Alyssia Jovellanos was always interested in technology, but growing up, it never occurred to her that she could create and invent new products herself. Her high school did not provide any computer science classes and she didn’t know anyone who was a technologist.
“Because of that, I never considered going into engineering or computer programming,” Alyssia explains.
But when she finally did meet a software engineer in person, she became inspired to join the tech field herself.
“Chatting with her about her work was pretty much all it took for me to become super curious about the field. I distinctly remember spending hours that day Googling computer science, random terms and searching for resources on how to code.”
Alyssia taught herself to code at age 18, and since then has accomplished more than many people with decades of experience in the field. She founded and is the CEO of her own multimedia company, Beta Pear, created the Walk to Wake Android app — an alarm app to help “chronic snoozers”—, and still found time to work with a team creating tools and teaching young girls and other underrepresented groups to code.
Alyssia admits that she still doubts that she deserves these successes. To overcome this impostor syndrome, Alyssia writes down 3 things she has done well every day, an exercise practiced by other women in tech such as Sheryl Sandberg. This technique helps her to reestablish confidence, confirm her success and find the courage to continue pursuing her goals. In Alyssia’s case, this goal is to find new ways of giving back to her community.
Hack for a Change
One way Alyssia gives back to her community is by organizing Deltahacks, an annual McMaster University hackathon where hundreds of students and mentors come together to learn, innovate and create. The theme, “Hack for a Change,” encourages students to create technology with the intention of helping others.
What makes Deltahacks unique from other code-a-thons is that it actively encourages people of all backgrounds to join. “One of our goals [this past year] was to increase the amount of non-computer science [students]… and to increase female participation,” explains Alyssia.
Around 500 students attended in 2015, 35 percent of whom were women and 50 percent of whom were beginners.
Deltahacks is so popular in part thanks to the fact that it pushes students to work with and meet new people, something Alyssia believes is crucial to success in the tech industry.
“I can’t tell you enough how much I’ve learned through other people. One of my favorite things about the tech industry is that I’ve found that people are so willing to share their knowledge and share their experiences,” she says.
Alyssia is thrilled to be attending GHC 2016 in Houston this October.
“I’ve never been to a ‘Women in Tech’ conference before. I think hearing other women’s stories and their experiences in the field will inspire me tenfold to work on my skillset more and to do things that really matter… I really hope I can gain more insight and knowledge on how I can give back to my community.”