At 13, she’s a co-founder of girlscancode.ch, a teacher at goTech and the youngest ambassador at Swiss Cognitives. She is also associated with the ‘Trust in Robots’ research at ETH Zürich. All this, in addition to being a regular gymnasium student attending grade 8. Samriddhi (Simi) Singh tells Aradhna Sethi about her exciting life as a true achiever.
She is bubbly, enthusiastic and confident. I scheduled an interview with her. GoogleMeet did not work, neither did Skype. Nor the regular mobile phone line! And before I could Whatsapp this 13-year-old, my LinkedIn beeped with: Where are you? I can’t see you. Before I could write back, a new Skype link popped up. This time it worked. I’ve been a techno-clutz, yet I’ve been working on Zoom and Moodle, Teams and Google professionally for a while now – with adults. So getting this glitch sorted by a – pardon my prejudice – mere 13-year-old before having time enough to label it as yet another tech snag, made me sit up in sheer amazement.
We got chatting – and before I knew it – the entire “13-year-old” kid image had dissolved. The talk was well moderated, focused and precise and rather professional. Check it out!
1. A Gymnasium student, co-teacher at goTech, co-founder of girlscancode.ch, youngest global ambassador for Swiss Cognitive – having all these accomplishments at the age of 13, makes you a genius! How do you handle it all?
Simi Singh: It seems to be a lot, but it is not a lot of work! All these are my passions (okay, perhaps not Gymi to that extent!), so I don’t feel tired or exhausted after taking a coding class or brainstorming with my co-founders. Planning and managing my calendar is a skill that I am slowly trying to learn. Also, I do a lot of these activities over evenings and weekends. Plus, I am not a big fan of Netflix – which helps!
2. Let’s delve straight into your specific areas of passion and focus. Tell us more about each one:
SS: So let’s start with:
a. Girlscancode.ch is an initiative that I came up with as I felt very lonely as the only girl with this special interest in coding. My friends and classmates could not understand my language and I wanted to share my excitement with many more. As a result, I tried to get a franchise of a few established girls forums/ clubs in the US, but none of them wanted to start anything in Switzerland. That’s when my team, which includes Kate Mckee(runs TechSparkAcademy in the Swiss-German region), Flavia Donno (physicist,ex-CERN, data science manager at a bank), and Lara Ripa (masters in robotics, ETH) and I, decided to start our own platform since we still wanted to give girls in Switzerland and other countries the same opportunity to go digital as they do in America.
Our goal is to close the gender gap which currently looms over both the tech industry and engineering universities. We aim to empower girls with digital skills to achieve BIG dreams. We now also have our sponsors, partners and supporters that include ETH, Logitech, TechSpark, Udacity, ImpactHub and addictlab.
So, in a nutshell, Girlscancode focuses on supporting and encouraging girls to develop an interest in technology through a series of real-life impact projects, themed workshops, coding clubs, leadership classes, as well as scholarships for tech boot camps.
We are planning a launch party on November 14th, 2020, to be co-hosted at Impact Hub Zurich and Rolex Center at EPFL. We will also have live streaming of the event. So join us! The exciting and innovative workshops commence already in October and you can have a look at our offers and register at girlscancode.ch.
b. Swiss Cognitive connects and brings industries, companies, executives, and technology experts together, and helps to put politicians, governments, organisations, and groups on the same page in the world of AI or Artificial Intelligence. Check out swisscognitive.ch for more. I met the founders at a social event and they liked my knowledge and passion in this field. They asked me if I would like to be on a panel with three other tech teenagers. We spoke at the CommonWealth young global AI enthusiasts. I was truly honoured to be part of this elite forum and share the conference with some prominent names like the fastest human-computer, Neelkantha Bhanu Prakash. After many calls and brainstorming sessions, they asked me if I would like to be an ambassador for their mission and I started to get involved with them. I guess, age is not a factor, it is what you bring to the table. Your maturity is dependent on the number of hours spent on your passion and not the numbers representing age.
I started coding when I was 6 and started with block-based coding, moved to Khan academy, had an in-person coach, and finally I moved to Udacity. I have 2 Udacity nano-degrees and can crunch numbers on my Juptyr Notebook like any adult.
c. Co-teacher at goTech: I teach coding. Currently, I teach a group of girls between the ages of 8 and12 about making a website. It feels great to be able to teach and to help others understand and, in a way, give an entry into the world of technology. It is simply awesome.
3. Do you ever get bored? What’s your typical downtime activity – or phase of inactivity?
SS: No, there is always a new project to program. These days, I am participating in Swiss Coding Olympiads, which keeps my brain always activated. Outside of programming, I love doing puzzles and legos. I made Bugatti Chiron, Taj Mahal, and Hogwarts Castle- just because the labels said that they were meant for 16+-year-olds. That did not demotivate me to try them on cold rainy weekends.
4. Have your parents been an inspiration or motivator and how?
SS: Yes, our conversations at the dinner table often revolve around on how technology is continually changing the world and how we can, as a society, ride the digital wave – not just as a consumer, but as a producer. I started to believe in Singularity after my mother did an executive course in California. Both my parents are in technology. My mother Tanvi Singh is a managing director with Credit Suisse and she heads a team of data scientists and my father Amitabh Singh is Chief Information Security Officer at SwissCard.
5. You’re doing a lot of things at the moment. Your hobbies and passion are also academically inclined. Where do you see your future?
SS: I see that technology is the future of everything, and the world will not be the same by the time I grow up. We would be living with cyborgs and robots in the future. I see myself to be at the forefront of this development and the biggest social change humanity is going to see. My startup is addressed exactly at preparing girls (not excluding boys) for this journey. So clearly, for me, my future lies in technology and entrepreneurship.
6. What brings that excitement and passion in you to reach your goals?
SS: ‘Success’ lies in big things and ‘happiness’ in small things. Every time my code runs, I sense the most amazing feeling. And when more kids join me in my journey to learn programming, it gives me extra energy to do more. Connecting to so many smart kids around the world has also been a driving
factor for me to continue! Thanks to my own passion, I know that there are kids just as passionate as me in Switzerland, India, Nigeria, South Africa, America and Singapore. I know that the sky’s the limit for making an impact on my goals.
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