It often starts with a spark — a fledgling curiosity that develops into a more dedicated interest and then slowly grows into an all-consuming passion for solving unique problems and forging long-lasting connections in an entirely new language.
For some app developers, this spark was ignited in school by an encouraging teacher or parent, while others came to coding later in life, driven by an innate desire to pull things apart and understand how they work.
Ahead of National STEAM Day on November 8, seven inspiring creators — from college roommates who bonded over their love of sneakers to a pair of engineers looking to help fellow moms find quality childcare — are sharing their unique journeys that led them to entrepreneurship through app development and the App Store. Below, they offer insights for those looking to take the leap into coding and underline the endless opportunities available for aspiring app developers at all stages of life.
Follow Curiosity Wherever It Leads
Anne K. Halsall (2022 Apple Entrepreneur Camp participant), co-founder and chief product officer at Winnie, a childcare discovery platform that helps parents find high-quality daycares and preschools
“When I was a kid, computer-assisted artwork and computer design were the things I spent all my time doing; I was just obsessed. What was strange for me was that that was always like a hobby — something I pursued for fun, kind of in the privacy of my home. I didn’t have opportunities to bond with other kids about this, because I didn’t know any other girls who were into computers. And when I went to college, it never occurred to me to do this as a career. I didn’t even consider going into technology as a career, despite having computers in my life since I was very young. I, of course, ended up there because it was meant to be. It was the thing I wanted to do and the thing I was passionate about. So as much as I tried to do other things with my life, I ended up in technology inevitably, in spite of myself.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Change Course
Amanda Southworth (2017 and 2018 WWDC Student Scholar), founder and executive director of Astra Laboratories, a nonprofit that develops technology solutions that offer vital resources to marginalized communities
“I created my first app, AnxietyHelper, and I thought it was going to be just a thing I might talk about on college applications. I thought, ‘I kinda like mobile development, but I’m going to move back to robotics. I’m going to go to college.’ But I ended up doing none of those things. With AnxietyHelper, I put out something I knew had a need because I was experiencing that need. The response has and still is completely overwhelming; it was a really beautiful thing that came out of a lot of struggle and strength. It was very pivotal to understand that there are a lot of forms of action someone can take, and varying degrees of impact. App development is my platform, like how some people write poetry, or how some people make movies. The way I communicate and the way I process emotions is through app development.”
Sara Mauskopf, co-founder and CEO of Winnie
“I always tell people you’re never too old to learn to code. I discovered it in college, and I thought I was already behind because some people at my college had learned to code in high school, but it turns out you can learn anytime, even much later in your career. At Winnie, we’re really supportive of hiring people from nontraditional backgrounds, like parents returning to the workforce, or people who see coding as a new career path after their first career.”
Akshaya Dinesh (2018 WWDC Student Scholar), founder and CEO of Spellbound, a tool that allows companies to embed interactive user experiences directly into their marketing emails
“When I was in high school, I started a nonprofit in my free time, and we had this really awesome team of young women who were passionate about making change in the industry; we were organizing everything from workshops for middle school girls to learn about coding, all the way up to hackathons of our own. We hosted one of the largest all-women hackathons in New York City and brought hundreds of people from across the area. People even flew in from across the country to come and participate and build their own products and apps. It’s been really awesome to see a community flourish.”
Nicco Adams (2021 Apple Entrepreneur Camp participant), co-founder of Kickstroid, a discovery app using machine learning to help sneaker enthusiasts discover their next favorite pair
“I grew up in a predominantly Black community where not many people were pursuing STEAM. So you have this small collective that started in high school where, for the first time, I saw people who looked like me in this space. These are the pioneers of our future, the ones that will go on to design how this world will look and how we’ll interact with it. They’re alright with being vulnerable, taking the path less traveled to truly make their mark in this world. So you know, I looked at them and thought, ‘I should go ahead and jump into this space’ — a space where it doesn’t matter if you’re the teacher or the student; everyone learns from one another.”
“The biggest piece of advice I have for female founders and entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups is confidence. You know, there are so many people who are less underrepresented than us, and they’re able to get by just by seeming super, super confident and believing in themselves. I think that’s the first step to getting others to believe in you — having the faith that you can do it too. Even if you don’t have that confidence at first, pretend like you’re the most confident version of yourself as possible. That has worked incredible wonders for me, in terms of everything from raising venture capital to hiring employees — anything regarding bringing people around to believing in my vision. Confidence has been the first step.” — Akshaya Dinesh
Alandis Seals, junior developer and assistant instructor at Ed Farm, a nonprofit and Apple Community Education Initiative partner that encourages kids and adults to pursue careers in STEAM
“I had an instructor who taught me how to code, and he was kind of my mentor at first. I’d come ask some questions and he was so responsive — if he didn’t know something, he’d jump on a Zoom with me and we’d try to figure it out, even if it took hours. We’d try to figure out any little problem I had, and that brought me to the point where now I can help pass on the language. He did that for me, and I have to do it for the next generation. I want to be that person who provides that same kind of help.”
Pay It Forward
David Alston (2021 Apple Entrepreneur Camp participant), co-founder and CEO of Kickstroid “Whatever someone does for you, do it twofold for the people behind you. Whatever they give you, don’t hold it just for yourself. It was shared with you with the intention that it’s also going to be shared with others to help build a community of people with interests like us, and who look like us and come from backgrounds like ours. That’s how we build a generation of innovators who look like us. Knowledge is not only yours; knowledge is meant to be shared. Knowledge is meant to be cultivated, improved, and passed down to the people behind us.”
“What’s important to me today is to be able to provide examples to kids that there are women in this field, that there are women who go to school for computer science, that there are women who have professional careers in programming and the digital world. Because when I was young, I didn’t really have the benefit of that. I think that’s the best explanation I can come up with for why I didn’t initially choose technology as a career. I think it’s very important for us to be examples of professional women in this field, so that other little girls can see themselves, too.” — Anne K. Halsall
Don’t Wait — Take the Leap
“It’s been now six and a half years of building Winnie, and we built it kind of throughout our childbearing years. It wasn’t really an option for us to wait to have kids till after we were done with our startup because this is a long journey. And if you’re successful, this is a 10-plus-year journey you’re on. If you want to wait till your kids are grown, you’re letting a lot of time and opportunity pass you by.” — Sara Mauskopf