The Student of Vision Abie Award honors young women dedicated to creating a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for which they build. This year’s winner is Chiara Amisola, an incoming college freshman at Yale University from Manila, Philippines. She will accept her award on the main stage at the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC 18) in Houston, Texas.
Chiara founded Developh — a club in her high school — in 2016. The group was founded to improve STEAM and computer science education, build the next generation of creators, and nurture impactful student-led innovation through education, accessibility, community, and opportunity. Today, Developh has grown from a club of 40 students to a global nonprofit, impacting more than 40,000 students across Manila and beyond.
Chaira is also the Co-founder of Batid, a startup network of sociopolitical applications. Rooted in digital humanitarianism and designed to move and alert communities, Batid has been featured in international emerging technologies journals, and was a finalist in the Philippine National Microsoft Imagine Cup. It was also recognized in various hackathons and by the Philippine government.
We spoke to Chiara about her early involvement in tech, her future goals and objectives, and the importance of finding support groups.
When did you first become interested in tech?
I first started grappling with technology around the age of seven. I was fascinated by everything digital, from videos to games… but I was more interested in making my own digital entertainment.
I got into web development by looking at the source code of different sites and using them to piece together my own site. I would essentially break apart the things I enjoyed, such as videos, flash games, and software. In middle school, I’d rush home to update my personal website or develop applications. I loved creating for the sake of creating, and I saw technology as a field where I was naturally meant to be.
Did you have any mentors or peers who supported you early in your academic career?
Back in the mid-2000s, coding and robotics clubs with diverse membership were almost non-existent, but there were thriving communities on different online spheres that I absolutely loved. Girls of various ages dominated these online spaces, and exchanged resources, tutorials, tips, and conversation about code and design. I don’t think I would have continued designing or programming if I hadn’t been creating with these communities.
I still remember so many of these websites, and often think about how my community friends are doing. I wish to see more online spaces like these in the future. These people are what kept me going, influenced me, and still inspire me until today.
What challenges have you had to overcome so far in your career?
Early on, people lauded the things I did with technology, such as the videos and webpages I created. But as I grew older, this support started disappearing. Adults began asking me things like, “Do you even know what you’re looking at?” The gender divide in activities such as robotics became more prevalent, and I was questioned whenever I brought up suggestions for programming. Microaggressions like these make it insanely difficult for women to remain in computing, and continue to be the most challenging barriers that I and many other women face.
I resolved to stick through it and prove people wrong by making a tangible impact with my creations and work, but I look forward to a world where these challenges and microaggressions aren’t as common. Computing needs to have a far more open community, and I’m glad that I and many other people are not only envisioning but building a better and more inclusive world.
How did co-founding Batid lead to new discoveries and opportunities?
Developing Batid and entering into the startup sphere taught me that students can concretely change and impact the world, even from the comfort of their bedrooms. It helped me better analyze the implications that technology has on society, and made me realize how crucial innovation is in advancing our world today. It also helped me be more sociopolitically engaged, and recognize how heavily I value creating for social good.
Sharing the applications and solutions we’ve built under Batid also helped me delve into several tech scenes. I’ve met with Asia-Pacific Microsoft heads and leaders in UI/UX back in the Philippines, and have shared our work and ideas with professors and deans from different universities. Batid exemplifies my love for technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, and design, along with my love of country, social change, and belief that the digital sphere is key to bettering our lives.
What goals do you have for the future?
I definitely know that my immediate goals are to be more outgoing; befriend peers, professionals, and mentors; and mentor other people. I also want to continue cultivating communities where technology can thrive, specifically communities in the Philippines.
Aside from that, I’m looking forward to scaling Developh to more regions in the Philippines. I want to grow our executive team of students and bring more of our programs and events — such as workshops, hackathons, mentorships, and showcases — to broad and diverse groups of students. I also hope to pick up new frameworks and tools, build new applications for the organization to use, and discover more technology events and communities to learn from and exchange ideas with. All in all, my goals revolve around the communities that have shaped me.
This will be your first Grace Hopper Celebration. What are you looking forward to the most?
Aside from all the incredible panels and glimpses of huge technology companies, I’m excited to talk and exchange thoughts with an incredibly diverse group of people in computing. Community is a binding force that I felt was largely lacking in my development and growth early on, and the array of people and perspectives that this gathering will bring about is overwhelming in the best way. I am so excited to hear from fellow students, scholars, internationals, professionals, and advocates for technology.
What message do you have for women who are in or considering entering the tech field?
It’s important to be unapologetic, be confident, and thrive in every space around you. Stand up to others when necessary, never feign lack of knowledge, stand for your position and work, and demand the respect and acknowledgement you deserve.
It’s important for us to continue contributing to established spaces for women in computing, but even more so to break barriers, reach out in the most unexpected places, and shift the current atmosphere around computing and technology. We are so powerful, and the world is waiting.
Meet Chiara at GHC 18 on Thursday, September 27 at 12:45 p.m. during our Abie Award Series, or on Wednesday, September 26 at 12 p.m. during Speakers Corner. See our full GHC 18 schedule for more details.
Interested in pre-registering for GHC 18 sessions? Click here to learn more.
Thank you to FactSet, sponsor of the 2018 Student of Vision Abie Award.