Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, is on a mission to inspire and empower young women. By educating them about technology, Saujani and her team teach girls fundamental computer-science skills, while also connecting them to role models in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields to show they can have a fulfilling and successful career in the sciences.
The numbers that drive Saujani’s passion for teaching tech skills are striking — and troubling. In middle school, 74 percent of girls say they are interested in STEM, but only a few years later, 0.4 percent of girls in high school show interest in majoring in Computer Science. But through coding classes and immersion programs and a vibrant community of teachers and students, the three-year-old nonprofit has reached 10,000 girls in more than 40 states.
Prior to founding Girls Who Code, Saujani’s background was in law and politics. In 2010, she ran for a seat in the House of Representatives and became the first Indian American woman to run for U.S. Congress and following that campaign, served as the Deputy Public Advocate of New York City.
We caught up with Saujani to talk about the necessity of embracing failure, the patience needed to be an effective entrepreneur and the value of perseverance.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you were first starting out?
A: I would have embraced my failures more fully. There’s no better way of learning from your experiences than having an open and honest conversation with yourself about why you fell short. Embracing failure has made me stronger, more confident and more resilient.
Q: What do you think would have happened had you known this back then?
A: I would’ve been a lot less hard on myself, and I would’ve learned a lot more about my strengths and weaknesses. A lot of the time I had spent focusing solely on what went wrong, I would have used to make me stronger.
Q: How do you think young entrepreneurs might benefit from this lesson?
A: Just like every one of Girls Who Code’s students, every entrepreneur goes through difficult periods. There’s no more powerful lesson than knowing that your setbacks will one day help you succeed.
Q: What are you glad you didn’t know then that you know now?
A: I’m glad I didn’t know how much patience entrepreneurship required. It took some time to turn that into a strength of mine, so that would’ve presented an obstacle when I was younger.
Q: What is your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: Everything I’ve achieved has come from perseverance. I’ve never met another entrepreneur who had a painless path to success — everyone who tries to bring new ideas to the world is tested. All aspiring entrepreneurs should remember that failure doesn’t mean the end of the road. It can lay the groundwork for something even greater.