For Sabeen Ali, AngelHack CEO and University of San Francisco Master of Science in Organization Development ‘09 alumna, “change the world through code” is synonymous with “change the world from here.” Ali spoke at the last TEDxOrangeCoast conference where she explained how technology is a driver for equality and an opportunity for everyone, including women.
She asked the audience to imagine a young girl in India no more than fifteen years of age, stooped over her dimly lit computer, carelessly eating biscuits, effortlessly plugging away at her computer while the rest of her family sleeps. Ali said,“She’s a coder, she’s an entrepreneur, and she is an inspiration.”
Throughout her TEDx talk, Ali explained how young girls can be liberated on a global scale with the knowledge of programming, which has the power to break racial, cultural, and class barriers. Ali stated that computer programming is a universal language in and of itself. “The interesting thing about coding is that you don’t necessarily need to know who is doing the coding. When coders submit their work there is no difference behind who is doing the coding, all that matters is if it strings together. The essence behind the technology doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t reveal who you are. The only thing that is revealed is the quality of what has been created and the skill level of his or her work.”
Because TEDx’s conferences are focused on spreading ideas, they ask speakers not to mention the company they work for. For Ali, the Tedx talk was about catching enthusiasm. “I think I ignited an excitement within myself and I hope to do that within other people. It reinforced what I wanted to do for me and I think that’s important. If you excite one person into action, even if it is yourself, that is enough.”
In addition to her role as CEO of Angelhack, Ali also founded the nonprofit Code for a Cause. This organization teaches women and adolescent girls to code. They are currently working in San Francisco to first prove the model here, but ultimately their outreach will be worldwide. The focus of Code for a Cause is to implement sustainable solutions by bringing the tech and nonprofit sectors together to support underserved communities.
As a USF School of Management alum, Ali’s past experiences as a student have allowed her to successfully manage change. “Anything that I say probably wouldn’t be enough to articulate how valuable my education at USF was, and what I learned in the Organization Development program. What I learned has been so unbelievably necessary to build a solid foundation for change, sustainability, and to understand how everyone is included in that change. I learned how to maintain a sustainable solution in a world that is changing at such a rapid pace. Many companies don’t follow best practices of change management. But what I learned at USF, whether it was working on change initiatives or learning how to run a successful business, those are things I implement every single day in every facet of what I do. It’s about change; change that needs to be managed. All of that comes from my USF education.”
When asked what the University's tagline, “change the world from here” means to her, Ali answered, “Personally, it means to be able to find opportunity in your environment. You don’t have to look that far outside yourself or where you are to be successful. You don’t have to abandon things close to you or things that matter to you in order to succeed. In many Middle Eastern countries it’s part of the culture that girls are not allowed to go to school and therefore cannot educate themselves. There are ways to respect the cultures and laws but there are also solutions within that space. Teaching girls how to code can leverage the possibilities that technology allows for.”
Ali’s focus on changing the world through entrepreneurial spirit greatly resonates with the School of Management’s vision. She added, “To be a successful entrepreneur is achieving a purpose that is greater than yourself. You have something bigger than yourself to give back to the world. Now you have to live life without limitations because it’s the only way you’ll know how to survive and it’s the only way you’ll know what you’re made of.”