Alumni Spotlight: Sakshi Agarwal

Meet Sakshi Agarwal, who participated in Technovation in 2015! Sakshi is 16 years old and lives in Bangalore, India, where she goes above and beyond supporting students participating in Technovation in rural areas.

Inspired by Technovation Challenge and how it affected her sister during the 2016 season, Sakshi began mentoring students alongside Dhana, her local regional ambassador. Over the last 2 years she has helped mentor over 100+ girls as they participated in Technovation, supporting them and encouraging them to consider career paths in STEM fields.

Sakshi is launching her own app-based startup that tackles food waste, and has been selected to present her app at the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration, India. She is also interning at Headstart Network Foundation, India’s largest startup community and is launching an initiative to provide mentorship and networking opportunities for student entrepreneurs in India.

Saskshi is an aspiring change-maker and tech-enthusiast who hails entrepreneurship. Her mission is to change the outlook of girls towards STEM fields and to fight illiteracy.

She says that she was just a normal girl following the crowd and doing her homework regularly, until she heard about Technovation. She “blames” Technovation for all the good that has happened to her since 2016 and has changed her outlook and mission in life.

An enormous thank you from the Technovation community for Sakshi’s incredible hard work and her commitment to helping make it girls for a change.

Alumni Spotlight: Briana Berger

We recently had the chance to catch up with Briana Berger, who participated in Technovation in 2016 and was named a semi-finalist for her app SleepBeep. Read on to hear about her early experiences with technology, the challenges she’s faced in tech, and her advice to young women who are interested in technology and entrepreneurship. 

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Briana Berger.  I’m a seventeen year-old Technovation Alumni from Gainesville, FL.  I love to understand the ins and outs of everything. I always ask questions, and I think that my love for code grew out of that. It also probably explains why my toddler-self “researched” why baked cookies taste good by eating the cookie dough. As my yearning to learn grew, I have become a leader in my community for events and in coding.

I founded my own non-profit called SeniorTechNet to encourage seniors to use technology and some I have even taught to code. I also founded a club at my school called coderGirls, where I teach Python and we compete in Verizon’s Innovation Challenge. Under the club, I have created coderKids, a community outreach, to teach young kids to code, and I founded the yearly Florida Hackathons for Floridian high school students to innovate and learn. (Ed note: since we talked to Briana, coderGirls has launched as a national nonprofit organization!)


Alumni Spotlight: Soumya Tejam

Technovation recently had the chance to reconnect with Soumya who is a 2015 Alumna and hear about her experience with tech, what she’s working on now, and what advice she has to girls interested in technology and entrepreneurship.

My name is Soumya Tejam and I participated in the Technovation Challenge in the 2015 season. My world pitch experience has in the most cliched manner changed my life. In the past two years, I’ve gone from zero coding experience to teaching a group of underprivileged girls in my community how to code, starting my own company and developing my app Cappable.

The app that I built for Technovation is called Cappable and it acts as a bridge connecting physically challenged job aspirants with corporations willing to hire them and NGO’s aiming to help them. It will be available for Android and iOS very soon and through the process of programming it, I’ve enriched my programming skills which I hope to implement in other projects. I’ve got positive feedback from the people who I hope will use this app and I can’t wait to see it in action.

Since World Pitch, I have also founded a business venture — BookBite. Founded in the summer of 2016, BookBite is a subscription box service thats sends out a curated package containing a Young Adult novel, short stories by budding novelists, bookish goodies, and an exciting online experience which gives you access to discussion forums and online downloadables. I started BookBite because I noticed the lack of passionate readers in our community and sought to change that attitude among my peers. Through the process I’ve learnt a good load about running a business, from customer acquisition to engagement and retainment. Through BookBite, I’ve run competitions, BookTalks, donation drives, and reading sessions. I’ve also gotten the opportunity to present my venture to Sandy Carter and speak at the IBM India Onward conference with Vanitha Narayanan in Delhi about the work that I’ve been doing.


Alumni Spotlight: Houyem Boukthir

Technovation recently had the chance to talk with Houyem Boukthir, a 2015 Technovation participant from Tunisia. We got some great advice for young women interested in tech, learned how Houyem worked though challenges during the program, and what inspires her.


Tell us about yourself!HouyemBoukthir

My name is Houyem Boukthir, I’m 18 years old and I live in Ariana, Tunisia.

When I was 8 I dreamt of founding a car manufacturer producing only autonomous and ecofriendly vehicles, therefore reducing stress, car accidents and pollution. When presenting the idea to my father he replied that I needed a huge amount of money in order to fulfill my dream. Thanks to my childhood optimism, that didn’t stop me — on the contrary that’s when my long journey of saving money started.

I first bought a piggy bank and started saving all my pocket money depriving myself of stuff other kids my age would buy. As I grew older I realized that money wasn’t the most important thing I needed. In fact, I needed some skills that neither school could teach me nor money could buy.

I got myself more involved in community services, jumped in every event and training I’ve heard of and with 5 other friends we founded the first club in our school counting more than 50 members.

I was obsessed with the idea of becoming a better version of myself bit by bit each day, and turning into a person who worked for change and success instead of only dreaming of it. That’s when teammate Narmine introduced me to Technovation; an experience that I’ll never forget. It made me more aware of how far I have come as an individual and how hard I will work in order to achieve my goals.


Alumni Spotlight: Wendy Ho

We recently had the chance to catch up with Wendy Ho, a 2016 Technovation finalist, and hear about what projects she’s working on now, what she’s planning on doing next, and what advice she has for other women interested in technology. Wendy was part of team CodeHAUS which developed the app Ask Ada.

Tell us a little bit about yourself! 
Hello! My name is Wendy Ho, and I’m from Dallas, TX in the USA. I participated in Technovation in 2016.

What was your relationship or experience with tech before Technovation?
Before Technovation, I had always wanted to program or do something with technology, but I didn’t really know where to start. More so, I thought that it was too late for me to start learning about programming on my own, since most people I knew who programmed were boys and they had started learning from summer camps or own their own since middle school. I suppose I always wanted to start programming, but I just didn’t quite believe I could learn on my own and be successful.

What made you join Technovation?

I heard about Technovation from a friend at a summer program who had participated last year. Her app concept sounded amazing, and I was stunned that she knew how to program apps. More importantly, however, I realized that she had made a difference in her school community, and I wanted to do the same to my community. I joined Technovation because I wanted a catalyst to learn how to code and to create apps that solve community issues.


Alumni Spotlight: Emma Yang

We recently had the chance to talk with Emma Yang, who was a 2015 finalist and as part of team AAT pitched the Concussion Checker app at World Pitch last summer. We caught up with Emma and talked about what inspires her, how code can be a superpower, and her advice for other girls in tech.


Tell us about yourself!

My name is Emma Yang, I’m eleven years old and a seventh grader at The Brearley School in New York. I was born in Hong Kong and spent ten years there before moving to New York City in August 2014. I come from a family with a diverse background. My father was born in Beijing, China, my Mom grew up in Vietnam, my paternal grandparents were from Indonesia, and I travel to the US almost every 10 months to visit my maternal grandparents and have since I was 6 months old. Because of that I was exposed to multicultural traditions and customs and developed a love for many different cuisines. Chinese dumplings, Vietnamese Pho, Hainanese chicken rice, and lasagna were among my favorites.

My Dad is a Computer Scientist and my Mom is a Mathematician. One might think I might be a math or computer whiz right from the beginning because of this. Much to the contrary, when I was a young child, I was always more inclined toward literature and writing. I loved to read and write. When I was eight, my Dad introduced me to Scratch and I picked it up right away. After learning Scratch, I learned HTML and CSS to develop web pages, and Mindstorms NXT to program robots. It was almost like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, I suddenly felt that I could have a super power through coding, it was magical! I started to realize that coding can really change the world, whether it’s a tool, an education app or a health tracking device. All of them have the potential to change people’s lives.

We came across Technovation in the Winter of 2015. I always know that diversity is a problem and girls and women are still a minority in the tech world. I know through my own experience that ability is not a problem. It’s the stereotypical mindset that we need to change. It’s cool to be a “geek” and there is nothing wrong for girls to be “geeks”. Technovation gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that to the world. I know I have found something really special.

Who or what inspired you to pursue tech? Who is your role model in tech?

I was inspired to pursue tech by how the advancement of technology has the

Emma at the 2015 GEMtech awards

potential to make a huge impact on the way we solve issues that we face now and in the future. I realized that something as simple as a faster way to evaluate concussions has the power to prevent people from getting seriously hurt and even save lives.

My role model in tech is my Dad, who has not only guided me through the process of learning how to code, and also the discipline needed. During Technovation, I faced many challenges. One of them was I had to learn how to code the entire app using MIT App Inventor by myself, having very limited knowledge in programming mobile applications. This pushed me to further pursue tech by learning how to code in Java and Swift. My favorite programming language is Swift, a new language from Apple for developing iOS apps. Swift not only combines a lot of good characteristics from different popular languages and also some new powerful features.

What advice would you give to young women interested in going into tech?

For other young women interested in going into technology, I would tell them to never stop trying. If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to pursue it, even if people keep telling you that it is hard and impossible. If this is what you like, don’t make up excuses for not trying, because there are always opportunities out there.

Speaking of opportunities, I would strongly suggest girls who are interested in coding to participate in Technovation. Not only will you get the invaluable end-to-end “start-up like” experience of ideation, coding, business plan development, and pitching, but equally importantly you will be able to connect with other girls of the same interest and ambition in your school, city, country, and even the world! You will find out that there are so many of “us” out there, so many people are around to support you, and it is just so cool to be a “geek”!