Failures only give you the chance to take bigger steps, to fly higher
Ani, 16, is passionate about artificial intelligence – a tool to make school more structured and the world a better place
I am a programmer by profession. I started my career path in the information technology (IT) field at 12 years of age, when I started attending the TUMO center. At first I learned programming languages and started to creat simple games. Then I found Technolab, where I deepened my knowledge. Later I got involved in a number of companies as a volunteer, and I managed to try out different things, but artificial intelligence attracted me the most. I was especially encouraged by the fact that there are fewer people in Armenia engaged in this, and there are almost no girls. So I took this as a challenge and fully immersed myself into it, wishing to break the stereotypet. Last year, one of my friends won in the Accelerator project, run by UNICEF and UNDP, so that’s how I found out about it. This year I decided to apply myself!
Participate in Accelerator ☒ (done).
Acquire new knowledge and skills ☒ (done).
GTA is a platform that can help employers in the recruitment and selection of the most suitable candidates for jobs with the help of artificial intelligence. I joined the GTA team, because this startup project needs and uses artificial intelligence the most. Here I can not only put my knowledge and experience to test, bringing in a new perspective but also have the opportunity to further build my skills and understanding of the various uses of artificial intelligence to solve everyday issues.
I gained much more than I first expected at the Accelerator project. It aims to bring together girls and young women who are interested in the field of IT but have little experience to provide them with the opportunity to get basic knowledge and skills through training and mentoring and get motivated to learn more and strive for more. The business lessons helped me a lot. Our mentor for business lessons, Areg, made sure that we get an in-depth understanding of various topics, such as how to run a startup, how to write a business plan, how to analyze the data at hand, whom to target for services and partnership and how. Marketing lessons were also interesting, because you had to understand how to brand a startup and what marketing approach to adopt. Although, in the end, I figured out for myself that I was less interested in this part of the work, nevertheless, when you work on a startup, it is equally important to have an idea about the various aspects of running it. At the programming lessons we learned HTML CSS and Java Script. While it was challenging for some of the girls in the group, I wish we had the time to do more of those classes at a higher level.
Trying to learn the ICTs as a girl
I have been interested in computers from my childhood. I was so excited when I first turned on a computer by myself. From the very beginning, I was interested in how it works inside out. When our computer crashed at home, I was very happy, because I could open it and see what was the insides of a processor looked like.
When I joined TUMO Center, I enrolled into robotics, programming, website development, and gaming, but I also tried a lot of other things, such as photography and animation. I remember when I first went to a robotics class, there were 120 boys in the room and only two girls, including me. At first, it was difficult because the boys did not really include me in activities. Perhaps they thought that I would not bring an added value. But the coach, who was a woman, encouraged us, the girl in the class, a lot. And that helped us to succeeded, my robot was ranked among the best in class.
Why should girls enter the IT field?
I’ll give you three reasons why I think that girls should consider the ICT field.
First, if you like that field, you should not look at the opinion of other people who think that it is not for girls. Second, and more important, to me this field is like a real miracle - whatever you cannot do, you ask the computer to do for you. I chose artificial intelligence because it is a wonderful tool to make people's lives easier.
Third, find people who support you. My parents have always supported me․ Maybe because they know that if I put something on my mind, I will definitely do it. To all the girls out there, whose families are against them exploring the field of ICTs, talk to your parents, try to present all the advantages of this field and why you want to be engaged.
Encouraging girls to pursue STEM
Our STEM classes at school are very poorly resourced. While studying chemistry, I have to search for the chemistry experiments of that day online to get an idea of how it’s done. I think that this is where the young people develop their lack of interest towards STEM. If we never see what happens or what can happen when we mix up substances or test other things, we just end up learning things mechanically without understanding their practical value.
As I developed my skills in startup management in the course of the Accelerator project, another small startup idea was born that I was happy to be involved in - Girlօpolis. The goal is to unite, motivate and encourage girls to think about the ICT sphere. We will try to create a community where girls support each other. As part of Girlopolis, we organized a series of hackathons in March, which were only for women and girls aged 18-30.
Artificial intelligence - a tool to improve the world
With artificial intelligence I would change a lot in my environment, especially in my school. I would try to structure my schedule for school, both for face to face and for online learning, as we are now on a blended curricula. With COVID-19 the country embarked on remote or online education, that coupled with the current situation in the country has left many demotivated for school. With the help of artificial intelligence I would attempt to create an online platform, which would make it easy both for teachers and for students to schedule things, communicate and have information in one place. It will, of course, be necessary to train teachers to acquire technical skills, so that half of class time is not spent on solving technical issues. But, at the same time, I must say that most of the 15 students in my class do not own a normal computer. They join the classes either by phone or a tablet, which is not efficient.
80 per cent of my friends have not decided yet what profession to choose. And the number of professions is increasing day by day. There are many professions, for instance data scientist, that many people do not have an idea about, what it is and why it’s needed. Maybe artificial intelligence could also help here. This reminds of the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter! Something like that would help people identify what’s within their realm of interests and in which areas they can better reach their full potential. It would be a good idea for a startup, wouldn't it?
Future plans and goals
After winning in the Accelerator project, our GTA team is now working on the website so that we can reach more people to present our product and also fundraise to be able to fully implement the idea. Artificial intelligence is an expensive pleasure. It requires long hours of arduous work. For example, at the moment we need a data specialist who will help to collect a large database, based on which the program should interview the potential candidates, then analyze their answers, compare the data, understand whether this or that candidate is suitable for this or that job.
In the long run, I have two main goals - to study at Stanford University because they have a bit artificial intelligence lab, and to be able to support talented young people. In the future, I hope to be able to create something that will help inspire, motivate, and support young people, and give them an opportunity to develop and build a better future.
My message to all girls and boys out there
Never be afraid to try out new things. In the age of technology, something new is created every day, you just have to not be afraid to learn and try new things. Moreover, do not be afraid of failures. I do not understand the word ‘failure’. To me, failure is the equivalent of trying so that you can understand whether something is yours or not. Failures only give you the chance to take bigger steps and to fly higher.
“GTA” is a human resources recruitment platform for ICT companies that will conduct interviews with candidates with the use of artificial intelligence, select the most suitable and talented candidate, and help companies retain employees as well. Each company will be able to have its own profile page on the platform with flexible design and content options.
GTA team won in the Accelerator #5 project, implemented by UNICEF and UNDP’s ImpactAim Venture Accelerator, in partnership with the Innovative Solutions and Technology Center and Enterprise Incubator Foundation, and received a reward of US$ 750.