Just in case you didn’t know, The first week of February is Children's Authors and Illustrators Week. There are many talented pen queens out here in the name of STEM so, in typical Ladies Love STEM fashion we had to introduce you all to one of our faves!
Name: Sasha Alston
Alma Mater: Pace University
STEM Career Path: Education Technology
So, who is Sasha and how did you get started in the coding space?
SA: My name is Sasha Ariel Alston and I am the author of the children’s book “Sasha Savvy Loves to Code”. I got into the coding space once I attended McKinley Technology High School in Washington DC. All students have to choose an aspect of STEM for an academic track. I chose Technology simply because I loved my iPhone and iPad at the time. But I didn’t become truly interested until I had a Microsoft internship in the AthleTech Division my senior year. My team successfully used coding to create a gaming app.
In honor of National Child Author Week- tell us more about your book Sasha Loves To Code. How did the idea come about and what impact it has had on girls in STEM
SA: Sasha Savvy Loves to Code is an early reader children’s book. The main character, Sasha, is a super smart, 10-year old, African-American girl, who lives in Washington, DC. Sasha decides to give a summer coding camp a chance. Sasha’s mom, a Software Developer, gives her a unique formula to help her remember how to code. Despite the formula, Sasha encounters challenges with getting her code to work on the first day of camp and gets frustrated. She must use problem solving skills to figure out what to do.
After having an radio interview, where I was asked “What is coding?”, I realized that many people are not familiar with the term so I thought it was important to write a children’s book that teaches the basic terms. The most exciting thing about my work in STEM is inspiring other girls. I’ve noticed that there aren’t enough girls involved in STEM-related activities, especially girls of color. Less than 1% of high school girls are even interested in pursuing a computer science degree. I think raising interest in STEM should be done at an early age. Girls hearing from me, a millennial, who likes fashion and music just like most of them but also thinks coding is cool, has made an impact on them. I am still amazed at how much attention my book has received.
Were there any influences early on in your life, that you feel impacted your decision to create this great book?
SA: My mom is also a writer and has encouraged and supported me to fulfill my dreams.
As an entrepreneur, how do you enjoy your weekends?
SA: I manage to hang out with friends, read, write, exercise, and attend various events while still in college.
What has been the best Advice You Have Ever Received?
SA: As a teenager, I was told to “surround yourself with people smarter than you. You should never be the smartest person in the room.” This has helped me to look at aspiring women in tech and develop a circle of people who I feel reflect those individuals. Anywhere I go, I try to learn more and absorb information from those around me.
There's a need for the representation of Women of Color in STEM to be much more prevalent. In your own words, tell us what we can do to fulfill that need.
SA: Just like reading and math, I think coding is an added literacy everyone needs to know. Practically everything we use from our phone and computers to traffic lights and apps is based on code so it’s important that people understand what it is and try to learn about it. A reason why more children or people of color aren’t interested in STEM, and specifically coding, is because they don’t see it in their homes or schools. You cannot be what you do not see.