Considering she’s had a knack for tech since the fourth grade, Khalia Braswell was pretty much raised to have an impact on young technologists.
“I feel like tech and coding is super popular right now but it was something that interested me when I was younger,” Braswell said. “So I’m just super grateful to be in the community and recognize the privilege of being able to have been in the space for so long.”
The North Carolina native is the founder of INTech, a nonprofit in its fifth year that hosts programs for middle school girls of color to learn coding.
In April, Braswell announced via Twitter that she’s packing up and moving to Philly to pursue a Ph.D. in education and computer science at Temple University (fully paid for thanks to the Presidential Future Faculty Fellowship, might we add). She said it’s not her first time pursuing a Ph.D., but her last attempt was cut short after she left her master’s program to work as a developer for Apple in California in 2016.
She’s transplanting this August. Below, she tell us what she’s most excited for, how she’s planning to grow her nonprofit and her tips for maintaining inner balance.
What are you most excited about moving to Philly?
I’m not sure yet, but what I will say is that everybody who I’ve told I’m moving to Philly has said really good things about Philly. So I’m excited to experience the culture in the area. I’ve heard really good things about the startup community and the tech community.
What would you like to bring to the Philly tech scene?
Bringing INTech to Temple, that’s one.
My platform right now is all about doing tech for good and looking to redesign education, whether that be trying to spearhead or lead a discussion around redesigning what tech education is like.
Understanding what Philly is doing in and out of the schools [or] challenging the startup community to make sure that they’re bridging that gap — I think that’s possibly what I’ll do at some point.
How do you think Philly tackles diversity in the tech scene?
I don’t know yet, but I think by having the [HUE Tech Summit] in Philly is a huge signifier that there’s energy there. The fact that that conference has existed [for two years in a row] to me shows that Philly is in tune with the importance of having minorities in the tech scene.
What’s the best part about running INTech?
It’s super great to watch because [our scholars] have come back [to our events]. [The camps are geared toward] middle school girls but we get to see them go on to high school and see one major in engineering in college.
What are your future goals for the nonprofit?
That’s a million-dollar question. Our summer camps are at a place where they’re self-sustaining and we’re getting them to a place where they can [function] without much hand-holding from INTech. That’s how we want to see those grow across college campuses because we’re very intentional about having our middle schoolers on college campuses to get them thinking early about the next step.
You recently tweeted about the struggle between being happy with what you’ve done and continuing to move forward with your goals. Any advice for people feeling similar?
I get so caught up in wanting to do more (or just do the most lmao) that I don’t look at HOW MUCH I’m already doing or have done.
I struggle trying to balance striving for excellence/leveling up and being happy with the fact that I’ve actually reached my goal
— Digital Diva (@KhaliaBraswell) July 19, 2019
So, that tweet was all about INTech. I’m in this space where I’m about to move again so there’s all these questions about what will happen next. And in the middle of the move I do have a vision, but I won’t physically be in Charlotte to make that happen here. So what do we do?
Sometimes you have to think about the tradeoff and I think the balance becomes realizing there’s no time limit on things. Social media and the comparison syndrome make us want to rush through things. But because I just threw myself into this [INTech] work, the realization for me is that yes, I have a vision, yes, I have goals, and I have timelines around it.
But the reality is that I, along with my team, made those timelines. That means we can change those timelines. It doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen, it just means it might happen later. We all have to be patient with ourselves to truly find that balance to be happy with where we are and understand that where we want to be is going to come, but we really have to stay the course.