Interview with Sasha Alston: STEM Advocate & Speaker

 

Sasha Ariel Alston is the author of the children’s book “Sasha Savvy Loves to Code”. She is currently an Information Systems Major with a minor in Marketing at Pace University in New York. With successful information technology and business internships at Infor, Microsoft, EverFi, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Many Mentors, and the National Academy Foundation behind her, she is a sought-after speaker to encourage youth, especially girls of colour, to pursue educational and career opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Sasha was also the recipient of the Imani Award and the Prize for Achievement Award by Kurt Giessler Foundation, a Finalist in the Youth Essay Category of the Larry Neal Writers’ Award presented by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and was published in the Harvard Educational Review – Youth Voices. More on Sasha at www.sashaarielalston.com

 

Combining STEM and social justice; quite the combination. Where do you see the intersection and what do you see as the cumulative impact of these?

There is an alarming lack of diversity in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields. Having skills in these areas will be increasingly important in the job market. Since I know this first hand, I was moved to do something about it and help raise awareness. My ultimate career goal is to be at the forefront of Education Technology to provide children and youth, especially those in under-resourced areas, with the critical skills they need to excel in school and life through innovative technology that is user-friendly. All seven of my internships have involved bridging education, technology and social justice to some degree. For example, while interning at the National Academy Foundation, I assisted the McKinley Technology High School’s team with supporting approximately 400 Engineering and Information Technology students with college and career exploration and preparation. I was also on the winning team of the Thriving Cities Social Good Hackathon” where we advanced solutions surrounding STEM Education.

 

You’ve recently published your first book to encourage young girls to learn how to code. What is it you want to teach 7-10 year olds about coding and why the focus on girls of colour?

There aren’t enough girls involved in STEM-related activities. I think one of the reasons is because they are not exposed to it in school or at home at an early age when they are more open to exploration. Also many of the images in media do not reflect them. I have a particular focus on girls of colour because of the overall lack of diversity in STEM. My book “Sasha Savvy Loves to Code” teaches basic coding terms but I really wrote the book to make the concept accessible to all ages in our communities.

 

Many young people complain about the lack of jobs but although you’re still in school, you’ve had internships with many notable organizations including Microsoft. What are some of the ways grads, even undergrads can make themselves attractive to the job market?

It’s very important that your resume reflects how great it would be to have you on the company’s team based on your skills and experience. Be proactive in developing what employers look for in your field. Create a LinkedIn profile to build your network. I currently have 1800 LinkedIn connections and they have been very helpful in getting the word out about my book. If your social media accounts are public, be aware that employers can find you and may make decisions based on what they see. Be prepared for the interview. I research everything that I need to know about the company.

 

You are also speaker. What do you think young people and especially young women need to hear and learn today and why?

Young people need to be able to see themselves in the career that they wish to pursue. We need more diversity in the STEM and publishing world. My book covers both, so I focus on talking about my experiences in technology and how I overcame any challenges while pursuing my goal of publishing the book. Hopefully through sharing my story, young women will be inspired to believe in themselves, to fight against negativity and limitations, and to find causes they can support.    

 

You’ve been featured in several media across the world. What is the grandest vision you have of what you could make of these opportunity/platforms?

Yes, I was shocked to find my story covered in places like the Philippines, Kenya, and Japan. And recently, I have joined the international Disney “Dream Big, Princess” Campaign. With these opportunities, I don’t just want to change the world, I was to increase the number of persons changing the world.

 

There’s a lot said about the challenges girls and women face. What would you say has been the most overlooked issue and what would you suggest be done about it?

Meanness. It seems like everybody is mean to women and girls and in turn, women and girls are mean to each other. It even takes a lot for women and girls to be kind to their own selves. We need to all be more kind. Kindness builds self-esteem and a high self-esteem is needed to accomplish a lot of things in life.

 

You want to change the face of STEM. What do you see being better in 5 years time because of your work?

It would be great to see an increase in the diversity of STEM students, workers, educators, leaders and role models. I can’t predict how much will be the result of my efforts but I will do my part. It will take individual determination and community support to make a difference.

 

For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building, click here.

 

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