What Message Do You Think Every Woman Should Hear ?

With Akshaya Dinesh

Introduce yourself! Who are you?
I’m a software engineer, social entrepreneur, dog lover, hackathon addict and student at Stanford. In 2016, I founded a nonprofit called Girls Make Apps that aims to empower girls of all ages to pursue careers in computer science by providing them with free, education programs teaching them how to create technology for social impact. I started this organization after realizing that there was a severe lack of support for underrepresented groups in tech — they often lack mentorship, hands-on education, and female role models. Girls Make Apps provides all of those by creating a vast network of classes, workshops, and events that girls of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from. I am also a software engineer myself, currently finishing up an internship at Bloomberg. My favorite hobby is attending hackathons — I have been to over 40 hackathons around the country and organize the largest all-women hackathon in NYC (ByteHacks). 
What would you say to 16 year old you?
I would tell my 16 year old self to stop being afraid. When I was 16, I felt lonely and confused — I knew I had to do something to empower women in tech, but I was too afraid to start a nonprofit alone. By the middle of my 16th year, I did end up founding it, but I could have started my work sooner if I stopped waiting for outside support and maintained confidence in myself. 
What message do you think every woman should hear?
Trust in yourself. It’s so easy to believe that everyone else is smarter, stronger, or better than you. But you won’t reach your dreams unless you believe in yourself. I find that self-confidence (the right amount) is an extremely important character trait and one that I value greatly.
Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
I started programming the summer after 8th grade, when I took an online class on Java. When 9th grade started, I thought the next best way for me to get involved in hands-on engineering work was to join the Robotics team at my local high school. Instead of being greeted by a welcoming, innovative environment, I was shocked when the male programming lead kicked me out of the club after the first meeting. All I had done was ask him if I could join the team, but he refused to believe that I knew how to code and yelled “Get out!” until I was forced to leave. This was a traumatic experience for me, since I learned at a young age how difficult it was for women to break into tech. After the initial disappointment and despair, I took this experience and used it to fuel my future tech aspirations and activism.
What motivates you most?
I am motivated by the impact of my work. Every time someone learns a new skill from being a part of our programs, or someone uses software that I helped developer, I feel motivated to keep going. Solving problems and impacting people’s lives are two of the main reasons why I do the work I do.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
I try to schedule time to relax or meet with friends into my calendar. I also do a lot of traveling, and I whenever I travel to tech conferences or business-related events, I take extra time to explore the area and meet with friends nearby!
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from the amazing women around me, especially my mother. My mom has always inspired me to work hard and follow my dreams, something she did when she moved to the United States and something I strive to do every day.

More About Akshaya

Akshaya Dinesh is the 18-year old Founder and Executive Director of Girls Make Apps, a nonprofit that empowers girls to create technology for social impact. She is also a Software Engineering Intern at Bloomberg and studies Computer Science at Stanford. She has been named a 2018 Global Teen Leader and featured on Mogul’s list of “50 High Schoolers You Should Know About.” She enjoys watching Netflix, cuddling with her dog, and listening to music.

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