Aalia Bhalloo - Women in STEM Advocate
Aalia is a bit of an outlier. She is a female, Muslim who works as a computer coder. It’s not a combination you see a lot of, but is one that Aalia is now working towards making more common.
Working in STEM is Aalia’s second career. Prior to coding she worked in a bank for 10 years. She worked her way up from teller to Regional Sales Manager. Along the way she fought for positions and really had to go above and beyond her daily operations and job description to get recognized by the executives. That’s a story only too many women can relate too.
And when she was finally promoted, all that extra work was not remembered. When the company had to be restructured, the board elected to terminate her position.
At that point Aalia took some time off work to focus on her kids. She realized how much she had missed while focusing on her career (another all-too-common theme for women). She decided that she wanted her next career move to be a more meaningful experience than just climbing the corporate ladder at a bank.
She spent more time with her father. She learned more in-depth what he did and it was at this point that he started pushing her to get into coding. He told her it was the future. That the world will rely on computer programmers to make everything work. He also encouraged Aalia to learn how to teach coding to children, so she could help the next generation of problem solvers prepare for the world.
Aalia grew up in Canada and married at the relatively young age of 21 to the love of her life. Fast-forward 14 years to the present day and they are still as happy as ever, supporting each other and raising two children together.
One of her children is a little girl, and Aalia wants to show her that she has the capability and skills to do whatever she wants in life. And that she has the love and support of her parents to chase her dreams.
Aalia started researching block-based coding languages and taking short online courses. She has always been quick to learn spoken languages, and digital proved to be much the same. Aalia started picking up on things fairly quickly so she enrolled in the Niagara University for an accelerated Masters in Science, focused on education.
Aalia just recently graduated in May 2020 and is actively applying to various boards in Ontario.
A few months ago, Aalia, along with her dad, opened a coding and robotics club at their local mosque.
The first round they had 15 children registered. During their second round they had 30children registered. Due to the pandemic they had to move their club online. This summer alone they have introduced coding and robotics to over 100 children across North America.
Aalia is passionate in getting more girls involved in STEM. To that end, she regularly advertises her clubs to the various moms involved in girl groups. She advocates on her social media platform and provides advice to her daughters' friends and parents on the importance of learning to code and how unrepresented women are in coding, but also STEM in general.
Many of the girls she speaks with have a deep seated belief that STEM is just for men. Aalia is working hard to change this perception. Aalia has also partnered with Hackergal, a non profit organization funded by the Canadian Government. She is facilitating these groups geared to teaching girls how to code using text based programming platforms.
Aalia’s story is one that truly inspires us. From fighting for her career in the banking world, to reinventing herself and following new opportunities, it’s a story that any young girl can look to for motivation and belief that anything is possible. We applaud your efforts, Aalia, and thank you for sharing your extremely empowering story!
Please take a moment to follow her social accounts below to learn more about how to support getting more girls into STEM: