W3D1 Still be kind, and eke out our performance with your mind.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…

By which I am referring to the act of writing without any clear plan of what to write about.

I spent the day out at the class in Stamford today. Along comes the end of the day, and I asked them about their field trip last week. They had come into the city to visit Google and Spotify. I spoke with one girl, Simi, at lunch, asking her what the highlight of the trip was for her. She said that although Google was really cool, she liked Spotify better. Upon digging a little deeper, I discovered that it was because that, while Google had a tour and demo (which was cut short because the group had arrived from Stamford late due to traffic), Spotify had a panel of five women in technical roles. I think this is one of the best formats for the girls – they get to see people like them doing technical work, and sets the idea in their head, “Hey, I could do that.” When panelists talk about their backgrounds, the girls invariably find out that some or all of them did not start out in computer science. Simi spoke about a woman she heard who has majored in art history in college, and was now working for Spotify. I also spoke with one of teaching assistants, who said that one of the panelists designs the front web page for Spotify, which is a site many of the girls are familiar with. I suspect, but can’t prove that these two panelists might, in fact, be the same person.

So that’s one field trip. I went on a different one last week to the New York Stock Exchange, who pulled out all the stops for us. (That is just an awesome idiom right there, referring of course to pulling out all the organ stops making the instrument as loud as possible.) When we arrived, we went through security into a waiting room where there was an entire LED wall display welcoming Girls Who Code and BlackRock, and the theme continued throughout the entire building. We also each got engraved name badges with the date and ceremony listed on them as mementos. They really treated us like VIPs. To wit: there were refreshments (cookies and drinks) for us in a large gathering room where we waited before going onto the floor of the stock market itself. Naturally, given the group of 20 hungry teenagers, the cookies were gone almost immediately, and well before before we went down to the floor. When we got back, they had replenished the cookies! If that’s not VIP treatment, what is?

What interests me is not the two trips themselves – they are both great. What is striking is the difference in logistics between the two trips and how the students got to and from their respective destinations.

The trip to the NYSE was what I’d call a typical GWC field trip within a city, very similar to what we did last year in Chicago. The girls traveled by subway from BlackRock to the NYSE. We had about 9 chaperones (in Chitown, we did it with three, just saying, but I think a few BLK employees came along for the bucket list aspect, though they helped with the girls, too. Also, they are all arranging other activities for the girls this summer, one of which I definitely plan to go to because it sounds just so mind-blowingly cool. I’ll let you know.)

The trip consisted of a two and a half  block walk , followed by two subway trips. You haven’t experienced exciting until you wrangle 20 girls into two subway cars (because both cars are pretty full to begin with, and it’s clear we won’t all fit) in about 12 seconds. It’s a lot like those scenes you see in commercials of cowboys herding cats. The leader for the trip was Lisa Dallmer, a Chief Operating Officer for BlackRock who I mentioned back in Week 1. Man, can she lead. At one point a train pulled up, people exited, then she checked to make sure it was stopping where we needed it to (as opposed to an express), and said “This one. Go!” My role (I relish the role of second in command – I think I’m really good at it – I look out for anything that might make the leader’s plan fail, and fix it before it happens) was to hang back and make sure all the girls were on, then climb on myself. That way, if a girl didn’t make it on the train, I’d still be with her as a chaperone until the group met up again. The trip back was even more exciting, because the train cars were fuller with Friday rush hour commuters. Oh,yeah, all this took place in the rain.

Contrast that with the Synchrony field trip to Google and Spotify from Stamford. I found out about the logistics of that trip when I asked the teaching team if they needed an extra set of eyes on their field trip to Sony coming up on Friday. It seems as though they were thinking of handling this one differently. Last time they took a chartered bus into and back from the city, but they were looking into taking public transit on the way back this time because there was a traffic snarl that caused them to get back late last week. They weren’t sure if they needed more help, so I asked how many chaperones there were last week. There were the three from the teaching team and about six or seven from Synchrony. Oh yeah, and their security detail. I thought they were kidding, but nope – they had an ex-FBI agent as security for the trip. Apparently he’s six foot something. I asked if he seemed OK – they said yes, he didn’t bother the girls at all. I clarified, “What did he do?” They said, “Oh, he stayed behind the girls the whole time, kept and eye on them, and directed them as they crossed the street.” That’s what I’d do. They don’t need me. God speed!

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