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Volunteer Spotlight: Asmaa Elkeurti

“I firmly believe anyone can learn computer science.” — Asmaa Elkeurti

After graduating from the University of Iowa in 2016, Asmaa Elkeurti became a developer at Pear Deck, an Iowa City-based education startup offering a web-based application to K-12 schools and teachers, and a regular volunteer for NewBoCo’s K-12 computer science education programs. Before she leads this Saturday’s Javascript session for our GirlsCode++ camp, we sat down to talk about how she became interested in becoming a developer and why she wants to help more students explore computer science.

What made you want to have a career in computer science?
I didn’t initially set out to study computer science. I took an intro class, really enjoyed it, kept taking classes, and found myself on track for a computer science degree. In the beginning, I thought I’d use programming as a tool to supplement another career, but I quickly realized what I loved doing most was programming. My involvement in two campus groups opened my eyes to all the awesome opportunities that exist, and so that’s what I decided to pursue.

What do you like about being a developer?
Programming allows me to employ logical, creative problem solving. It feels like doing puzzles or playing a game as I’m building something awesome. When I’m deep into a problem, I’m really in it. I forget everything else around me, and coming out of that with a solution or a design that I’m proud of feels pretty awesome. The fact that I get to do that all day makes me feel incredibly lucky. I also enjoy passing on my love of coding with other people.

What qualities does a person need to learn about computer science? Can anyone learn it?
I firmly believe anyone can learn computer science. There aren’t any qualities that make somebody particularly good or bad at it. A background in math might make it a little easier to get a hang of, but that’s not necessarily a prerequisite. Ultimately, it just takes a lot of practice and you need to be comfortable with failure, which was the hardest part for me to learn. In the beginning, very reasonable roadblocks will feel insurmountable even when you’re working on a simple problem. You’ll feel like you’re painfully floundering until you figure it out, and as frustrating as that may sound, I think it’s part of becoming a good developer.

How did you get involved with GirlsCode++/NewBoCo?
Samantha Dahlby (NewBoCo K-12 Education Coordinator) and I were both leading a coding section at Open Minds Open Doors. She came and introduced herself and asked if I wanted to get involved with the November GirlsCode++ event. It was a great experience, so I’m excited to get involved in the one this weekend!

What do students learn at GirlsCode++?
We’re hoping girls learn how to add interactivity to their websites. I’m leading the Javascript section this weekend, which will be attended by people who’ve taken the HTML/CSS section offered in the fall. I also hope they leave with the same kind of excitement I saw them express for coding in November.

What do you like to do in your life outside of work and GirlsCode++?
I love reading, biking, yoga, taking photos, and meeting new people with a diverse set of experiences.

Who are women in tech that you look up to as role models and mentors?
I definitely look up to a lot of women who are trailblazers in whatever field they pursue. I’ve had professors, teachers, and I’m lucky enough to work with women who are incredibly talented & inspiring to me.


Tickets for GirlsCode++ are still available! This is a one-day event held from 9AM-3PM on Saturday, February 10th, to teach girls about programming, taught by women in technology fields. Girls will learn HTML and CSS to build their own website. New this session, girls with prior HTML and CSS experience may choose to add JavaScript to their skills in the advanced group. They will also learn about careers in computer science. This event is ideal for 8–12th-grade girls with or without any prior experience in computer science.

Scholarships have been generously provided by Converge Consulting, ImOn Communications, Workiva, Kum & Go, Best Buy, US Bank, DiscoverE, and Jonnie 5 Apparel. You can sign up for a scholarship here, email Samantha Dahlby at, or call 319–382–5128 for more details.

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