By the age of eleven, many children have barely learned to tie their shoelaces, let alone complete two GCSEs and an A-Level in Computing; a record-breaking feat.
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, however, was not your typical child, and neither was she from your typical family.
Born in the UK to Nigerian parents, Anne-Marie has since gone on to make waves in the world of technology following her record-breaking exploits in her pre-pubescent years, a time when she wanted to be a meteorologist.
Her four siblings are just as bright and made up the remainder of what was commonly referred to as ‘Britain’s Brainiest Family’ during their youth, having completed GSCEs and A-Levels in primary school as well. Her youngest siblings, twins, Paula and Peter, set a joint world record at the age of eight when they passed A/AS Level Mathematics.
On her upbringing, Anne-Marie Imafidon says: “As a daughter of Nigerian parents, education was always one of the most important things that we had to consider and take seriously. For me, I love education, and I still love learning now.”
An unwavering desire to learn was instilled within them, and this set them on a course for success. Curiosity, in their household, was cultivated, and it built the foundation for Imafidon’s love for learning and her passion for science.
“Although there were times when the education system frustrated me, I was given the right environment to be able to learn and continue learning. I also had the chance to build that as a habit, and that’s through play. This is something I explore quite a lot in my new book, How to be a Maths Whizz.”
Released in May of this year, the book is comprised of over 30 fun activities that help children find enjoyment in learning the subject.
A maths whizz herself, Imafidon had already obtained a Master’s in Mathematics from Oxford University by the age of 20, and though she did not get round to presenting the weather as she had planned as a child, her CV since then has more than made up for that oversight, with roles at Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard and Deutsche Bank.
Then there are also the Honorary Doctorates from Open University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Kent University & Bristol University and an Honorary Fellowship at Keble College in Oxford University.
The list of accomplishments literally goes on and on. And on.
It might be fair to say, however, that her most substantial accomplishment, to date, has been Stemettes.
Following her attendance of a female-only tech conference, Anne-Marie was inspired to start Stemettes in 2013, an organisation which has helped 40,000 girls realise their STEM potential.
Stemettes is a social enterprise that is trying to inspire, support and encourage young women into STEM-related fields. The enterprise has organised hundreds of events across Europe with teenagers benefitting from mentors at firms such as Salesforce and Deutsche Bank.
“One of the main reasons why I love technology and why I run Stemettes is because I’m a really creative person and technology allows me to be really creative. The second reason is because technology is all about solving problems, and there are a lot of problems to be solved. Whether it’s huge problems like diseases that we have in the world or small problems like booking train tickets online, technology is really great at solving all of them.”
Imafidon rightly received an MBE for her work in 2016.
Away from Stemettes, Imafidon works with media companies such as the BBC and 20th Century Fox to put more tech role models on screen and, on top of this, she also co-founded Outbox Incubator: the world’s first tech incubator for teenage girls, which has supported 115 young entrepreneurs to date.
She delivers keynotes at leading companies and conferences all over the world and was voted the second most influential woman in tech in the UK in 2019. Did we also mention that she hosts the Evening Standard’s Women Tech Charge podcast?
A passionate advocate for diversity, she is on a mission to disrupt the status quo.
“Diversity at the moment is still uncomfortable. We need to make it comfortable for everyone.”
And speaking to West African Times on her role as a changemaker and a Black voice in the diaspora, she said:
“For me as the member of the diaspora, it’s not only important for me to be a visible person in tech and a voice in tech but also to use the platform that I have and the influence that I have to show that a lot of things can be done by the diaspora but also lots of things can be done by Africans and by Black people in the technology sphere. There’s lots of examples that we’ve seen recently in the press and across the industry where the absence of Black voices and the absence of African voices has spelt disaster and has also held up innovation. I don’t believe that we can have true human innovation if we don’t have the voices of Africans as part of that and so this is something that I seek to do across lots of projects that I’m working on and also take my responsibility very seriously as a role model from the diaspora.”
Through all the trials and tribulations that came with an unconventional childhood and adolescence, she says that she doesn’t have any regrets, everything happens for a reason, and she wouldn’t do things differently.
Asked about her plans for the remainder of 2020, Dr. Imafidon said “I’ll be out and about less, ‘on the scene’ less, whilst empowering young people and my team to go beyond. I’ll be intentionally seeking joy elsewhere…For 2020, the word is JOMO [Joy of Missing Out]. See you all in 2021!”
This article first appeared in the West African Times.
Purchase ‘How to be a Maths Whizz’ on Amazon.