The lack of programming taught in schools made me drive change

Clare Sutcliff is the Co-founder of Code Club. She the club because she felt there was a lack of programming taught in schools and she wanted to change that. Code Club is now going from strength to strength, running in schools across the UK.

What inspired you to set up Code Club?
We were inspired to start Code Club 4 years ago after discovering that children weren’t being taught to code at school. I think learning to programme computers is such a great skill to have. It seemed a bit mad that children weren’t being given the opportunity to learn. We thought that if we could provide the learning materials, we could ask people to volunteer at their local primary school in after-school coding clubs.

How did you get the business going?
To start with we just worked all the hours that were spare after finishing a day’s work in our full time jobs. I was a user experience designer at an agency in London. The company was very understanding and were very flexible with my work time so I could work on Code Club. It meant a lot of very late nights and all my weekends were taken over for months. Then eventually when I was able to secure funding I was able to leave my job and focus fully on Code Club.

What do you love about technology?
I love so many things about technology. I love that it allows us to connect with people we have never met on the other side of the world and communicate with people we don’t see very often. I love that anyone can learn to create with technology – programming is a very creative tool. Thinking about all the amazing ideas out there waiting to be unleashed by learning to code is pretty exciting.

Please tell us about your educational background.
I went to university to study graphic design as I wanted to be a graphic designer. I got my wish and went to work at an advertising agency in London as a Junior Art Director where I worked closely with a Copy Writer on advertising concepts. Then I moved to designing website for clients at a web design agency. I taught myself basic front end code in order to design better websites for my clients. After a while I moved to specialise in user experience design and moved to larger agency to do that. At that point I started Code Club but up until that point I had been planning to start my own design agency working for social enterprise clients.

What do you enjoy about your current job role?
What I enjoy most about my current role is working with the amazing team we’ve built. They’re extremely smart and are working so hard on our goal of putting a Code Club in every community in the world. That’s a pretty big challenge but they are certainly rising to it.

Why do you think there are so many few women in tech? What can be done about it?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I think there are a lot of elements at play. What I know first hand from working with Code Club is that around primary age girls have a healthy interest in coding and computing. Code Club works with children aged 9-11, and we’re proud of the fact that we have an average of 40% girls in our after-school computing clubs. However, from there, it seems that girls have been moving away from studying STEM subjects. This year the proportion of girls studying computing qualifications at A-level was just 9.8%. So clearly there’s work to be done to get more girls interested in continuing STEM subjects at GCSE, A-level and university. Ensuring that could mean more women have the technical skills necessary to compete for jobs in the technology sector.

What are your career plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
I hope that in ten years’ time I’m celebrating with the Code Club team for reaching millions of children around the world every year. Ever since I started Code Club exciting things happen all the time so I won’t rule anything out.

Is there anything you would like to say to young girls to inspire them into tech?
Use technology to help bring your ideas to life – if you have an idea then the chances are technology can help you make it real. Also, gain the skills you need to build your idea and find a team of people who care about the problem you’re trying to solve as much as you do.