Jayda Murray, 18 – FUNDED

As a creator, Jayda Murray wants people to be able to use her art and tech work as conversation pieces which can lead to practical action. “After I graduate, my dream is to work with Japanese gaming companies while I develop the skills and know-how to start my own indie game studio working in-between the U.S. and Japan,” says this New Face of Tech winner. “Through my studio I’ll work on creating games that help mediate and educate about social issues in a fun and engaging way — because the reality is that the problems of racial bias are still here and still need to be addressed.”

Currently a freshman at North Carolina State University, she is focused on her intended major in Computer Science with a Game Development Concentration. Fun fact: Jayda was homeschooled her whole life, but in high school, she was considered a private school student in the state of Tennessee under Faith Heritage Christian Academy!

What does being the New Face of Tech mean to you?

I have the privilege and responsibility to pay things forward, giving back to the communities I’m a part of. It means a lot to know that I’m a leading example for young girls around the world, showing that it’s possible to use all your talents and interests to shape the future!

Women are underrepresented in STEAM. How can we change this?

We can advocate for the inclusion of programs dedicated to bringing women into STEAM — and school programs and community organizations are a great avenue!

Because I was homeschooled most of my life, my mother found most of the tech opportunities for me when I was younger. I got to know about Black Girls Code, an organization that opened tons of doors for my technological growth. They put on events lik hackathons, code clubs, and summer camps and they do a wonderful job of educating young girls about the possibilities they have in tech.

If there were more partnerships with organizations like Black Girls Code in schools and community organizations, I think it would be a good way to work from the ground up getting women into STEAM fields.

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way?

What if everyone you talked to assumed that, because of your age, you couldn’t do anything? People used to be really surprised when they learned of my age, mainly because of my tall stature and mature presence.

When I was younger and when people guessed how old I was, their guesses were usually several years older than my real age. But when they found out how old I really was, they said things like, “Oh she can’t do it, she’s too young.” or “You sure you want to do it? It’d be pretty hard for someone your age.”

Frankly, that kind of mindset is insulting to me. People of any age are more than capable of doing anything in this world. Despite this challenge, when among my peers, I was inevitably put in charge as a leader. I didn’t mind being a leader because, as the oldest child in my family, I’ve always liked being in charge and having that responsibility.

Because of this, both my creative and technological pursuits have manifested in ways that have gone beyond even my own imagination. I’ve helped create video games for St. Jude, helped raise money for kids who have cancer, gave my first TED Talk, and even had my artwork published in The New York Times!

How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals?

I often look to God to keep me focused on my goals. While I have my plans, ultimately, it’s up to Him to decide what steps I take to get there. Because of this, I try and reflect on my journey up till now — keeping the lessons and skills I learned in the forefront of my mind.

Knowing that things work out in the end — even if they don’t take the path I would have imagined — is how I’m able to feel at peace.

How will funding from the 1,000 Dreams Fund and HARMAN help you reach your goals?

It will help me plan ahead for my goals and allow me to make the necessary connections I need to build up my studio and learn more about the business aspects of my goal.