When she applied to the University of Georgia, Aniyah Norman had one goal in mind: to leave her footprint on the campus in the arena of technology and innovation.
Now entering her final semester, Norman can finally say that she has accomplished exactly that.
Growing up in Gainesville, Georgia, she was always drawn to STEM fields. She even tutored other students in math and science while at Johnson High School.
But Norman didn’t get her start in coding until the summer before college. Using free online resources, she taught herself how to code in Python, which led her to immerse herself in the history of computer science and its real-world applications.
This discovery ultimately led her to change her major during her freshman year, from pharmaceutical science to computer science. She will graduate from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences this May.
Passing the torch
Throughout her time at UGA, Norman has been an advocate for others to break into the tech sector, especially other women through ACM-W Girls.code().
“I’m a big advocate for having any and everyone who’s interested, regardless of background, gender and sexuality, to get involved in technology,” Norman said, “and I’m an advocate for creating the necessary resources and spaces for them to be able to learn these skills comfortably. Technology is the present and the future, and it can be useful in many different majors in many different fields.”
Along with her advocacy work, she has secured more than one successful internship during her time at UGA.
The first at State Farm allowed her to lead her own software development project, including conducting research and creating the architecture. And she was able to stay on long enough to see the project deployed.
Her second opportunity came with Disney as an emerging technology strategy intern, where she found a love for the combined role of technology, marketing, and business within the entertainment industry.
“I’m moving to Orlando to be a full-time associate technology strategist at Disney,” Norman said. “I’m excited for post-graduation, exploring that new area and traveling the world and trying new things.”
Norman’s advice for any incoming students that have similar interests is simple but sage:
“Don’t be scared to try something new. I tried a lot of new things when I came to UGA and they ended up making me a very well-rounded person. It ended up shaping who I am today and giving me the opportunities that I have. I never say no. I always take on a new task, whether it’s something I wasn’t aware of before, like technology strategy, or even something that requires a lot of effort, like my leadership positions.”
“I’ve been taking Chinese language classes since I was in the sixth grade. I love the language and the culture,” Norman said, “It’s a big country with a rich history, so there’s so many different aspects to learn and study about. I knew regardless of what I would end up majoring in, I would promise to always continue studying the language and stick with it as my minor.”
Norman kept her promise and was able to complete every class offered in Mandarin through the highest level while at UGA.
Even though she has her post-graduation plans ironed out, Norman still has her sights set on Athens and UGA Hacks 8, which she had a pivotal role in organizing as the first Black and first female lead director for UGA Hacks.
UGA Hacks is the flagship hackathon for the University of Georgia community, as well as visitors from around the nation. Some students can now earn experiential learning credit through participating in the event.
All the planning and execution of UGA Hacks is led and handled by students, including the coding of the event websites, creation of marketing materials, communication with sponsors, animation of event trailers, curation of food and prizes and so much more.
“I have a team of 28 made up of directors, organizers and advisors, and It’s a really amazing community of students that all come together to accomplish a huge goal” Norman said about her fellow UGA Hacks team members.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the coding community here at UGA, the event will take place Feb. 3-5 at the Miller Learning Center on campus. More information can be found at https://8.ugahacks.com/ or on their Instagram at @ugahacks.