Tell us about your journey into tech?
My name is Avye and I’m 13 years old. I started coding & attending physical computing workshops at 7. They were fun, so I began going to loads of similar events and continued to explore what I was learning at home. To share my skills & experiences I started co-running coding workshops alongside two adult mentors & soon took on the responsibility for preparing & leading my own for CoderDojo at Kingston University and at other community tech events. I became aware that the majority of attendees at my workshops were boys and so, two and a half years ago I founded ‘Girls into Coding’ to get more girls into tech. Girls into Coding offers girls aged 10-14 an opportunity to explore Coding, physical computing, robotics & 3D printing. The events are free to attend and with the help of my mum, I reach out to women & girls doing cool things in the world of STEM & invite them to give lightning talks. I also design & build robots, and have won a couple of competitions with them. One of my wheeled robots has gone through a tonne of iterations and I use different versions of it in my different robotics workshops.

How do you feel you have made a difference in what you do?
I advocate for diversity in the tech sector and I believe you are never too young for your ideas & your efforts to have value. I want all girls to feel empowered to access opportunities to learn how to code, develop their making and digital skills regardless of their background. As well as leading tech workshops I use my voice to encourage girls to give STEM a go through blogs, thought pieces, demos, and opportunities to speak at events. I am enthusiastic about sharing my skills & experiences with others and I’m an Arm ambassador, part of the GenArm2Z program which enables young people to talk to tech leaders about how technology is being used & shaped for the future. Through my work with Girls Into Coding, I’ve emerged as a visible example of a young black female purposefully engaging with an issue I am passionate about changing, whilst working hard to create and shape an environment for other young females to also do the same. I believe it is important for girls to see tech activities, opportunities, roles, and events being enjoyed, organised, driven, and normalised by someone just like them. I am in the same age range as the attendees, so they see someone just like them immersed in the world of tech. During the Pandemic Girls Into Coding continued to engage with our community of girls by developing an online version of our workshop events. We were able to keep the hands-on aspect by posting out robotics kits, materials, resources & other hardware to the girls, so they had everything at home to fully participate in the online events. With social distancing restrictions in place, it was a way to bring together groups of communities to engage in enriching activities, filling gaps in skill and social development by connecting them to a wider network of people at the events and beyond. During lockdown the online sessions have benefited girls in many ways: improved confidence; provided opportunities to be creative & problem-solve; built mental resilience; provided mental health benefits through connectedness and teamwork; helped girls to see their potential and pathways in STEM education and careers.

What would you say is your biggest achievement?
Through my work with Girls Into Coding & my wider tech journey, I have had the privilege of being successfully nominated for a few awards. Among them are, The Women In Tech 100 Awards, The Woman in Tech Global Awards, The FDM Everywoman Award, The Diana Legacy Award, The Diana Award, Inspiring Juniors UK, The Coolest Project UK, The Microbit 1st Birthday Challenge. Being recognised in this way has been a huge boost, giving me the confidence and drive to try to empower even more girls. However, the accomplishment that I’m most proud of would be successfully hosting my first ever Girls Into Coding event. I was 10 years old and I fundraised to provide free computing kits, Micro:bits, and STEM-themed books to all of the girls that attended the event. The whole experience was great and I was especially proud of what the girls achieved in their workshops by the end of the event.

How do you think people can go about making a difference, in regards to spreading awareness of Black Women in tech?
There are some fantastic networks & grassroots organisations working tirelessly to promote awareness of Black Women in tech. I think the regular collaboration between these groups is a definite way to amplify all of our efforts. Raising awareness, redressing imbalance & improving diversity in the tech space is a giant and ambitious task that needs a responsible level of support from the giant & ambitious tech companies.

What do you believe are the most effective ways to engage other ethnicities and genders to embrace diversity?
Giving people the opportunity to see someone just like them flourishing in a particular area of life is powerful. But creating opportunities where people can explore new things for themselves, while being given the support & encouragement to have a positive experience or to achieve a positive outcome, whether that be designing or making something, solving a problem or achieving something new – like building & coding a robot, really helps people to see their own potential & different versions of what is possible for them.

What is the best advice you ever received?
Don’t be afraid of being afraid