Amber: What got you interested in Computer Science, Naia? In other words, when did that spark… spark?
Naia: I think it’s always been sparked. Since a young age, I was a “maker” kid. One time I made a functioning radio out of snap circuits. It barely picked up anything unless I held it in a very specific place in the middle of my brother’s rooms and we had the windows wide open. It would pick up sports channels..in Spanish…but it worked. It’s cool to think, ‘Wow I made this.’
Amber: I know you also had some involvement with Black Girls Code. That’s why we have this synergy, I think. Before Google, I worked for Black Girls Code and I’m sure at some point I was at one of your workshops.
Naia: Yes! I loved it. By far my favorite class with Black Girls Code was when we worked with Raspberry Pi’s [small circuit board computers]. We connected them to little go-karts and made cars move around. That was also my favorite group of girls. I’m still in contact with a lot of them today.
Amber: Aw, that’s so cool, I love to hear that! Yes to sisterhood!
Naia: I actually met [one of the girls] at Google one day. It’s really cool to think I met her through technology and to see she’s still interested in it—and that I’m still interested in it! I think Black Girls Code was that first introduction to a community of people that were not only interested in tech but looked like me and were interested in tech.
Amber: What one’s lesson you carry with you from Code Next?
Naia: As cliche as it sounds, there’s no such thing as a silly question or a silly answer; it’s something that needs to be said and something to be heard. It sticks better when you’re wrong because your brain is like, “Well I don’t want to be wrong again first of all.” Sometimes, not knowing the answer is better than knowing what to do. It’s not just about knowing why answer B is right; it’s also understanding why A, C and D are wrong. You learn more when you’re not just trying to be right. I really focus on these ideas in the Creative Coding Club that I facilitate.
Amber: What are your dreams and aspirations in life?
Naia: It goes back to the younger me living here somewhere. I want to be my own boss. That’s my biggest dream. I also want to be a role model, because not only is it a tribute to my own success, but it will end up being a tribute to other black and brown girls interested in the tech field. I want to nurture and support more programs that cultivate an interest in CS from a young age.
Amber: You know, it’s already happening Naia. You’re a student ambassador for Code Next, and you are an example for so many students looking up to you. You may not know you’re in it, but you’re in it.
Naia: What about you?
Amber: I just want to see us win. When I think about all of our leaders and all of our supporters along the way, and when I see you and what the future might look like, I’m always inspired. That’s my inspiration, my aspiration… to continue to support women like you in ways to [get into] leadership positions, so that we can then support one another.