Inspiring Juniors Q&A: Joana Baptista

Meet UK Inspiring Juniors 2018 winner Joana Baptista, from Oxford.

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1. How did you first get into technology?

I’ve always been acutely aware of everything in the tech space, but I’d say the time I really got involved with programming to a point where I never looked back was during a summer coding camp called Young Rewired State. I did this at RAL in Didcot for the first time aged 12, but kept coming back year after year because I loved it so much. Here I learnt some of the very basics of programming, and through building projects and then presenting them in front of hundreds of people at their culminating conference at the end of the week I began to develop a deeper understanding of what it meant to be in STEM.

From here I attended a business hackathon at Oxford Brookes University for students and adults, which I won. I ended up developing this business further, with investment from O2, the WMG group (sponsored by the European Union) and Natural Motion. The business itself, an attachment to your toothbrush to help and incentivise young children to improve their brushing, required a lot of technology, and proved a huge personal learning curve for me. I also had the opportunity to pitch this business to HRH Princess Anne in the Salesforce tower with STEMettes, as part of a flagship team of members for Outbox Incubator, a STEM business incubator that I attended over the summer of my 14th birthday. With these foundations in technology I’ve began helping others too, launching a code club, delivering internet safety workshops, and educating teachers on what they can do, to name a few. But if I was to pick a pivotal point in my life for where my passion for tech/programming began, I would say it was as soon as I discovered all the incredibly cool things that could be done with it.

2. Tell us about your project.

I describe my life a bit like a Pick ’n’ Mix, I like to do a little bit of everything. My latest project has been creating a series is children’s picture books tackling social issues. Each story takes a modern twist on a classic tale, such as Rapunzel, to bring more openminded views surrounding topics such as feminism, disabled rights and racism, to name a few. My first big project was creating an attachment to your toothbrush to help young children improve their brushing and motivate them. Since then, I've been opened up to a huge range of opportunities business wise, but what I most enjoy doing is giving back and igniting a love for tech in others. I set up a free-to-attend code club with Barclays, and run a whole range of coding and internet safety workshops in primary schools. I also attend panel events and talks, such as with Facebook for International Women’s Day, and with GirlGuiding at Cambridge University to discuss STEM careers. I also love to work with Schools and Universities, advising teachers on how to deal with misogyny and promoting entrepreneurship amongst students. To sum up, I’d probably describe myself as an entrepreneur with a conscious, I’m determined to not only create a business that everyone recognises, but also help others to be recognised.

3. What do you love about technology?

I love many things about tech, but one of my favourites is how I can create something really complex from absolutely nothing. The idea of being able to code a program to do something crazy that started off with just a few words on a page and an idea in my head really excites me. I love solving complex problems, figuring out the maths behind it and feeling the satisfaction when I’ve solved it. Another thing I love about tech is being able to share it with other people. There’s such an inclusive and inspiring atmosphere around tech and I love working on something with people from all walks of life, united under the common interest of doing something great with technology.

4. Who inspires you?

My two biggest idols have to be Michelle Obama and Beyoncé, they both are the picture of inner confidence and strength, which are so important for women to have. One of my biggest role models doesn’t actually come from the tech world, but actually somewhere in-between the tech and the football world - Karren Brady. I really admire her drive and tenacity, and her dedication to stick to her morals. Within tech, I’ve always admired Cheryl Sandberg, and of course, Ada Lovelace. I admire how pioneering they both were in their respective time periods.

5. What is your ultimate dream for the future?

This might either come across as very cheesy, or very selfish, but I promise you it’s neither. I know I’ve achieved success in my life when two people in a random part of the world have a conversation about a 'Joana Baptista' and they both know who I am. I want people to know my name, and I want them to recognise me as an inspirational woman who changed the world in her own right. I want to leave a positive mark on society that my children, grandchildren and everyone else can be proud of. If I could do just one thing in the world, it would be unlocking the power of girls from underprivileged communities and giving them the chance they deserve to thrive.