Written by: Jesse Anderson, Girls Who Code Alumna and founder of NYAToday
Though code is commonly perceived as a daunting sequence of incomprehensible lines of symbols, I find it to be the epitome of the beauty of the unknown. Coding is constantly proving to expand the bounds of what is possible, and the state of our world necessitates innovative solutions that go beyond what’s been tried before. That’s what coders do — we continue to test the impossible with the hope of bettering our world. Ultimately, I was able to fuse my humanitarian passions with my coding superpowers, which have been strengthened by the many opportunities — such as Girls Who Code and Kode With Klossy — I’ve been privileged to engage in.
I’ve always loved learning about our world. My company, NYAToday, for example, works to provide accessible, objective information about global affairs while encouraging youth to act on their beliefs. I founded this company at 16 after realizing that news networks were often shedding light on injustices around the world, but not detailing the ways in which people can take action. Whenever I would read a news article, I’d feel hopeless — as though I couldn’t do anything even if the injustice manifested in my own backyard. NYAToday is changing that. With our thousands of readers from around the world, we’re providing informative content and ways to act at the bottom of nearly every article. This way, you’re not only left feeling educated, but you’re also left feeling empowered. But, as I would work on our site platform, I wanted to find more ways to expand the bounds of what our site could do. That’s when I first was introduced to the infinite world of code.
I fell in love with AI almost immediately. My affinity for robotics and computer science only solidified after I learned how code could help my mission to make major impacts on climate change, human trafficking, education, and more. No more was I seeing AI as a code that Da Vinci wouldn’t even be able to solve — I was enlivened when I could visualize the seamless connection of my love for code and global affairs. This passion has never stopped — it’s only grown with every successful test run, every exciting new project, and, admittedly, every pesky syntax error.
Being a female in a very male-dominated field was not all sunshine and rainbows. When I stepped into my first computer science class in college and successfully answered a question, my teacher cut me off because my answer was “too complicated.” When a male said nearly verbatim, the teacher told him he was correct. These instances, as well as many others when your intelligence and competence may be doubted, it’s important to have a game-plan. You will likely want to give up at some point, as code is hard on its own without the stigma that comes with being a female coder. But, being vulnerable often helps you fully recognize your strength. You are not weak because you cry, get something wrong, or are doubted in a field that you love. Whenever you’re feeling down, remind yourself of three things that you will always love about yourself. I love my warmth toward people, my smile, and my brain! Think beyond the superficial — you are a wonderful, inspiring human being who will code the world.
Jesse Anderson is the founder of NYAToday — the award-winning by youth, for youth media company that has been named the top 50 youth-led solutions changing the world by the United Nations. She is also the US Ambassador for the UN Global Schools Network, during which she works to implement curriculums centered on the SDGs worldwide. She is currently in the process of coding a chatbot to provide universal HIV education for NYAToday’s initiative, Ca(r)ing, which seeks to educate communities worldwide about HIV.
Jesse is a Journalism major & CS minor at the University of Maryland — College Park. She is an alum of 2016 SIP Lockheed in Washington DC.