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Featured on Dec 17, 2010

Sara Chipps

"Would you exchange a walk on part in a war for a lead role in a cage?"


Sara is a developer living in NYC specializing in web applications with a focus on JavaScript. In her spare time she Wrangles Nerds and runs Girl Develop It and organization that offers low cost programming classes targeted at women. She likes speaking to and meeting with diverse groups from the Girl Scouts to straight up code junkies. Her goal is to inspire more females to see that being a developer is fun and glamorous. You can usually find her on the Twitters or stealing your Wifi getting her hack on till the break of dawn.

Back in October you wrote a post titled, "The Girls are Back in Town" where you talk about new companies that are both "conceived by girls" and "run by girls." Do you think there are any major differences between a startup that is conceived and run by all females and others that are either all male or mixed? If so, what are those differences?

I don't want to imply that startups conceived and run by girls are more or less equipped to deal with typical startup issues. The thing that I appreciate about them, however, is the desire to fill sectors that are more traditionally female (while not strictly female at all). Such as fashion, makeup, shopping, and things of the sort. The world has enough intramural sports teams stats trackers, and fresh tighty-whitey subscription services on the internets. I love seeing these superfluous, yet awesome, needs met for women. Why not a way that I can have strangers over and paint each other's nails? How about a tracker for platform shoe sales in Soho? Why can't I borrow a white shrug from a girl that lives on my block that I don't already know?

You're one of the co-founders of Girl Develop It. How was the lesson series and classes developed for the program and how are the responsibilities of the co-founders distributed?

Answer: slowly and painfully. There is a reason there aren't other programs like this out there, and it is because there is nothing easy about teaching and developing curriculum while getting underrepresented groups interested in software. We are very lucky to have a team of really great people who have donated a lot of their time to make this possible. In the beginning things were very rocky, I am not a teacher myself, and there were classes in the very beginning where I think I pretty effectively turned off dozens of women to careers in programming. However, we have gotten much better and we learn all the time. We now have great teachers, and students are giving us amazing feedback. We are currently attempting to quantify our results. The lessons are currently developed by the class teachers, however, we are reusing curriculum that has proven effective and plan to continue doing so. Our classes are chosen by demand of students, and we rely heavily on them telling us what they are looking for. There is no current responsibility distribution between Vanessa and I, I mean, I tend to take more meetings due to a flexible schedule and she watches over the money as she has a knack for data and analytics. I'm sure that will change as we get larger, but for now we attack things as a team (with fellow GDI staff).

You work out the coworking space New Work City and joined their board this past year. Can you tell us what you think sets New Work City apart from the other coworking spaces here in the City? Also, are there any particular startups working there that you think are exceptionally interesting and that we should watch for in 2011?

What sets New Work City apart from other coworking spaces is the same thing that sets it apart from any other place I've ever been, and that's the people. I never imagined finding a group of brilliant folks that were so dedicated to making the world a better place, and as soon as I did I knew I was home. I have made countless friends there, and I am constantly meeting new fascinating people that walk through the doors of our new space daily. Loose Cubes is the latest startup that outgrew our space where they have lived for the past year. I would watch them, they have a great service that (ironically) finds your startup office space all over the world (including at NWC). Tony Bacigalupo is the founder and he has been working his fingers to the bone getting our new space off the ground and flourishing (all volunteer work and bootstrapping thus far). If you happen to come visit ask for him, he will help you fall in love with it like I did. Plus, he's not too hard on the eyes.

Your main passion is obvious. What are some other things that really interest you these days? And since you have so many things going, how do you balance your time between them?

I love everything. What a great question! First of all, balancing time well just doesn't happen, period, so forget that. I like learning new things, and that is what keeps me in this field. However, I'm going to only speak of things that have nothing to do with software, as I rarely do that. I have recently started a love affair with obsure types of legwarmers. I spend a lot of time with my main squeeze lately, he is a guy that runs a coworking space in Tribecca. We enjoy going on adventures, and exploring new places all over the city. Personally, I like going on Yelp and finding the closest place with the worst ratings. Words like "awful, sucks, gross" are also helpful. Meeting strangers, and pretending to be stockbrokers is also always a good time. More than anything living every day not as if it's your last, but as if you intend to make it your best.

Developer, Founder, JavaScript Developer