Technology Is for Kids

Technology and coding aren’t for just adults. They can be fun tools for kids, too. In fact, a solid, basic understanding of tech and coding can help to set kids up for success in school and eventually in their careers as young adults.

That’s why Havas Village Spain is investing in the next generation of talent. They are hosting innovation workshops for employees’ children, teaching them the latest in technology and tools such as 3D printing, robotics, coding, VR, game design, and mobile apps. The pilot workshop kicked off in May and there were two more in June. The program is set to be rolled out globally.

Jose Gutierrez Cuellar, global head of client technology for Havas Media Group, talks about the importance of learning tech principles at an early age and the impact it will have on the advertising industry.

Tell us about your background.

I am Spanish born, with a degree in mechanical engineering. I’ve been a process engineer, developing aircraft engines for Rolls-Royce, and a technology consultant at an international thought leadership company.

I lived in England for more than nine years and have an English stepdad, who is an amazing guy. I came back to live in Spain in 2008. I joined Havas in 2010, and I absolutely love the company’s culture, energy, passion, and values.

As for some personal details, I recently became a dad for the first time to a young boy named Mateo. I live in Madrid, but I am a Barcelona football fan. I know. It’s a very odd mix, and I get plenty of flack from the locals on football topics over the weekend.

Why are tech and coding necessary for brands to connect with an audience?

Technology disrupts the everyday. It has a huge impact on our society, our behavior, and the way we act—and interact—with each other.

It is only the beginning. The continued transformation of our lives because of tech is beyond measurable, from connected intelligent devices (the Internet of Things), to robots with self-taught mobility, and machinery, i.e., artificial intelligence.

Tech and coding are the next must-have skills of the modern marketer. We are embracing the digital channels, but do we really grasp what is running behind the scenes of these digital campaigns?

Every marketer should develop a comfort with technology, and, over time, advance from comfort to understanding, and finally to intuition.

Code, i.e., algorithms, is what drives many of our great digital marketing campaigns. Our websites, social channels, apps, emails, and other digital tools are designed to improve the customer journeys—which are seamless because there are smart coders working day and night to optimize these experiences.

Technology enables real-time audience planning, builds personas, and targets with accuracy. Audience planning enables the marketer to understand specific consumers and then tailor the message to that audience.

Why are technology and coding important for children to learn?

Every child should learn how to code. It provides a set of soft and hard skills that will prepare them towards being eligible for tomorrow’s workforce. Programming skills empower kids; interaction with technology at an early age gives them tools to express themselves in a modern way, making playtime an endless adventure with no limits. Technology will be the common language of the future. And over the next 10 to 20 years, programming will be one of the fastest-growing occupations in the world, and it already is in most developed countries.

At what age should adults start teaching kids about coding and tech?

Early-learning benefits kids. Learning to write programs stretches your mind and helps you reason better. Coding and technology exposure should be part of competency-based education and training, and I’m sure that governments will make such topics a mandatory subject within the very near future. There are already many small-scale programs around the world.

Programmers tend to craft their skills while in college. Leaders in the field, however, begin their education in technology before entering college, often teaching themselves.

Visual programming languages teach programming logic and concepts before kids can read, so there’s no excuse for not teaching this skill set at an early age. In fact, there are many products in the market—for free. Lego education and Scratch from MIT are my favorites for early-age learning. Both have frameworks that are easy to engage with, generate curiosity, and are simple enough to interest a 3-year-old.

What prompted the team in Havas Village Spain to create Code & Tech 4Kids?

We have a great culture rooted in entrepreneurship. Ideas flow easily within the network at Havas Group. The senior management is very devoted to the talent of the Group and will always support and invest in good initiatives.

Part of our core values is to create meaningful connections. So we thought about different ways to build such connections with our employees. There is nothing more meaningful than your family, and understanding the current digital generational gap. So we came up with the idea that we should invest in those connections for our employees to help them build bridges of interest with their kids.

At times, the work-life balance isn’t  an easy task, and the business demands a lot of time from our employees. So an event where our team can interact with their kids more, have fun and learn at our Havas Village is a way of giving back.

I am very lucky to report directly to Dominique Delport, global managing director of Havas Group. So I sketched out a couple of lines and sent him the idea. He replied within five minutes, with a simple but very efficient, “Love it. GO. I want this in every Village.”

So we put a detailed plan into action. We began to scout, identify, and partner with key companies to start developing the program. The first workshop was a great success; we had 45 kids in attendance. And we got seemingly endless positive press about our efforts.

What do you hope kids will gain from participating in this program?

First of all, we want kids to have fun and make new friends while doing so.  By having fun we want this exposure to technology to empower them to be dreamers and makers. We want to generate curiosity, and to challenge them to keep experiencing and interacting with technology every day. It’s amazing to see the responses on kids’ faces when they realize that they are able to build anything and everything if they use their energy and put their minds to it.

What advice do you have for parents whose kids may struggle with tech and coding?

Not all kids have the same skills or interests. If your kid is not interested, it is not the end of the world. Try to come up with different gamification methods to engage and reward your kid for learning.

If Villagers want to start a similar program in their city, who should they contact?

We are currently working on a toolkit to package all of our learnings from the deployment of this initiative in Spain. We will be developing and sharing with all countries. So look out for that.

The goal is to make Code & Tech 4Kids a social movement within Havas, creating a global framework and community that will allow all of us to share ideas, experiences, and know-how. I will be the global program manager, so anyone who wishes to volunteer can reach out to me directly: Jose.gutierrez@havasmg.com.

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