San Francisco, CA, February 17, 2016 — On October 21, Toptal launched Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women, a program designed to empower and support the next generation of female computer scientists, software engineers, and developers through a combination of financial support and mentorship.
Today, we could not be more excited to announce that Gabriela Mancini, freelance designer and former primary school teacher from Córdoba, Argentina, is the third winner of the scholarship. Gabriela is incredibly passionate about software engineering and is developing her skills so that she can build an educational platform to help students across Argentina learn to read and write online.
“Gabriela’s passion and determination to become a software engineer are obvious from the second you meet her,” said Toptal Director of Engineering Anna-Chiara Bellini, who leads scholarship’s committee of judges. “Even after submitting her amazing application, Gabriela would follow up with me every few weeks to update me on her recent progress and congratulate the previous winners. Her tenacity and love for technology are inspiring to all of us.”
Gabriela has a degree in education with a technology focus. After working for 15 years as a primary school teacher, she quit one year ago to become a freelance designer. However, her true passion has always been software development. As a winner of Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women, Gabriela will receive $5,000, as well as one year of weekly one-on-one mentorship with a Toptal senior developer.
“I’ve always tried to use technology when I teach my students, but I’ve seen many more opportunities where software could improve so many things for children in the classroom,” explains Gabriela. “I have so many ideas, but I just haven’t had the skills necessary to make them a reality! Winning this scholarship and having a mentor…this is huge for me.”
Gabriela studied design in university, and has always dreamt of becoming a freelance designer and software developer.
“Teaching primary school was amazing, but I know that my place is in design and software development. I love it,” says Gabriela. “It’s always been hard for me to find time to learn outside of being a teacher and raising my family, so one year ago I decided to quit and start a career as a freelance designer. It was a big risk, but it has paid off. I’m so happy I made this decision.”
Gabriela started by building her website, posting it on social media sites, and sending emails to companies in Córdoba that she saw didn’t have websites. Her strategy and determination worked, and before long she had built a healthy portfolio of clients. Gabriela sees becoming a freelance developer and designer as a natural progression from being a primary school teacher.
“When you’re a teacher, you have to talk to lots of people, organize yourself, organize many simultaneous projects, and have a lot of discipline,” says Gabriela. “As a freelancer, you also have to talk to many people, be kind, listen to them, etc. I always try to teach my clients something whenever they have a project for me. I use so many of the same skills.”
About Gabriela’s Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women application
Gabriela first found out about the scholarship program when her husband read it in Dia a Dia, a local online newspaper in Córdoba.
“As soon as I read it, I knew it was for me. It was exactly what I’d been looking for to help with my educational software idea,” said Gabriela.
Gabriela didn’t know about GitHub, so she started reading and watched videos to learn how to use it for her application. She also read Anna-Chiara Bellini’s guide to making your first open source contribution on the Toptal Engineering Blog.
Gabriela also taught herself to create a blog, where she published her application post. Gabriela’s open source project was to contribute to CSSgram, a popular CSS library for Instagram filters.
Although she learned to program in QBasic as a child, Gabriela has only recently had a chance to work on further developing her programming skills.
“I’ve been learning primarily through watching online videos and through websites like Codigo Facilito, which provide really great tutorials,” said Gabriela.
With her scholarship winnings, Gabriela plans to create an online learning platform that helps Argentinian children learn how to read, write, and count. The site will reflect the unique teaching methods used in Argentina that expose children to all letters and numbers at once, instead of incrementally.
Although there are many educational platforms on the Internet, even in Spanish, there is currently no such platform that exists that is specifically targeted for Argentina and its education system. Gabriela knows from first-hand experience what an enormous impact such a product would have on the growth of young students in the classroom, and how beneficial it would be for schools. Since such a project typically requires the efforts of a team of developers, Toptal will also be helping her grow her network of connections in Argentina, where there are many strong Toptal communities.
Gabriela also plans to begin taking Computer Science classes in March at the Instituto Superior Santo Domingo in Córdoba, and is looking forward to applying everything she learns in her studies to this project.
Gabriela fell in love with programming in university. “I encountered HTML and CSS in one of my education classes and immediately thought, ‘This is wonderful! I want to know more.’” Since then, she explains that there have been plenty of nights where she only slept a few hours just so that she could have the time to study more.
She has been married for 8 years and has a 5-year old son and 2-year old daughter, both of whom are already learning to use technology. Gabriela is also a belly dancer who sometimes uses dancing as a way to brainstorm new ideas for her projects.
Gabriela’s passion, intelligence, and drive come through in everything she does. The way that she has taken successful risks and shifted her career focus to learn software engineering in order to have a greater impact on the education system in Argentina is an amazing testament to her ambition and willpower.
We are thrilled to be able to support Gabriela over the next year as she works to become a web developer and builds the first educational platform in Argentina for young students. We have no doubt that she will continue to achieve amazing things in the future.
Please join us in congratulating Argentinian developer Gabriela Mancini on becoming the third winner of the Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women program!
About Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women
Toptal STEM Scholarships for women are a series of 12 scholarships for women that are awarded monthly over a year, with Gabriela being the third scholarship winner. Women from across the world of any education level are eligible to apply to win $5,000 and a year of weekly one-on-one technical training and mentorship from a Toptal senior technologist to help them pursue their goals as future professional software engineers.
The first scholarship winner was Rojina Bajracharya, a Python developer, entrepreneur, and mentor from Bhaktapur, Nepal. The second scholarship winner was Ana Sustic, a Python developer, system administrator, and project manager from Ljubljana, Slovenia.
To apply to Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers and for more information about the program, visit https://www.toptal.com/scholarships.
Founded in 2010, Toptal is one the fastest-growing and most innovative companies to emerge from Silicon Valley. With backing from Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley’s famed venture capital firm, Adam D’Angelo, founder of Quora, Ryan Rockefeller, and other investors, Toptal today connects thousands of elite freelance software engineers and designers from around the world to over 2,000 blue chips such as J.P. Morgan and Pfizer, tech companies such as Airbnb and Zendesk, and numerous startups to provide world-class solutions that meet the most complex and challenging requirements. Toptal’s rapid growth is testimony to exploding client demand and the unmatched quality and reliability of the company’s services.
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