ThoughtSTEM Blog

ThoughtSTEM Highlight: Lindsey Handley, PhD

By: Phil Ballew

If you have not had a chance to meet Lindsey, I strongly suggest you take the time to do so. Lindsey is someone I really enjoy talking to. She always has a smile on her face, no matter the situation. She keeps employees motivated and excited to come into the office.

What is your title at ThoughtSTEM?

I am a co-founder here, but my official title is Chief Operating Officer. Largely that means I am in charge of the operations of the business, so I oversee hiring and starting new after-school programs and camps. I also oversee all the finances.

What made you want to create ThoughtSTEM, and turn it into what it is today?

Back in 2012, when we started ThoughtSTEM, there was no computer science education in San Diego. I saw so much opportunity in kids learning how to code, and I didn’t want to see San Diego kids missing out on those opportunities for jobs at big tech companies like Google and Apple! Since then, we’ve had more and more schools and parents see the value in what we’re teaching, and the community has really helped us turn ThoughtSTEM into what it is today!

Can you tell me a little about what you were up to before you got started with ThoughtSTEM?

I was two years into my Biochemistry PhD and that’s really where I started to dip my feet into computer science. I learn best when I teach what I’m learning, so I started teaching local kids to code. Those workshops where we started to teach local kids are still running every Sunday at UCSD to this day!

What do you think made you want to get involved in STEM fields so early in life?

I have an older sister that was born with a rare genetic birth defect, so I spent a lot of time in hospitals around doctors and surgeries. My early childhood got me interested in genetics, which led me to Biology and eventually to Biochemistry, where I learned about coding. As I learned coding, I began to understand how important coding is to all the natural and physical sciences now! It’s hard to be a scientist who doesn’t know how to code nowadays: you have boatloads of data and if you don’t know how to code, it’s going to take you a LONG time to analyze all your data. There’s so much synergy between Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)! If you’re going to learn one, you’ll probably end up learning all 3 of the others!

What makes you so passionate about helping kids?

Kids are our future! I know that when I am able to help kids, I am really helping the world. I love seeing the progress that a student makes from the start of a class to the end. Even more so, though, I love seeing a child using the skills we taught them later in life. We’ve been teaching for 5 years now, so we’ve seen students grow up and go on to study computer science in college! That’s very rewarding to me.

What does a typical day for you look like at ThoughtSTEM?

I consider my day-to-day role to be very hands on. I really end up doing different things each day. I work with starting new school programs, hiring teachers, and making sure our curricula works with these programs. It can be a tough process. Each school is different, and I have to find a unique approach for each of them.

I manage the grants we have, and I write new grants. We have been fortunate enough to have several grants from the National Science Foundation. The NSF have dramatically helped us promote computer science education in San Diego and beyond.

A typical day at the office is always busy and interesting. I appreciate the fact that everyday is a little different! Sometime I make flyers, and other times I talk to parents. Sometimes I drive across town to meet with a principal. In the past, I worked in a Biochemistry lab where I repeated the same experiments over and over – working at ThoughtSTEM is so much more fun!

One of my favorite things I enjoy the most is getting to work with people on our team. They are truly the reason I work here! One of my goals in life that I strive for is creating an inclusive environment where everybody feels welcome to be themselves, and creating a sense of community. I strive to make sure we feel comfortable being open with each other because that is how we can have honesty between each other. When we are honest, we win.

How do you see ThoughtSTEM evolving in the coming years?

We have several exciting projects, currently. The main thing I’m working on growing right now is our after school coding programs. I want to see more students in this region impacted by coding education.

My second big project is finding a way to put our programs online for people to use all over the world. If we can grow ThoughtSTEM to benefit people worldwide, I would love to see how students benefit 5–10 years down the road!