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Nicole Chapaval Advocates For More Latinas In Tech Through Teaching App Platzi

The gender disparity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs remains wide in Colombia. As of 2019, Colombian women hold 32.9 percent of all STEM jobs in the country.

Nicole Chapaval, the VP of education at Platzi, wants to get more women into STEM. As someone who found herself in tech, Chapaval understands what it takes for women to break into the industry.

Chapaval’s own passion for computer science started in her youth. Despite wanting her parents’ reservations about her career choice, she went to school to study software engineering.

“I learned how to code with Platzi. I was a student back in 2012 before I worked here,” she told mitú.

Platzi is a professional learning app targeting people ages 22 and older.

Photo courtesy of Apple

Instructors for the app are teaching livestream courses on programming, marketing, design, and business. The classes are available in English and Spanish.

Chapaval took an interest in content optimization practicing her coding on a personal blog while taking online courses. Starting out as a student advocate, the two founders of Platzi noticed her dedication and started to involve her more in the team.

As Platzi expanded, so did Chapaval’s job description.

Chapaval has been successful in her career. Yet, despite the success, she has seen the gender disparity firsthand. It has only further inspired Chavapal to work to get more women in their tech careers.

“One of my first jobs was in a company that was doing mobile applications and in this company there were 15 male developers and myself,” she says.

Wanting to engage with her male colleagues, Chapaval admitted to feeling weird when her enthusiasm was not reciprocated.

“I was always very extroverted and wanted to meet everyone [but] they didn’t want to talk with me,” she says.

Chapaval teaches 60 percent of computer sciences courses hoping to attract more women to the field.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“I think that representation is very important. So I try to be very vocal and very present with everything that we do in social media and in content creation,” she says.

Whether it be attending company livestreams or podcasts, it is imperative for Chapaval to have women witness others in the field to show the possibilities they can achieve.

Prideful, she also amplifies the achievements of other Latinas in STEM, like that of Diana Trujillo. Yet, she still expresses a need for more women to get managerial roles.

“I am very proud of Trujillo,” she says. “She’s from my hometown and she was in the NASA project that launched the Perseverance Rover. These kinds of things are great!”

Thirty-six percent of Platzi‘s more than 1 million students are women and it is growing.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“That’s very low,” she says, “but we doubled that percentage from 2018 so we still have a long way to go.”

A key step needed to attract more students is accessibility, both financially and in content. Platzi, Chapaval mentions, offers free programming courses that aim to be accessible to those with low internet connection in all parts of Colombia and Latin America.

It’s not just about what you are learning as an individual, but also as a team or a group,” she says. “That also adds to the working ecosystem of Latin America.”

Regardless of gender, age, or background, Chapaval believes “education is very important if we want to break these blockers.”

In fact, two crucial skills she believes everyone should know is programming and English. “I like to say that both skills have to do with communications; communication with machines and with other people in the world,” she says.

In a time when remote jobs are pertinent due to the pandemic, having communication skills is a valuable asset for STEM careers in any country.

“Programming should be a basic skill that schools teach as well because it’s not only [beneficial] to be a developer,” Chapaval says. “It helps you understand how to solve problems in a logical way.”

Chapaval is grateful for her personal growth in STEM and hopes that Platzi can help others grow.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“I hope [students] can create what they dream of with the coding skills that they can get with us and can show it to the world,” she says.

“Latin America is a lovely region and a lot is happening here,” she says. “I hope that if this community can get to know each other and create the next big companies and big solutions for problems that we have right now, I would [be] fulfilled.”

As the gender disparity in STEM slowly expands, Chapaval continues to vouch for women to speak up and push through in the field.

Proudly Chapaval says, “Latinas are very extroverted, and the tech and software engineering world needs more extroverted people [like us] to add to their ecosystem.”

The App Store featured Platzi for Women’s History Month.

Read: She Came As A Teen From Colombia With Only $300 To Her Name, Now She’s a Director For NASA

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Sol de Bernardo Has A New Outlook On Education Thanks To Papumba

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Sol de Bernardo Has A New Outlook On Education Thanks To Papumba

Courtesy of Apple

If there is one thing the pandemic has proven to be essential, it’s the internet. For Sol de Bernardo, head of content creation at Papumba, access to technology should be “a basic right.”

Adjusting to remote learning was tough for students when lockdowns were implemented around the world last year. The parents of the children also took a toll while trying to balance child care, school, and work at the same time.

“During this pandemic, I am a believer that technology is a great ally for those who could have the connection and technology to continue learning,” de Bernardo told mitú.

Unable to physically interact with friends, many children have spent hours endlessly scrolling and gaming without limits. Apps like Papumba are trying to add meaning to a child’s screen time easing parents’ concerns.

Papumba is an educational gaming app geared for children ages 2-7.

Photo courtesy of Apple

De Bernardo says the app has become “a resource widely used by parents to entertain and educate their children in this time” after seeing a spike in subscriptions.

However, for low-income families in Argentina where Papumba is based, many children are vulnerable to the lack of connectivity.

“There is a big inequality problem [and] it’s not a distant reality,” says de Bernardo.

In Argentina, 75 percent of children from low-income families don’t have access to computers. Out of those that do, 36 percent don’t have internet access.

To accommodate families Papumba often lowers their monthly prices, even offering promo codes but de Bernardo wishes access to tech could be given throughout.

A proud Latina in tech, de Bernardo’s journey was not instantaneous.

Photo courtesy of Apple.

De Bernardo started out as an educator and that background got her interested in the connection between education and technology. This intimate knowledge of the specific issue led her to bridge that gap.

“Privileged” to be working in tech, de Bernardo is encouraging other young girls to take an interest in STEM. Some advice de Bernardo has to offer young girls is to first get access to a computer, network when you can, and be confident.

“It may be difficult to have confidence in a world full of things that aren’t always good for women, but trust yourself, be dedicated, and above all, be resilient and humble,” she says.

While still a young company, de Bernardo hopes to develop more tangible devices for children to use in classrooms like high-tech dolls and books. However, her current focus is on quality education through the app.

De Bernardo wants to push Papumba to include educating children on their emotional wellbeing.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“We do not talk about emotions enough,” she says. ” We have an activity to recognize emotions where an animated child will form emotions and explains them so the children can understand that there are different emotions and it’s okay to have them.”

When introducing touchy subjects like bullying, de Bernardo finds it important to focus on teaching young children solutions to dilemmas explaining that “the explanation of the problems may not be easy for a 3-year-old to understand.”

Nevertheless, delivering context in a simplistic way is included in such activities. Most recently, the app released a game inspired by the pandemic.

An instant success, the game introduces the imaginary town of ‘Papumba Land,’ where kids can engage in replicated outdoor activities such as: hosting a barbecue, partying with friends, or having a picnic in the park.

Last month, in-person learning returned to Argentina, but de Bernardo hopes that a year online changes the approach in future children’s education.

“I think that technology can help us in this by putting adding a little fun for the child,” she says. “Learning does not have to be [treated] like a mandate where you have to learn something and repeat the year if you fail. There has to be something for the child to want to learn.”

“[Working at] Papumba has helped me understand that you can create something fun for children to enjoy learning and not make it seem like going to school is a nuisance,” she says.

The App Store featured Papumba for Women’s History Month.

READ: Nicole Chapaval Advocates For More Latinas In Tech Through Teaching App Platzi

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Andrea Campos Is Normalizing Emotions And Mental Health Through Her App Yana

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Andrea Campos Is Normalizing Emotions And Mental Health Through Her App Yana

Courtesy of Apple

When Andrea Campos was eight years old, she began to express symptoms of depression. She began attending therapy sessions and reading self-help books to cope, but it wasn’t enough.

A self-taught coder, Campos began to develop a passion project that combined her two interests: mental health and programming. The result was Yana, a wellness app designed specifically to tackle negative thoughts linked to anxiety and depression.

Initially meant for personal use, Campos decided to make Yana accessible to anyone who could not access a specialist during the pandemic.

Photo courtesy of Apple

While Yana is not designed to substitute psychiatric treatment, Campos told mitú that the app functions like “an emotional diary.”

Users can engage with daily check-ins, specialized paths for self-esteem boosting, and a mental monitoring test that checks for symptoms of anxiety and depression every 14 days. In case of an emergency, Yana has resources to connect you to a mental health professional.

Structured to “explain how the mind works” using a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) framework, Yana seeks to make users aware of the normalcy behind every emotion thought.

“As long as you are aware that you have automatic thoughts all day every day, even if you do not realize it and that it impacts your emotions, it will be easier for you to manage your mental health,” she said.

While Campos hopes users gain comfort in recognizing and validating their emotional state, the stigma around mental health remains prevalent.

“When you approach people and ask questions about how they handle mental health or if they have problems with mental health, they tell you, ‘No! I’m perfect, I don’t have any of that,'” she explained.

When creating Yana, Campos learned that she needed to deviate from using the phrase “mental health” to attract users.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“Many times depression or anxiety is a cluster of managed emotions,” Campos explained. “So when [people] think of the word ‘Mental Health’ they automatically associate it with a disorder. They do not associate it with something that is handled every day.”

“The same way people understand the importance of exercising to prevent diseases or eating well, it’s important to have practices such as gratitude, awareness, and meditation that can also prevent diseases in the mind,” she said.

Avoiding the word association of “disorders, depression, or post-traumatic stress,” Campos focused on everyday issues such as insomnia, frustration, or even grief to identify problems at the source.

The lack of immediate treatment can be harmful. Prior to the pandemic, four-in-five people facing mental health concerns struggled to receive treatment in Mexico.

“In Latin America, we do not have the culture of prevention, we usually approach a doctor or a psychologist when we are already on the brink of catastrophe,” she said.

Education on mental health is the primary goal Campos hopes to tackle with Yana.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“When we are in kindergarten they teach us the alphabet, colors, but they don’t teach us the emotions,” she said.

While we are taught the basic emotions: happy, sad, angry, excited, Campos expressed the importance of teaching children how to understand their feelings instead of repressing them.

“My dream is to have a physical Yana robot in kindergarten classrooms where children who are punished, for example, can vent their emotions and can explain themselves instead of having to face the wall,” she said.

Yana, while focusing on the individual, is just the first step for Campos. Campos also wants to develop an app for one’s inner circle. Eventually, she hopes to expand the app to help children.

“The reality is that when we are sad we want to connect with our loved ones, not with strangers. We want to know that our parents, our friends, our partner love and value ​​us, in good times and in bad,” she said.

To bring people closer to their network instead of a stranger, Campos hopes to create a conjoined app for Yana to accompany one’s inner circle in educating how to support that person.

The App Store featured Yana for Women’s History Month. You can download the app from the App Store here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, text NAMI at 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor or visit info@nami.org. In case of an emergency please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Read: Women Open Up About Crying In The Workplace 

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