Interview with Sophie Viger, Managing Director of 42

Meet Sophie: Managing Director of 42

Sophie Viger, the Managing Director of 42, is a self-described technology and gaming nerd. With experience as an independent developer, computer programmer teacher, and educational director, she is an advocate of project-based learning, gender equality and diversity, and ethics in programming. 42 was lucky to have her come on board in 2018 as our Managing Director. We got to sit down with Sophie and learn more about her background, as well as her vision for 42 and what we can do to inspire more women to go into tech.

Where are you from and what did you do before 42?  

I’m from Paris. Since I was a child I always had a tech and gaming nerd background. In 1981 we got a computer when I was 7 years old.  I started to learn BASIC when I was 10 years old in school. I love science fiction, fantasy, video games, board games and strategic games (like Go). I loved everything in technology but also in science, I even eventually got a degree in Biology. When I was 16 my parents left France because of my dad’s job and I was alone with my two brothers. Even though I like geeky things I was interested in social causes as well since my dad was commander of the Paris fire-brigade. I was a pianist since I was 7 years old so after studying biology I studied musicology and earned a second degree.

I was taking courses in multimedia and the teacher was really bad. I was inspired to become a teacher and started to teach Lingo programming. I also worked as a director where I was in charge of a team of programmers, graphic designers, and writers. I dealt with the clients and I took care of the technical things. I worked as a sales director at one point a well. In the different professional roles I have been in, each time was exactly the same experience. When I started somewhere there was a problem and I always became the problem-solver.

I was an independent freelance developer and taught at the same time until 2004 when I had my daughter. I spent three years taking care of her and In 2007 I created ONG-TV. It was similar to YouTube where you could stream videos from a website. In 2008 the school where I used to take courses to be a teacher, IESA multimédia,  asked me to come and be the director of pedagogy at the school. In 2013 I left and became director of Web @ cadémie, the Samsung Campus, and the Coding Academy by Epitech. Five months ago I knew that Nicolas Sadirac was leaving so I met with Xavier Niel and he told me to come to 42.

What is your vision for 42 and what are your top priorities as Managing Director?

My vision for 42 is to be the biggest network of tuition-free schools in the world that produce ethical, creative, and empathetic developers. As for top priorities, first is to really help people who don’t think they can code to come and try 42, such as people from low-income backgrounds, underrepresented groups, and women. The second priority is for people who attend 42 to be sure they are one of the best developers when they leave the school to start their careers.

We know that gender equality is an issue in tech, how do we inspire more girls and women to go into tech?

We need to show all these girls and women that this kind of work, they can do it, it is very pleasant and fulfilling work. It is funny because people say that if you become a developer you are always going to be on a computer. No one says that to graphic artists, although you are a computer for the same amount of time. When you work as a developer you are often working with a lot of people on a team, and as a developer, you have a lot of autonomy because you can do what you want. This kind of work is also very nice because you can work from anywhere and choose your skills or focus, and work with a lot of different people. We need to show them that programming is not men’s work, it is human work, code is for everybody.

What is 42 Silicon Valley doing to bring more women into our program?

At the 42 Silicon Valley campus, 18% of our cadets are women and we are slowly growing that number, with 22% of women participating in our last piscine. We are trying to reach out to more women by featuring profiles on our website about inspirational female students and alumni. In order to help our female students connect with other women and allies in the 42 community, we host a gathering on campus where they can get together and talk. We hosted a Women in Tech week last September with guest speakers throughout the week who shared their insights into what it is like to be a woman in tech. We also hosted a Tesla Panel with software engineers and a senior staff product manager. We host a Women’s Speaker Series once a month that is open to the public. We also have partnerships with organizations that support women in tech, such as Women Who Code, and we volunteer with organizations like Lesbians Who Tech. In honor of Women’s History Month, we compiled a list of 15 amazing women in tech with the hope of inspiring a new generation of women to go into the field.

Is there someone or something that personally inspired you on your own path?

As a woman, my father because he had at the same time discipline and kindness, qualities that are shared with the 42 community. My father inspired me to give the best of myself and be kind to other people. I also am inspired by Steve Jobs, not only for the innovation but also the way he was fired and came back and did all of these amazing things. I think at the end of his life, he realized that you can have all the money you want, but the most important thing is love.

published by Stacey Faucett – March 8, 2019