At 17, Olivia Mark is seriously dedicated to what she wants out of her life. Her Google calendar neatly organizes her priorities as a senior at Shawnee Mission South High School: She is enrolled in three AP classes. She nannies for two different families. She runs her own year-old web development business, via oliviamark.com. She is on the drumline in Marching Band.
And then, there are the specific prospects of what Olivia will study next year as an incoming freshman in college. She knows she wants to major in computer science, but her secondary major or minor is still up for grabs: She either wants to study data science with an emphasis on urbanization on marsupials in Oceania or computer forensics. Despite a full schedule, Olivia has remained committed to Kansas City Women in Technology since her freshman year of high school, mentoring with Coding & Cupcakes.
No matter what path Olivia will take in continuing her computer science-related studies, one aspect is clear: She is just getting started, and she shows zero signs of slowing down. She perhaps says it best on her website: “The code is just the beginning.”
1.How did your interest in coding begin?
We have this super old Dell in my basement, and I remember messing around on it. Neither of my parents were really like, “You should learn programming.” It was something that I took on my own. I took my first formal programming class my sophomore year of high school, and I really got into it. For most of my formal programming education, I have mostly been the only girl.
2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
It’s definitely made me a lot more persistent on things. I remember beforehand, I would be like, “If this doesn’t work, I’m going to skip it.” I think now, I have become a lot more patient and have worked to debug a problem. I’m also a lot more technical with my things: If I need to do something, I want to do something right.
3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
On July 15, 2015, I started my own company called Olivia Mark Web Development. I have branched out to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles. I create websites for small businesses, and I really enjoy it. I was 13 when I created my first website. Part of it is meaning new people – each website is for completely different people. You get to meet all of these connections that will serve you in the future, which is awesome.
4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
Being taking seriously. A., I’m a female. B., I’m 17. I feel like taking being seriously is hard. Some of the companies come to me; I go to a lot of them. I reach out to small businesses and ask if they would like their websites revamped, and since I am a student, my rates are substantially lower. It’s about being taking seriously or finding clients that are willing to hire someone who doesn’t have a college degree.
5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
To not be afraid – to just go for it. It might be intimidating because A. people are older than you or B. they are mostly male. But people in this field are very cool and are very willing to meet new people.
6. If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
It’s so much more than diverse than people think it is. People come from all walks of life, all over the world, cultures, gender identities – everything. Everyone comes together with the common goal of expanding knowledge and building new things. I don’t think a lot of careers can say the same thing.
7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
If not already, it’s already in every aspect. You can’t go about your daily life without running into some sort of technology, whether you are conscious of it or not. Some would say it’s a good thing; some would say it’s a bad thing; I don’t really know because we’re not there yet. With my math classes, I have seen more integration with programming, as well.