The laws of the universe state that every action has a reaction, either being grander than the initial action or more trivial. I really believe that this attitude towards life is ever more present in society today, especially among the youth.
As a young person myself, I’ve noticed an increasing number of us getting more involved in tech. Technology has always been a topic of discussion among adults, and often hear that ‘tech is the future’. I whole-heartedly believe in that sentiment due to its increasing existence in the world and it rapidly intertwining itself into the every day.
In this context, it makes so much sense for young people to engage in tech as much as they are. As a continually new thing, tech offers young people many opportunities. That is why all the work today in learning and developing our technological skills is making us more equipped and ready for the developments to allow us to plan for tomorrow.
In 2018, I was part of the #TeensInAi2018 accelerator as part of Acorn Aspirations. Ripped straight from their website, Acorn Aspirations “offers young people the opportunity to learn the skills they need to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders”.
The accelerator was held over a two-week period where a group of teens, ranging from 13 to 18, were challenged with the task of developing a working prototype for an app that would help solve a problem of our choosing.
Being the oldest in my group, with the least amount of coding experience, I initially felt intimidated as I didn’t know what I could offer to the team. It is a very relatable worry for many wanting to get into tech, but not knowing how to code or its many languages. It’s often thought that technology is all about coding and that you must be a coder to fully thrive in the tech world.
Coding is cool and a very useful skill that everyone should at least try to learn, no matter your age, but it is not the be all and end all if you struggle at it. During the accelerator, I quickly learned about the alternative, but equally as important roles that I could have in the development of an app. This includes scrum master, business developer and overall mood maker (or at least I’d like to think so).
Although I didn’t have much of a hand in the coding of our application, my role still carried weight as I was the go to person to answer questions about ‘how our application would receive funding and support’, our marketing plan for our target audience’ while making sure that we could meet our daily targets in development. The accelerator really showed me that in tech, there is no bias towards a specific skillset, but more a bias to those who are willing to learn.
I was so proud that after two weeks of hard and strenuous work my group were able to confidently promote our application to the judges and won the competition. We developed a prototype to an online application called ‘SKai’ that uses images from a database to help users self-diagnose skin conditions. It utilises AI by taking the images uploaded by users to the application and adding it to the database to better learn how the same skin condition would present in different people.
Our win took us to San Francisco a few months later, where we had the opportunity to help out with the teens in the AI San Francisco accelerator. This accelerator only lasted one week, but the girls were still able to accomplish the same or even more of what we did in two.
I was really inspired by the amount of young females participating and was also psyched that they came with such ambitious ideas for what they wanted to create. I had the opportunity to lead a presentation on the ‘Ethics in AI’, where I discussed how a bias in the data we used to build our tech would cause the tech itself to share those same biases. From that learning I realised how important it is to diversify the people developing tech ensure that our own prejudices aren’t replicated in the tech we use.
Despite tech being an inclusive industry skill wise, it isn’t as inclusive in the diversity of people making tech. If I cannot see the representation and diversity in the techn industry that I want, then I will be that representation and open the doors for more people like me, or those less advantaged than me to also join the club.
It’s hard for me to distinctly say what I want to do in the future, because tech is ever-changing that my future job probably doesn’t even exist – yet. Technology is one of the most accommodating industries, that I would encourage young people, no matter what you want to do, that there will always be a place for you in tech.
Daniella Abamu is a 19 undergraduate student studying BSci Physics at the University of Liverpool.