Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Taylor Chustz is an educator and activist who has worked in education for 10 years from after-school program lead in Boston to a teacher trainer in Ghana. A graduate from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA she has taken her love for tech, education, and policy to Kano Computing creating engaging curriculum, design challenges, and community projects around the demystification of technology.
Taylor, how did you get into IoT and STEM industry? Tell us a bit more about your background and your projects so far.
I was lucky to test into a 1:1 all-girls high school in Louisiana called St. Joseph's Academy. Since the school was 1:1, meaning every student had a laptop, the school ran their own warranty repair shop and employed the students. I took computer architecture classes and then trained to work in the shop where I received certification from Dell and IBM to repair their computers. It really sparked a love for tech and from there I found myself working in some fashion with tech from there. My background is education and tech so I have always been lucky to work in either or in a combined version of them.
What does your current job role entail?
At Kano Computing I am the Education Community Manager. This means I work on lesson plans, curriculum, design challenges, and training for anyone who identifies as an "educator" or wants to bring Kano to a group of learners. It is a lot of helping people understand how they can learn with play on the Kano Kits :)
What projects are you working on at the moment?
A lot of things! I am finalizing a new version of our curriculum to make it accessible to more teachers and also find ways to translate it into a language kids can understand. This way they can read through and do some of their own design challenges. As well, I work a lot in the community Kano operates in, Tower Hamlets, so I am starting to engage Kano in more opportunities to run workshops with kids, parents, and help inspire people to create with tech!
How has your career progressed since your degree? Has it been an easy industry to get into or have you had many challenges?
I actually have a background in International Relations and Educational Policy. I was an educator in a math classroom in Chicago and then moved to Ghana to work on more education programs. When I joined Kano I wanted to connect my degree and career background (education) with something I am passionate about (tech) and Kano just sort of appeared! It has been great to connect the two things to show kids and myself that you can connect passion with work. You can merge things you find meaningful (educating children) with things that are fun!
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I think at Kano it has been the outreach opportunities we have worked on. I've been working with a few code clubs in the UK and the US and it has been great to see kids start off knowing nothing about hardware and tech to being excited to code and create just cool things. I've seen it with kids of Brick Lane to kids in refugee camps in Kurdistan. Each time I feel lucky and privileged to be part of the DIY/tech movement
What does the #WomenInTech movement mean to you?
For me, it is promoting more women and creating safe spaces for women in tech. I've been in programming classes with all men and the only woman in a room of engineers. I think we do a lot to try to empower women to pursue degrees, but the next step is making sure that those careers and the other people there, men, realize that women are there and should feel safe. I know many times men want to be allies but they sometimes don't communicate that in the best ways.
In your opinion, what will be the key trends in the EdTech and IoT industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Hard question honestly. I don't know what the trends will be, but I know where I will be looking to see those new developments. Africa. Honestly, some of the tech and ideas coming from Africa are the most innovative things I have ever seen. I think the next huge tech trend will come from developers in Africa and I am excited to see how it changes the world.
Who are your 3 inspirational people in EdTech and IoT?
Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Hedy Lamarr.
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.