This Short Film Beautifully Captures a Woman’s Struggle in the Male-Dominated Field of Coding

School of Thought tells 'Aurora's Story' for Milliman

What does it take for a woman to break into the male-dominated world of software development?

Aurora Anderson, 34, was willing to essentially live apart from her husband and infant son for an entire year, commuting 173 miles from Portland to Seattle each week to study coding.

“I had a job after college working in a software company,” she recalls in the four-minute film below. “I worked alongside ‘devs’ all day, and I really just wanted to be one. There were two women devs at the time, I think, in a company that had at least over 100.”

Over time, Aurora pursued other career avenues and started a family, but application development was always her dream. Eventually, she applied to Ada Developers Academy, an intensive, tuition-free program that helps women and gender-diverse people master computer programming.

Attending the academy meant spending huge chunks of time away from her family, but Aurora was willing to make that sacrifice to acquire elite skills that could help give them a better life.

“When I first made the decision, I kind of didn’t know how to tell people about it, because I felt like people would think I was a bad mom for choosing to leave my kid,” she says. “That was tempered by the fact that I very quickly felt the confirmation of, this is the right path for me.”

In “Aurora’s Story,” she opens up about her hopes, fears and aspirations, telling a very personal, but universally relatable tale of hard work and determination.

“Taking this enormous risk, spending a year away from husband and newborn, in the hopes of transforming one’s life—that’s just about the most courageous thing I’ve ever heard,” says the film’s director, Tom Geary, executive creative director at School of Thought. The agency developed the mini-doc for Milliman, a data consultancy that helps fund the academy.

Named for Ada Lovelace, the 19h-century English mathematician widely recognized as the first computer programmer, the academy offers classes to 48 students per semester, with about a dozen applicants vying for each slot. Its job placement rate is 96 percent, and Aurora’s efforts paid off, as she recently gained employment as a software engineering intern at Milliman.

“This isn’t IBM,” says Geary. “This was a relatively small CSR initiative from a B2B company. But collectively, we were able to put together a wonderful story, something emotional and human, and certainly something needed in this time of [Harvey] Weinstein and others behaving badly.”

Milliman is promoting “Aurora’s Story” via social media, on its website, and through paid placements on Bloomberg and Financial Times properties. Along with touting the academy, the film aims to help diversify the company’s recruitment pool and the tech industry in general.

“It takes vision to upend the status quo and drive positive change in the world,” says Matt Curtis, Milliman’s vp of global branding, who believes the film illustrates the company’s dedication to such principles.

It’s a well-wrought piece of brand communication, with classroom scenes at the academy—there’s a VR bit, of course—balanced by shots of Aurora at home in Portland and during her commute to Seattle.

At one point, she invites the film crew into her garden and offers them a giant zucchini. “No way we could say no to that,” recalls School of Thought producer Mike Osgood. “I think the car rode low in the back because of it.”

That three-hour-plus journey from her house to the academy, with Aurora and the two-man film crew “jammed into her little Mazda, filled to the brim with everything she needed for the next couple of weeks in Seattle, was like a family road trip—eating drive-thru, telling terrible jokes, commenting on [the guy] in the F-250 who just passed on the right,” Osgood says.

Recommended videos