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Organizing App Camp

You may not know this about me, the mysterious person behind the App Launch Map curtain, but I have a couple of big projects outside of this business, one of which is co-organizing App Camp for Girls in Phoenix.

App Camp was founded in 2013 by Jean MacDonald and Grey Osten. Their goal was to show girls entering the 8th and 9th grades how much fun tech can be. They developed a week-long program where kids could write apps for iPod touch using Objective-C, create their own artwork, and even pitch their apps to a small panel of mock investors at the end of the week. Things have evolved since then: App Camp’s focus is on increasing the representation of all genders in tech and welcomes non-binary and transgender kids of any gender. The curriculum has also been updated to take advantage of Swift, Playgrounds, iPads, and other new technologies. We’ve also expanded beyond creating only quiz apps to give the campers more variety and freedom as developers.

I got involved with App Camp in 2015 (you can listen to episode #36 of my retired podcast, Less Than or Equal, where I interviewed Jean, to hear the literal beginning of my journey with App Camp). There are a lot of things I love about being an App Camp organizer. If you give me a chance, I will wax poetic about the multitude of reasons I love this program so much. Today, though, I’ll restrain myself and tell you one of the things I love most about camp: how comprehensive it is.

During Phoenix Camp two weeks ago, our group of newly-minted developers told me they thought they’d come to the classroom, sit in front of a computer, and transcribe code from a piece of paper. That’s not how we do things at App Camp, though. Our goal is to show the kids that there’s more to app development than writing code. Tech needs developers who have a variety of experiences and backgrounds, it’s true, but we also need content strategists (like me!) to help tell compelling stories about apps. We need artists and designers to make software look great and work intuitively. We need people with strong presentation skills to talk about our apps in front of potential users and even investors. These are all skills our developers start to learn in their five days at App Camp and is, I think, one of the reasons we’re so successful.

As a camp organizer, I’m ultimately responsible for making sure that our developers learn about many things that go into creating good software. I have to be available to everyone to answer questions quickly and knowledgeably. Furthermore, I have to make sure that our volunteers are experts in the areas they’re talking about—our lead developer needs to be throughly steeped in Swift and Xcode; our design coach needs to be able to speak about user interfaces and color choices and accessibility; our presentations coach needs to be able to tell the developers not only what to put on a Keynote slide, but also how to speak with confidence. This means that I have to be an expert on many of those things, and, in the case of Swift and Xcode, I need to be able to recognize an expert when I see them!

App Camp is actually part of the reason I created App Launch Map. Our search for volunteers helped me realize that I have an unusual combination of expertise and skill. I can and do help developers get their apps ready for launch, and increase the chances of getting their app noticed. The things that stress a lot of developers out are tasks I love doing! Composing the perfect announcement Tweet, writing stellar release notes, reaching out to the media, and putting together preview videos are my idea of a good time.

If dealing with the non-code parts of launching your app stresses you out, I can help! Don’t hesitate to start a conversation on my consulting page.

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© Aleen Simms