Apps upside your head: Coding’s the key for SA girls
Book extract: 'The New Girl Code'
The New Girl Code is a fictional novel about a 15-year-old Capetonian, Tumi Letsatsi, who stumbles across the magic of coding and creates a fashion app that goes viral and rockets her and her friends to fame.
But the book offers so much more than a simple story about a fictional teenage girl: it comes with a message that is important to all kids – and their parents – who are grappling with decisions about their future careers. Its Dutch tech entrepreneur creator was inspired to create the book when she became aware that, while 75% of the fastest growing occupations in the future will require skills in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematical) fields, only 15% of university graduates specialise in STEM qualifications – and this figure is dramatically lower among female students, who tend to drop STEM subjects early. So the book aims to inspire young girls to consider STEM subjects and careers in tech through the role model of Tumi.
All proceeds from book sales will be used to make the book available for free to girls who don’t have access to books so that they too can be inspired by Tumi’s story.
Here is an extract:
5:45 PM In my room
After mama had made a thing of serving us all a slice of cake, I opened up my laptop. I switched on Sway (a new sort of PowerPoint) with a cheeky smile. ‘I want to show you both something.’
‘Y-you’re going to give us a presentation about your new crush in Sway?’ Tammy said, looking hella confused.
The first slide appeared on the screen. I had written the title the fashion app by tumi in yellow letters on the top of the slide accompanied with a photo of my fave Prada bag, a blue striped blazer and a necklace with a tie made of turquoise stones.
‘That bag is incredible, Tumz!’ Tam said.
‘Well, I kinda have a plan. A plan for a fashion app. B-because people like me struggle with clothing combinations and stuff. I mean, knowing which shirts with skirts for example. With prints. Should you combine plaid with leopard or with stripes? It’s not that easy for some of us.’ I could hear myself stammering. Everything had seemed so clear and simple on paper but now my nerves were taking over and I couldn’t spit one word out. I decided to take one more stab at explaining ‘I made this app for people like me. Peeps who struggle coming up with things to wear. I hate the anxiety of not knowing what to wear each day after school.’
Tam was more interested in the cake than in my story. ‘This cake is ridiculously good bbz! How did you make it?’ she asked as she interrupted my presentation.
My story was falling apart. Dinika really wasn’t sparing me any humiliation by looking at me like I was speaking alien, and Tam was way more interested in what was going on with her phone instead of my computer screen. I kept trying to explain but the more I tried, the worse my stutter got and could feel my cheeks turn hot. After my last slide, I opened the app in the simulator on my laptop. Okay, I told myself, the presentation had not exactly been a roaring success or whatever, but wait until they see the app. They’ll be so excited. It seemed like an eternity before the app finally opened.
The start screen finally appeared. And it looked amazing.
I had given the bars new colours yesterday, which had been a huge improvement. And the design was very fashion forward.
TBH, I was really hoping that by this stage, Tam and Dinika would be jumping up and down with excitement. But again, no reaction to be detected.
‘Uhhmm okay, well, this is awks isn’t it,’ I mumbled after I had shown them all of the screens of the app. ‘I still need to add the clothing outfits onto it. I thought maybe that would be something you guys would be interested in doing. Would you guys want to help me with this or nah?’ The looks on their faces were blank. Tam hadn’t moved an inch, not a glimmer of excitement in sight. Dinika too, was completely silent.
I shut my laptop and fell back into my chair. Sigh. All that hard work and the response I had received was anything but pleasant.
Without Tammy and Dinika, this app was gonna suck fo’ sho. Believe me, no one is interested in seeing clothing combinations made by me. No one. I started sticking a fork into the last slice of cake.
I looked over at Dinika. Her mouth fell open. She looked like she had fallen asleep, but her eyes were still wide open.
Then I mumbled, ‘Okay fine, maybe it is silly. It was cool to make but who would be interested in another app right? There are already millions out there.’ My arms felt heavy, my voice silent. All I could think about was how much I wanted to get into my onesie and hide under my duvet.
Then Dinika got up and I half expected her to walk out of the front door.
Instead, she asked ‘You made this all by yourself ?’.
I nodded. It was nice of her to at least try and show some kind of interest in my efforts. In the meantime, Tam had slid down in her chair still hadn’t made a peep.
‘How cool is that!’ Dinika cried out. ‘OMG Tumi! This is so wild!’
‘Tumi is going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Remember the movie The Social Network? With Jesse Eisenberg? That really cute actor, remember? They started their social media network when they were still in school and now it’s the biggest site out there. This could be the start of something big. Who knows, maybe they’ll make a movie about it, Tumz! And you want us to be a part of it? A part of the app? Dinika asked.
‘Yeah, I thought you two might find making the clothing combos fun.’
‘That would be a-ma-zing! The three of us would make an incredible team! Just like the team behind that Youtube online channel, Pap Culture! They did so well, they even partnered with Libresse personal hygiene brand for that online vagina university campaign! Digital life is where it’s at!’ said Dinika.
Tam looked up confused. ‘I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble, but I am just not that into computers.’
‘We’re going to be coming up with the actual outfits, Tam!’ Dinika said as she started pretend runway walking around my room.
‘Like fashion stylists. But instead of working for Vogue or Glamour, we’ll be working for a fashion app.’
‘We’ll be like The Third Citizen or A Fashion Friend.’
‘You follow fashion blogs too, don’t you? Mzansi Moodboard? The Third Citizen? Or Gabrielle Kannemeyer the artist-stylist and her incredible work. She’s even started this great initiative with Adidas called AREA 3—’ Dinika continued along like some sort of high speed train, ‘—if we put together great outfits, everyone will follow us. We’re going to inspire other girls. We’ll become style icons! And we’ll be in the movie too. Maybe Kim Engelbrecht can play you, Tam and Nomzamo Mbatha can be Tumi! And seriously Tam, it’s stupid to say that you’re not into computers. Technology is super important. Especially for creative jobs like styling. Ding ding. Stay woke, Tam! Fittings aren’t always going to happen in famous people’s homes and stuff. Everything is going to be online! You need to be ahead of the trends! Technology is basically allowing for the fashion world to be so much more adventurous! Where have you even beeeen? Nowadays collections are full of wearable, mobile technology. Think watches, sunglasses and accessories. Designers are even making t- shirts that have mobile chargers. Plus, 3D clothing is starting to get popular too. So…’
And just like that, Tammy was on board.
I heart Dinika.
Mama brought us some juice and biscuits.
Dinika didn’t even touch them. She kept on firing questions my way. ‘When and how did you start this? How did you learn all of it? I don’t recall our coding classes being so specific … Who helped you? What programme do you use?’ She even wanted to see the code.
In the meantime, Tam downloaded Superbalist.com, Laudable, Vogue, ASOS, and the Takealot apps.
‘Have you picked a name for the app?’ Tam asked after shoving another biscuit into her mouth.
‘The Tam App.’
‘You named the app after m-me?’ Tam said stunned.
Dinika cleared her throat. ‘Look, I don’t want to be annoying or anything, but I think it’s better to come up with a different name. The Tam App is unclear.’
So, the three of sat and brainstormed a couple of options and chose the ones we liked the best. This was the result: Fashion App I
Fashun Miracle II
The Fashion App I
MyFabliss Closet III
Closet Bbzes II
Closet Guru III MyFablissCloset and Appaholic got the most votes. But it still didn’t have the right ring to it.
‘We have to come up with a name that’s going to make us all jump on up and out of our seats,’ said Tam.
I explained how I had come up with the idea of the app, how I had been inspired by Tam’s preppy outfits. ‘Preppy App?’ I suggested.
‘Prep App!’ shouted Tam.
Dinika gave the thumbs up. ‘The Prep App sounds good. What are you doing? I’m Prep-Apping!’
I saw some of mama’s files out of the corner of my eye, called project harmful parasites. Project always makes things sound professional and interesting.
‘Or Project Prep? I proposed. ‘They often call projects that are still in their developmental stages “Project…” when they haven’t come up with a name yet.’
Tam and Dinika started to sing Beyonce’s Formation.
‘Yayyy! Cause we slay!’ Dinika threw her hands up in the air. Tam hit the table with her fist. ‘The Project Prep App, done deal!’
• The New Girl Code by Niki Smit; edited by Buhle Ngaba, R120.