Geek Speak: Meredith Powell, executive director of The Next Big Thing

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Meredith Powell is excited about taking over the Vancouver headquarters of Hootsuite Media with hundreds of teenagers on July 26 and 27.

Powell is the executive director of The Next Big Thing, a nonprofit foundation that launched in fall 2013. She cofounded TNBT with Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes.

In partnership with CodeCore, TNBT is putting on the free, two-day CodeCamp later this month. Day 1 of the coding boot camp will focus on HTML and CSS, and Day 2 will be all about Ruby. All 200 in-person spaces have already been filled, but Powell says they’re considering adding more spots. Anyone can register to watch the live stream as well.

Powell is also the creator of Founders Collective. Previously, she started three brand management and business strategy agencies in the fashion industry.

The Georgia Straight interviewed Powell over the phone.

What is the goal of The Next Big Thing?

The Next Big Thing is a nonprofit foundation where we empower young entrepreneurs to make their dreams come to life.

How does CodeCamp fit into this picture?

Both Ryan and I believe that digital literacy is so important for young people, and schools simply aren’t teaching it yet. Providing a resource for young people to understand coding is very important, and we’re doing it for free this summer.

Who should come to CodeCamp?

CodeCamp is geared to students in grades 10 through 12 from all over the Lower Mainland. It’s an intro course, so it can be someone who has never tried HTML before or has never used Ruby as well, I should say.

What kinds of careers await the kids who might be interested in this kind of thing?

I see that all business going forward will have technical aspects. So, even if you have an idea of being an artist, you should understand Photoshop. Or, if you want to be in manufacturing, that will have a technical element. A lot of it’s automated. We like to say that all kids should have access to coding skills and learn some technical skills, whether they want to be a CTO or not.

You’re involved in a few different things. Why did you decide to helm The Next Big Thing?

I personally am very passionate about mentorship and empowering others, particularly innovators in Canada. Much of my career was building my own personal network and building my own equity in business, and now I think it’s very important to pay it forward. So, I pay it forward in every way I possibly can.

CodeCamp is The Next Big Thing's free coding boot camp for teens.

Just to dip into something else you’re doing, can you tell me what Founders Collective is about?

Sure, I’m so proud of that organization. Founders Collective is a group of about 350 of B.C.’s most influential women founders, CEOs, and also aspiring founders. So, it’s all entrepreneurs, and we do different kinds of events—conferences, sometimes networking events—and it’s awesome. It’s all about connection and collaboration with great women.

Aside from CodeCamp, what else is the The Next Big Thing working on?

We have a great program starting in the fall—a six-month program where we’ll have young entrepreneurs in residence coming in and actually working for six months on their startup and following an entrepreneurial, innovative curriculum with us. That will be coworking space at Hootsuite. They’re flying in from Toronto, Manitoba, Calgary, from the island—10 kids in total. They’ll be developing their startup, and we’ll be accelerating them here. That’s from September until February.

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