50 Most Intriguing Women: Shay Gillespie
By Shadress Burks
If you see a need, don’t complain about it, simply find a way to fill it. This is exactly what Shay Gillespie did when she started Color Coded Kids. As a mother of a son who enjoyed the coding aspect of computers, Gillespie started out in search of said activities for her son. Encountering the fact that every program she had placed him in was either too far or a part of an school he didn’t attend, she knew she had to something to nurture his interest. Already in the field of technology, Gillespie had the means to jumpstart her business. Tossing around various entrepreneurial ideas; she pondered on what she could start a business in. During the day, she fills the role of Regional Business Development Manager at World Wide Technology for over thirteen states. Once the head of the Supplier Diversity department; Gillespie is no stranger to making things happen and connecting the dots. Being mentored by the best, Gillespie speaks highly of the people she’s had poor into her life. One being her boss, Dave Steward. When mentioning him, Gillespie hold him in such high regard as she tells me how he is a great boss and she truly enjoys working for him. Blessed with the ability of working with great people and helping businesses grow, she lit up as she continued on about how much joy it gives her to make great things happen for others.
Admiring the entrepreneurial drive in others, Gillespie knew her bright idea would soon come, and it did. Dissatisfied with the lack of technology activities available for minorities, and having firsthand knowledge of how it’s a minority deficient field, she put her connections into action. Not afraid of a challenge, and believing a progressive mindset helps a community grow; Gillespie opened the doors to Color Coded Kids. A coding program for elementary kids, geared to level the playing field for minorities in the computer science and technology field. “If you educate and give people tools, and expose them to something new, the possibilities are limitless,” Gillespie says about equipping people with tools to succeed. Directly connected to developers and engineers, she saw the gap a program of this magnitude could fill. Believing the earlier you start teaching children, the greater your chances are of making an impression. Using social media to her advantage, Gillespie made one simple post and the rest is history.
Starting out with two classes and sixteen kids, Gillespie was ready to step out on faith. Seeing how everything aligned, partnership after partnership began to form. Equipping her participants with the best, she states how everyone who teaches her classes work in the industry. Having real life experience passed onto the kids in her program was important to her. With classes equipped with coding lessons and presentations, Gillespie gives them real-life activities mixed with some fun. Knowing the kids are in school prior to attending, she wanted her program to be more than just educational. She knew in order to reach them and have them return they needed to have fun. Therefore, giving them the opportunity to build their own app does just that. Now with partnerships like Microsoft and Boy Scouts, the program has grown by leaps and bounds having 150 children graduate as future coders. Having kids of all ethnicities and backgrounds, Gillespie explains how creating a diverse program was most important.
Though not a coder herself, she finds it fascinating how the kids in her program will be able write their own ticket in the future. Creating entrepreneurs or future developers is what she feels is the key to them succeeding. “If you see a developer or coder, they are never out of a job. There is always someone looking to hire them,” Gillespie says, and that’s the chance she wants to give them. Growing from sixteen kids to now having over a hundred, Gillespie takes pride in the fact she is using her skill of growing minority businesses and entrepreneurs, one color coded kid at a time.