Alicia CarrBy the time Alicia Carr, 51, reached high school, she knew she wanted to be a computer programmer. She didn’t know then, however, that she would go on to become a self-taught coder and program developer and create one of the first apps for victims of domestic violence in the state of Georgia. Her app, Purple Pocketbook, went live in May, but it has been brewing inside Carr for longer than that.

“My [coding] teacher suggested I create an app for domestic violence and I started to cry. One of my girlfriends died from domestic violence. My sister, my mother, other friends had all been through it.”

The app provides a “discreet, untraceable platform for women to review their available resources including local shelter contact information.” It also includes a questionnaire designed to confirm the type of domestic violence. It provides suggestions on how to keep your social media accounts secure, legal information for the state of Georgia and it is offered in six different languages: English, Korean, Spanish, Arabic, Urbu and Hindi.

“The women that have been close to me, they didn’t feel they were victims,” she says. “It’s just devastating because they did not want to get police or family involved. I felt there needs to be another form of explanation for these women to understand the situation they’re in.”

She also points out that it’s helpful to anyone going through a divorce or trying to leave a relationship, of either gender.

“It’s not just for victims,” she says. “I put as much info into it as possible.”

Though she’s excited about her success with the app, Carr has always taken the initiative to make her dreams a reality, without the advantage of a college education. “My mother and I didn’t understand the process of putting me through college,” she says. But that didn’t stop her.

Carr married her high school sweetheart, who joined the military. “The military opened up some opportunities for me,” she says. While Carr’s husband was stationed in Germany, she took just two computer programming courses, which got her a job as a help desk technician for a bank, troubleshooting computer problems, and eventually taking apart and putting back together non-functioning computers.

She went on to teach herself HTML. Her first big project design was inspired by the very early days of, when it was mainly an online bookstore. “My project was called the African American Literary Forum. I wanted to read African American books but I couldn’t find them; there was no way to narrow down the search to find books at that time. So I created the website for me.” Authors would email her their books, and it became very popular, but eventually the website became too big and unwieldy for her to manage by herself for free, so she let it go.

Purple Pocketbook App Tech Coding Grandma
Source: Tech Coding Grandma

It was the introduction of the iPad that paved the way for her app. “I was waiting in line for the first iPad and there’s a teenage boy in front of me.” In disbelief that a kid could afford such an expensive piece of technology she asked him how he could afford it. “I thought he would be buying skateboards and ice cream, not an iPad. He said he had made his own app and become a millionaire. I said I want to do that. He learned it from Youtube. He didn’t go to college.”

If a teenage boy could do it, she reasoned, so could she. She kept plugging ahead, using online forums to find mentors in lieu of expensive courses, finding affordable online courses until she had everything she needed to build Purple Pocketbook, which is under application to become a non-profit organization. She’d like to see her app expand to all 50 states and internationally.

Beyond her commitment to the cause of domestic violence, Carr is equally passionate about leading more women to jobs in STEM fields, particularly coding and app development. “I love what I do. Even though the app is all about domestic violence, I know I can open the doors for women who want to code, or get into programming.”

Others are certainly taking note. She won a scholarship to Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference this June. She remains committed to the cause of leading women toward freedom, in their personal lives and jobs.

“The majority of mobile apps are created by men and don’t have much input from women,” she says. “These are obstacles that women need to break. I tell women they can do it.”

Alicia’s blog: Tech Coding Grandma

Purple Pocketbook’s Crowdrise Funding Campaign

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