What is your favorite childhood memory?
I had an imaginary friend that lived in a hole in the side of a building down the street from the apartment I grew up in in New York City. My dad would take me to the park and we'd stop and visit my imaginary friend on the way home. My Dad is a writer and my parents always encouraged my creativity and imagination.
If you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?
I love the work I do with CODE2040 but if I could do anything I would combine social impact with some way to get paid to eat and travel, my two favorite hobbies!
What is the best investment your parents made in/for you?
They told me I could do whatever I wanted to do and supported me in doing it. My parents have never questioned a professional choice I've made. They never sent the message that one path was better than another path. As a result, I was free to consider what I wanted to do and achieve. It doesn't mean I always made the best choice, or that they didn't have wisdom to share, but it does mean that I never felt pressure to conform to a certain ideal of what I should be doing with my life, which is a great freedom to have.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
When I was little I wanted to be a pediatrician because I understood what that was!
Although both my parents always worked, I saw them as Mom and Dad, not professionals. So my pediatrician was the first professional whose job I understood. Then I learned about medical school and decided that was way too many years of formal schooling for me. Of course I ended up going to graduate school anyway, but I took three years off after college so I got to get some good clarity on what I really wanted to be - a social entrepreneur!
What is the one piece of advice you would give a young person today?
Experiment! Try new things. Don't just do what makes you comfortable. You grow and learn most when you're feeling uncomfortable. If you're willing to be uncomfortable you can achieve a lot without waiting to gain experience or be given permission. You don't need an invitation to create impact! Just start.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
I love hearing the students who have gone through CODE2040 tell stories about how things that they are so proud of and excited about now came about in part because of the opportunities they received through their experience with us. We hear all the time that one of the key things students get from CODE2040 is the little push they needed to dream big and trust themselves and that has been the difference that inspired them to step up, take a risk, and do something awesome.
How do you hope to leave a better world for the future?
I hope that through my work with CODE2040, lots of people will help lots of other people gain access to opportunities that will set them up to thrive and shine. CODE2040 is about so much more than the work that we do, it's about inviting everyone to join us to pitch in where they can to make tech, and the country in general, more inclusive and to ensure that people from all backgrounds thrive.
@CODE2040 @laurawp #HowIGotHere #HIGH
Roy Sirengo illustrations by Maegan Penley