Interview with Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE
Anne-Marie is Head Stemette and co-founder of Stemettes – an award-winning social enterprise inspiring the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics roles via a series of events and opportunities.
Anne-Marie has a truly amazing set of achievements under her belt and she is only 28 years old. She passed two GCSE’s aged ten (Mathematics & ICT), was the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing (aged 11) and one of the youngest to be awarded a Masters’ degree in Mathematics & Computer Science by the University of Oxford, aged 20.
She was the UK IT Industry & British Computer Society’s Young IT Professional of the Year in 2013, Red Magazine’s ‘Woman to Watch’ 2014, won a Points of Light award from the UK Prime Minister in October 2014 & was named the 7th Most Influential Woman in IT in 2017. Anne-Marie was awarded an MBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours for services to young women and STEM sectors.
Tell Us About Your Career So Far
I went to university and read maths and science. Just before university, I realised there was a role I could do (with maths and science) and be paid to do, so I did some internships and work experience. I ended up on a graduate scheme for an investment bank in their technology department.
There was a bit of a gap between starting the graduate scheme and graduating. I worked for a start-up and social media enterprise. Then I started at the bank in the tech role though I was still testing some ideas outside of the bank.
And Things Changed When You Were Asked To Speak At A Conference In The USA?
Yes, I was invited to speak at a conference in the States on what I was doing. I was about to move to New York to work for my boss. At the conference, I realised I was a woman in tech and I heard about the problem they had in the States with the lack of women in the tech industry.
Back home, I realised we had a similar problem so decided to start Stemettes as a weekend thing whilst I was still at work. It kind of escalated and 2 years later I went full-time.
What’s Behind Stemettes? What Is Its Purpose?
The tagline/more formal description is – social enterprise is all about inspiring, encouraging and supporting girls and young women in STEM related careers.
The ethos is everything we do for them is fun, it’s free and there’s always food! (I commented that I had read about the 3 F’s – free, fun, food).
We do the above via events, experiences, opportunities; a one-stop-shop for any young woman who wants to look at her options or have a career as a Stemette. It’s aimed at 5 to 21-year-old girls and women.
Are You UK based?
Largely UK based and also Ireland and we do bits and pieces with girls across Europe.
I Have A 7-Year-Old Girl, What Type of Things Could She Get Involved With?
There are 2 main things. Our public events are all open to girls as young as 5; it might be a hackathon, a panel event or an experience that we might be running. She is free to come along to that. She can meet other girls, get some food and some freebies and also try her hand at some element of STEM. She can meet a woman in STEM and get an understanding of what that looks like.
And What Are Stemillion Clubs?
We run ‘Stemillion’ clubs at lunch time or after school where girls get half an hour of activity from an activity sheet that we send out every week; it gives them something more practical to do.
Stemillions is all about bringing a Stemettes-style experience to your community via a club run by young women. Working through a series of Stemillions ‘Meal Plans’ as a team, the club will work towards points, certificates and prizes as part of nationwide houses.
I’m Based Near Leeds, Do You Run Any Sessions In The North?
Yes, we are up North all the time and in Scotland. I was in Manchester last weekend actually and we have some events with NHS Digital in Leeds in January. Sheffield was our Northern stop on our tour that we did in October.
I watched Your Interview With The BBC World News Which Talked About Confidence. How Was Your Confidence As A Child?
I have always been a fairly confident person. I was really fortunate to have big events during my informative years (such as passing 2 GSCE’s at the age of 10) which meant this has always been something I have to fall back on, to ‘go back to’.
If nothing else, I knew that I had that. If you’re lacking confidence, for me it seems to be because your knowledge is being questioned or the things you thought you knew are being questioned. In industry, no-one can try to intimidate me and say I don’t know my stuff, as I know I do.
As a child, it meant that if I thought I knew something then there was a good chance that I did.
For me, that is where my confidence came from. For Stemettes, we are trying to give the girls those positive, informative experiences (such as building an App) and they will always have that. They get that feeling, that memory and have enough to stand up in a room to pitch their App idea.
Did Your Childhood Lay The Foundations For Your Interest in STEM?
Yes 100%. The confidence also came from the environment we had at home. ‘Do what you want but do it well,’ my parents would say. We didn’t have boundaries, didn’t have TV time, we just had to get on with it.
If You Were Starting Out Again, What Advice Would You Give Yourself?
Nothing really. I have no regrets. I think things happen for a reason and that it’s all a learning. I would probably say to myself ‘be you’ and at a push to take myself a little bit more seriously because I don’t!
What Would You Say To Girls Who Are Wanting To Go Into STEM?
It would depend on the time I had. If I was seeing them quickly I would say, ‘find your tribe and don’t go it alone’. Find your tribe outside of school, like Stemettes. Find where you can go and tap into something and have a fun safe environment to try things out.
Finally, What Has Been Your Biggest Challenge In Your Career?
Working with people. I’m a mathematician and quite logical; human beings aren’t. So, for me the struggle is on a daily basis really. My boss would say to me all the time, ‘Anne-Marie, people are messy’. People aren’t logical, they don’t follow a formula.