As previously stated, we’ve had four W-Teach programs. These include programs in and out of Metro Manila, namely in Marawi City, Bohol, Makati City, and Quezon City. WiTech has given workshops with introductions to STEM, Microsoft Office, computer usage, and simple programming languages. We find that the easiest way to introduce tech is by letting their creativity shine. When we were teaching the students, they described changing themes, adding animations, and finding clipart, simple technology for us, as “Magic!”.
What we proudly believe is unique about Wi-Teach is that not only do we teach the students, but we also teach willing teachers. Just like the students, the teachers in these communities don’t necessarily get opportunities to explore the different facets of technology that can potentially improve their teaching methods. By teaching teachers, we are also making sure that we are maximizing the spread of tech education. This makes our Wi-Teach programs sustainable with more long-term outcomes.
As of 2020, WiTech has connected with more than 100 students, 15 teachers and 10+ mothers, but we are positive that this impact will spread further. WiTech has also donated 8 secondhand laptops. We also leave modules for learning without our direct supervision and we offer full communication for the students and teachers after our programs. Over the last few months, these beneficiaries have been asking for more, an indicator of our success in igniting their passion for STEM. For the rest of the time that we’re not doing these programs, we’ve been successful in developing modules from basic computer usage to simple coding.
In the end, WiTech and Wi-Teach have been successful because it is simply just a group of passionate students who aspire to make a difference. Wi-Teach, despite the workload, proves to be worth it every single time we see bright eyes and grateful smiles. We’ve got a lot more lined up after this cycle. WiTech has over 10 planned WiTeach programs and 300 students to reach in schools in and out of Metro Manila.
What are your goals?
Some of my long-term goals are to connect with even more communities and organizations to make our programs the most sustainable that they can be
Personally, I’m really looking to educate others on issues that they may possibly not be facing but are affecting the less privileged. Education is the key to action and collective action is the key to progress.
Do you have a mentor?
I really look up to my other fellow Filipinas who are also wo-manning their organization such as our very own Audrey Pe and Marla Abao from WiTech, Arizza Nocum from KRIS Library, Chiara Amisola from Developh. They’re all true testaments to what we can do to make a change in this country and in the world. Apart from these role models, the teachers and friends I’ve met along the way.
Do you mentor anyone?
As of now, I’m not mentoring anyone but hopefully, through our programs, we are reaching the hearts of young boys and girls and inspiring them. I’d love to start mentoring and talking about anything and everything with anyone!
What could the tech industry do to better foster female talent?
Representation of women in the tech industry is still unfortunately largely lacking. Women need to be acknowledged, heard, and included across all platforms, not just technology. This can be done through removing gender stereotypes in the workplace, at home, and everywhere else. Moreover, equal pay and employment are only some of the steps essential to equality in the tech industry. Lastly, ounger generations need to be encouraged that they can be heard in the future.
What advice would you give to people getting into your field?
My advice is to not be afraid to speak up. So many of our partnerships and events have been successful because of our team not being afraid to introduce ourselves and our work as well as not being afraid to point out room for improvement.
What's the best advice you have received?
The best piece of advice I’ve received and even discovered down the line is that age is just a number. You can do anything (even start up an organization!) at any age as long as you have the drive and passion for it.
Who do you follow? What blogs do you read?
I love to follow other organizations in and out of the Philippines who may or may not angle themselves towards other issues such as climate change. Moreover, my nightstand is filled with works by Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama, Margaret Atwood, and others. Even reading the works/blog articles by my fellow org-mates is a big part of my day. Lastly, as a teenager, I love to stay updated with my hobbies. This includes watching reading my books or watching Bon Appetit videos late into the night.
What’s the best way to keep up to date with what you’re doing?
I’m actually going to be the WiTech Manila Chapter Head starting this August. In line with this, I’m excited for WiTech Manila’s next cycle and the work that will come out. To stay updated, you may follow me on Instagram (@jessiedegrano) or WiTech on FB, IG (@witechorg), and Twitter (@witechorg). Feel free to hit us up!