Giustina MizzoniGiustina has led the CoderDojo Foundation for more than two years.

She joined CoderDojo in January 2013 as its first employee, having previously managed the Irish operations of Dogpatch Labs, a co-working space for startup technology companies.

In her role as Executive Director of the CoderDojo Foundation, she is responsible for overseeing its programmes, operations, and global growth. She led CoderDojo’s merger with the Raspberry Pi Foundation in May 2017, creating one of the largest sustained global efforts to help young people learn computing and digital making. Giustina holds an MSc in Management (Innovation in Social Enterprise) from Dublin City University, and an MA in International Politics and Human Rights from City University London.

Giustina Mizzoni is also a Director at the Raspberry Pi Foundation,a UK-based charity, leading CoderDojo. CoderDojo is part of the Raspberry Pi family and is a worldwide network of free, volunteer-led coding clubs for children and teenagers. The mission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world. In 2019, the Raspberry Pi Foundation aims to raise £4.25 million to pursue its educational initiatives including online coding projects, free coding clubs, and volunteer support. They are only able to do this important work thanks to the generous support of our partners.

Please contact [email protected] to get involved.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your current role

My name is Giustina Mizzoni, I’m the Executive Director of the CoderDojo Foundation, and we are part of the wider Raspberry Pi Foundation. We are an Irish-founded, global movement of free, informal computer clubs for young people aged 7 to 17. Across the globe, we have 1,914 clubs.

I’ve worked with CoderDojo for the past five years. I initially joined as the organisation’s first employee in 2013. I became Executive Director two years ago, and last year I oversaw our merger with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. I sit on the wider partnership team and play a key role in raising funds to support our work and that of the wider Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not particularly, my career has been shaped by opportunities that have arisen. I’ve always been ambitious, so I’ve assessed opportunities as they’ve come up to determine what impact or learning I felt I could gain. From a young age I’ve always known that I wanted to be in a leadership position, so that has always been a guiding principle.

Initially I completed an MA in International Politics and Human Rights, but after voluntary work with an international non-profit, I found the bureaucracy frustrating. I moved home and took a (very!) brief job in financial services. From there, an opportunity came up to become the first Operations/Office Manager of a new American VC–backed co-working space. That role exposed me to the technology sector, and I was surrounded by fast-growing innovative start-ups. The environment appealed to me, and I haven’t really left the technology sector since.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I have faced various challenges in my career so far. In my role as Operations Manager, I was the only woman in the co-working space with more than 30 men — it was an interesting dynamic, and I think it set me up very well. The majority of the challenges I’ve faced have been internal. I reached a leadership position at a relatively young age, so I often felt like an imposter in board meetings or similar situation. Experience has helped me overcome this, although I still have brief moments where I doubt myself.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Normalisation of flexible working arrangements.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in STEM?

I strongly believe that there are societal perceptions of what STEM is or means. Many people think it’s for men, or that you need to be a nerd or genius, or even that it’s isolating, that you are coding for hours on end on your laptop etc. Frankly, none of these preconceptions are true. To overcome this, we need to help every young girl, their parents, and their teachers understand the importance and relevance of technology. I recently heard a story of how a CoderDojo volunteer phoned an all-girls school to ask whether they could let their students know about the coding club the volunteer had set up nearby. The principal said she didn’t think it was something that would be of interest to her students, as they all wanted to be nurses and teachers… Here is a principal of a school with over 300 girls aged 12 to 18, who is blatantly reinforcing gendered roles and choosing not to share a free learning opportunity with their students.

Last year, we launched the CoderDojo Girls Initiative. Our goal is to achieve gender parity in the CoderDojo movement. We’ve identified best practices for increasing the number of girls in clubs, and we are working on a trial to measure the effectiveness of different interventions, such as the presence of female volunteers and the language used to describe club activities. I firmly believe that everyone has a role to play to achieve parity of men and women in STEM.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring is incredibly important, but so is sponsorship where you have people in organisations who actively advocate for you. My mum has been a constant mentor in my life. She’s an Executive Coach, so it’s helpful that she is incredibly talented at it. She’s helped me navigate difficult situations and I’ve learnt so much from her. And I’ve mentored and supported friends and colleagues throughout specific challenges or changes over the years.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Last year we merged with Raspberry Pi. It was a huge change for the CoderDojo team, and we went from being 10 people to growing to 17 and now being part of a 100-person organisation. We learnt so much from the process, and I enjoyed it immensely!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m expecting my first child in the new year. I’ve no doubt that continuing my career, which requires me to travel frequently, while being a new mother will be challenging.