Flywheel loves to get involved in the communities we’re a part of. (In fact, it’s even one of our seven core values!) Whether it’s sponsoring a WordCamp, contributing resources to the design community, or getting involved with a local nonprofit, we try to be a productive and positive force for good whenever we’re given the chance. Through giving back, we’ve met a lot of amazing people, but one story stands out in particular. Enter: Grace.
Grace Erixon is a sophomore in the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and a Software Development Intern here at Flywheel. She first heard about Flywheel when she was 14 years old, so naturally we were super curious about her path to Flywheel.
We quickly realized that her story is an awesome example of one woman’s beginning to a career in technology, and we hope other young women can be inspired to pursue technology because of it. So without further ado, here’s an inside look at one intern’s journey to Flywheel!
When and where did you first hear about Flywheel?
I was 14 years old when I first heard about Flywheel at CodeCrush, an IT immersion experience for eighth and ninth grade girls hosted by UNO. CodeCrush is a weekend-long retreat where students network and learn about possibilities for different careers in technology. This program provided me with a network of girls who were also pushing the boundaries of the stereotypes of the technology community.
On one of the UNO student panels, two Flywheel interns (one of which is now my manager, Keegan!) presented about their journeys and internships in tech. They talked about their amazing experiences at Flywheel, which instantly made me curious to know more about the company.
What was your first impression of Flywheel?
Flywheel was the most “real” of any of the companies I had ever come into contact with. The employees that they chose to represent them at CodeCrush took the time to talk to me, even though I was so young. They even talked to me about how I could work to get to Flywheel over the next few years.
Their presentations were so different from others, from the quirky jokes to the dogs to the confetti-filled slides. The Flywheel brand really was shown through the way they interacted with me. It made Flywheel seem genuine and real.
As you got older, how did your perception of Flywheel change?
I’ve spent the last five years following Flywheel in the media and around events in Omaha. Over that time, Flywheel has obviously grown a lot from a small startup to a more established company with over 200 people. My perception largely stayed the same because Flywheel’s delightful culture remained the same. Of course, I was a little worried the version of Flywheel I had dreamt about would be different once I actually started, but that instantly disappeared when I began my internship.
What made you want to work at Flywheel?
Before I started working here, I didn’t know about Flywheel’s values. Now that I do, I see how literally every person at the company embodies them. My favorite two are “We embrace weirdness” and “We are productive community members.”
No interns were harmed in the making of this slow-mo.
Flywheel is present in the community that I love so much. They’re consistently present at many of the technology events in Omaha that I’ve attended over the years, ranging from coding camps for middle school students to professional technology conferences. Flywheel is passionate about using their platform to better the world around them.
My passion for computer science/technology is derived from the people that I can impact and inspire by pursuing it, and Flywheel follows that same ideology.
What steps did you take to get the job?
I worked incredibly hard so that I could have the best chance to secure an internship at Flywheel after my freshman year of college. I literally had half a wall in my dorm covered in Flywheel newspaper stories and pictures as daily motivation.
I reached out to the head of the People team, Michael, at the beginning of October 2018 to ask if I could interview months before the internship application even opened.
He soon called me for an initial phone interview, then an in-person interview, and shortly after that I received my offer letter at the end of October!
How else have you gotten involved in the tech community?
During my sophomore year of high school, I joined the Girls Who Code club in Omaha, now Mystery Code Society. I was a student in the program for two and a half years, and then I transitioned into a teacher’s assistant role. I also founded and taught an after-school web development class at local, Title I elementary schools in Omaha.
— Omaha North Magnet (@OPS_NorthHigh) April 6, 2018
I’ve been recognized for my efforts in the technology community through several awards. I was the first non-college student to receive AIM’s Tech Student of the Year award. I was also a two-time National Honorable Mention for the National Center of Women in Technology’s Aspirations in Computing Award.
What’s the best thing you learned during your summer here?
I’ve really enjoyed working with Ruby on Rails here at Flywheel. Ruby is designed with the happiness of the developer in mind, so it’s really programmer-friendly. It’s been used to build applications like GitHub, Airbnb, Hulu, and Flywheel!
I’ve also enjoyed getting to work on the main product of the company. Though I have prior experience, I’ve never gotten the opportunity to work on such a large project. That really shows me how much trust Flywheel places in their interns to let them engage with real, meaningful work that touches the customer every day.
Lastly, getting to know my team has been really great over the last few months. They’re exactly how I imagined Flywheelers being: smart, quirky, driven, and fun. We’re all super close and supportive!
What’s been the weirdest moment at Flywheel?
Two times a year, every team at Flywheel creates a skit video highlighting their wins and losses for the year. The Engineering team made a parody video called Hot Wins, where contestants were asked to name a win or loss for other teams and if they got it wrong, they had to eat a hot wing with extra hot sauce added. I can’t handle heat at all; Chipotle makes me tear up. I had never even had a wing before!
What makes you so passionate about getting girls involved in the tech community?
Growing up as a girl in technology wasn’t always easy. As the only girl in a classroom or at an activity, I felt a personal pressure to excel because not only was I representing myself, I felt like I was also representing the female population. I had more to prove than others.
The summer before sixth grade, I was the only girl to attend an overnight robotics camp. Within the first few hours, I was made painfully aware of the gender divide. My assigned partner for the competition immediately asked to switch because working with me was “not fair.” That evening, I decided to sleep in the conference room with the rest of the campers, instead of alone, on the ground at the end of a hallway. I chose to be included rather than isolated, however, I soon regretted that decision when I woke up to find my belongings scattered around the room. While this was the most drastic, sentiments like this weren’t uncommon.
Due to my personal struggles with gender disparity in technology, I’m passionate about playing a supportive role for women and girls in computer science. I feel responsible for spreading awareness to other young people, especially young women who may doubt their role in computing-related fields.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the women who are constantly inspiring me, and I hope to offer the same inspiration to others. I want to be a service to society not only through the code that I write, but also in my encouragement of other women in technology.
What advice would you give to young girls interested in code and technology?
Create opportunities for yourself. Don’t just wait for someone to offer something to you; go out there and get it. Make audacious goals for yourself and don’t stop until you reach them.
When she’s not at work, Grace loves the Bachelor (or any “trashy” reality TV shows for that matter), Husker volleyball, laptop stickers, and her cat, M&M. She’s passionate about eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health, helping refugees succeed in the U.S., and getting more women in technology fields. Follow her on Twitter!