Kaya Thomas - Geek Girl Rising
Kaya Thomas
Kaya Thomas

Kaya Thomas

iOS Develop, Neukom Digital Arts Leadership and Innovation Lab, Founder @WeReadTooApp

Dartmouth College

“I am passionate about empowering young girls by helping them gain access to technical knowledge. My love for technology has allowed me to harness my creative skills to develop projects that show it is possible to rise above the gender gap in the tech world.”

Years in industry? 3 years

What do you do at work?
I work as a developer on the ALTR (Augmented Learning Through Recording) product. ALTR is a mobile tool that allows students to record lectures and tag important points in the lecture. Those important points are then saved as clips. The future plans of this product are to allow the professor to understand the parts of their lecture that works or doesn’t work. I am a developer on the iOS product for this mobile tool.

Who inspired your career in tech? 
Kimberly Bryant. I saw her TED talk online and she made an excellent point of how women of color consume so much technology, but are less often creating the same technology. I wanted to a part of the creation of the technology I use and love.

What’s been your best career hack ever? 
My best hack is a simple one: schedule everything! Not just meetings or calls. Schedule time for yourself. Schedule small parts of your everyday life. That way you ensure that you have time for yourself to relax regardless of what else is in your schedule.

What’s been your biggest career challenge? 
Learning not to take on too much, and learning how to say no. It’s something I am still working on, but I’ve learned that I have to be very selective on how I spend my time and where I decide to invest my energy.

What’s been your biggest career success?
My biggest career success has been being honored by the First Lady Michelle Obama at the Black Girls Rock awards. I was honored among two other young ladies for the work we’ve done regarding education. It was a life-changing moment for the First Lady of the United States to tell you she believes in you and is proud of the work you’ve done.

Who are your role models? 
My role models are my mother and grandmother. My grandmother is the most loving and generous people I know. No matter how much she has, she always finds a way to give to someone else. My mother is the strongest and most family-first women I’ve ever met. She has done so much for our family and she has supported so many people.

Also, during my senior year at New Rochelle High School I took an African-American Studies class with Ms. D. Gordon. Ms Gordon worked as my advisor on my senior WISE project. Ms. Gordon made me realize my own talents and reignited confidence within me. She showed me how important my creative side is and I took her teachings with me ever since.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your teenage self? 
I would tell my teenage self that instead of your self-esteem depending so heavily on body image and looks, be proud of your smarts and the incredible passion you have for learning and sharing your knowledge. Your self-esteem is more than looks. Your knowledge will last; looks are temporary.

What do you do when you’re not kicking butt at work? 
I love to read, books for me are an opportunity to escape into a new world and go on a new journey.

Flats, heels or kicks?
Flats!

Best career advice book?
Google Resume by Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Who are the women in tech whom you most admire and why?
Kimberly Bryant because she is exposing thousands of young girls of color to technology so by the time their generation is in college they will have no fear of pursing computer science because they’ve been coding since they were little. Kathryn Finney because she is giving tremendous opportunity and visibility to black entrepreneurs through her work with Digital Undivided, ProjectDiane and ReWriteTheCode. Tracy Chou because she is an engineer who is not only doing amazing engineering work at Pinterest, but constantly acknowledging the improvements needed in the industry. She pioneered getting companies to be transparent about their diversity data.

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