Forbes “30 under 30”: Programmer Aya Jaff in an interview

LEAD: Anyone who writes you an email gets an automated response that warns you that you may not be able to answer it because of your limited time budget. What keeps you most busy?

Aya Jaff: I am currently in the exam phase for my double bachelor’s degree in Sinology and Economics, that’s why I am in the university every day and or am studying for the exams. After that everyday life returns and I take care of the finalization of my book “Moneymakers”. I’m also part of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Program. This is a mini program with mentors, where you can think about what the next steps in life are. I feel like starting another project and starting a start-up, but still finding out the direction.

LEAD: About a year after its founding, you just left your start-up, Codesign Factory, which wanted to support the company with a digitalization consulting team. How come?

Aya: Got out of such a tough word. The company has simply realigned. We started as a digital consultant and soon realized that not many requests came in. The heads we used as consultants were often asked for as speakers. So we have become a speaker agency and I have not seen myself in the leading position any more. My co-founders and I are still good with each other and I can also be booked via the website as a speaker.

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LEAD: What is the reason behind the reluctance of German companies to digitize, which they do not consider pioneers?

Aya: They are really far behind, but they still do not get in the way to actively change things. They are not ready to take bigger sums into their hands and say: I am actively exploring new ways now. And trust me something.

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LEAD: In which direction do you think when you say you want to start again?

Aya: I wonder: what if Greta Thunberg is right? What if we can not reverse climate change? Which technologies do we have to rely on, how can we better adapt to natural disasters? How should houses be built in the future? Which materials do we need to use? How do we feed the world population?

At the moment we try to prevent this horror scenario. But we are not concerned with what would happen if it happened. The “Fridays for Future” movement has really influenced and I would like to have a say. But I do not know yet what exactly I can contribute the most value with.

LEAD: Is it true that as a teenager you had to hang a poster of former Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer in your room?

Aya: Yes! Back then, I read Fortune, where people were introduced and what they did. Once Marissa Mayer was portrayed there and there was this photo, under which was written: “A young fashionable millionaire.” At fifteen, I thought, “Krass, I’d like to be described, my heroine.” I cut out the photo and hung it on my wall.

I also had a snow globe with Bill Gates on one side and Warren Buffett on the other side. I’m a person who catats more to a person and their biography than an idea and I just had access to them. That there is somebody who just does what he puts in his head, works hard and is incredibly self-confident. Every human being can identify with that. I also want to be someone who fights for his own vision.

LEAD: How far was the step to programming?

Aya: Not far. At that time, I participated in many programs and competitions where the question was always asked, “How do you want to improve the world?” My ideas were always technical. At some point I thought to myself: First of all, I have to learn how to program so that I can implement all these ideas.

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“Do not fight alone, but look for fellow combatants in your immediate environment, through networking or social media, to find people to help you work on your weaknesses.”

LEAD: Your first big thing was Tradity, but the stock market is not necessarily the place idealistic young people are attracted to.

Aya: At the beginning I also had this picture of the evil stock market, in which only the unscrupulous people of this world are active. But money in itself is not evil, but something neutral. With every euro you invest in a stock, you can make a vote for something that is important to you. You can see if the investor is sustainable and picking bundles of stocks from companies that are behind something in which they themselves see meaning.

In the end, we just need Wall Street, and I’m not in the mood for a world ruled only by financial sharks and suit-wearers. That’s why you should not leave them alone to trade.

LEAD: You’re 23. What’s been the biggest challenge in your life so far?

Aya: To find out who I really am, what I want and what I stand for. In the tech industry, you are quickly surrounded by very self-confident people trying to set the tone.

The challenge for me has always been to listen to my own voice and to answer a few questions for me, for example: Do I really have to be in the business in the ellenbogen and make one super hard or can I solve it differently? Do I have to transfer everything on social media like an influencer or can I count as successful among young people without many followers?

LEAD: Did you have a hard time as a woman?

Aya: When you are the only woman to enter a room, you will notice that I have gotten used to it quickly. And because many people did not consider me a programmer, but an influencer, because I dressed fashionably better than the rest. But that’s not something that really hampers you.

Above all, it helped me that there were so many scholarships for women. I was in Silicon Valley and Seattle, for example. I could not afford all this out of my own pocket and I only got it because I am a woman. And often the only one who even applied.

LEAD: What would you advise young women who want to do something similar to you?

Aya: Learning a new skill like programming makes it fun in the beginning and then becomes a test of patience because it takes time to really do something. So my advice is: Do not fight alone, but look for fellow combatants. In your immediate environment, through networking or social media. Find people to help you work on your weaknesses. And that you are seen for your strengths.

LEAD: Cliché question – were you actually the nerd in your class?

Aya: No, I was really a normal girl. I just liked to get a little deeper and did not stop asking questions after the first question.

It was like this: If this company works with Nestlé, where does Nestlé have its finger in the game? Do I want to continue supporting Nestlé? How could I boycott those? People who simply ask the next question are also those who are motivated to act on their own. It’s just about curiosity.

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Women wanted in IT!

For anyone with an IT affinity, the chances of getting in the door were never better! In the current LEAD Bookazine 2/2019 we have found networks, universities and initiatives offering practical education and training. Especially women are in demand, because 55 percent of employers want to increase the female share of their IT professionals, according to Bitkom!

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