Interview with Anne-Marie Imafidon.
From Child Prodigy to MBE and STEM Advocate
On Ada Lovelace day, we decided to sit down with one of our favourite women in tech, Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder and CEO of Stemettes. Anne-Marie is an inspirational go-getter. A child prodigy, she took and passed her Mathematics and Information Technology GCSE’s at the age of 11 and by 20, she had graduated from Oxford University with a masters’ degree in Computer Science.
Anne-Marie went on to set up award-winning social enterprise Stemettes in 2013, which inspires, educates and mentors the next generation of young women to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Through her tireless work and incredible company, Anne-Marie has been awarded many accolades, not least an MBE earlier this year for for services to young women and STEM sectors. Heres her story:
Newnham: What were you like growing up? And how did you get into tech?
Imafidon: Boisterous. I like to enjoy myself and still can’t quite sit still (unless I’m watching TV, and even then…) so I was always up to something. Taking things apart, building things, winding up my teachers and having a good time making myself and others laugh. Not much has changed to be honest. I work hard, but am enjoying myself as I do it, so am always having a laugh with my team and the girls we work with.
I’ve always had a fascination with understanding how things work and getting creative building things. I loved Maths and ICT, did GCSEs in them aged 10 and then A-levels in them at 11 — I even studied Maths and Computer Science to Masters level at Oxford. It wasn’t until just before university that I realised I could be paid full-time to ‘work in technology’ whilst on an internship at Deutsche Bank. After a few years, and more internships, I ended up on their Technology Graduate scheme.
Newnham: And what conversation led to you starting Stemettes?
Imafidon: It was actually two things that I noticed whilst at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing back in 2012. Firstly, that I’m a woman in tech. Being in the midst of 3,600 other women in computing really brought that to life for me. I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging. And secondly, the keynote given by Nora Denzel that year where I heard about the shrinking US minority of women in tech. A bit more research back home and I knew I had to give ‘the Stemettes project’ a go.
Newnham: What have been some of the lows and highs of running your own enterprise?
Imafidon: The highs come all the time — from watching the joy in young girls’ faces at making their first app — to the excitement of young women meeting real women in industry who are ‘just like them’ and give them the hope and ‘permission’ to also go into the industry. It’s fantastic to see those young women coming back to also be role models and ‘pass it forward’. Of course, things don’t always go to plan, team members come and go and we don’t get to work with every single company that approaches us — those are the lows, but they make the highs even sweeter.
Newnham: And what are you most proud of and why?
Imafidon: Outbox Incubator — it was a great summer of working with 115 young women from across Europe who were all interested in STEM and Entrepreneurship. An incubator programme with real funding, real industry experts imparting real knowledge and amazingly empowering formative experiences for the young women. It was 24/7 for 6 weeks for me and the team. We were knackered but it was a magical time for everyone involved. I’m still so proud of the resulting startups, young women, documentary and continued closeness of these incredible young women in business.
Newnham: Finally, If you could go back in time, what advice, if any, would you offer a younger Anne-Marie?
Imafidon: Nothing really. I have no regrets so I’m glad I’ve made all the mistakes I have, and have all the experiences I’ve had along the way. At a push, I’d tell me to take myself more seriously.
** This interviewed first appeared on F= blog here. **