WeBuild Founder Spotlight: Valerie Robert

Valerie Robert is a sophomore at Northeastern University, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science & Political Science. She was part of WISE’s Fall 2020 WeBuild Cohort, where she founded Tech For the People (TFTP).

Tech For the People is an interdisciplinary tech editorial platform and online community focused on highlighting how interdisciplinary tech can be used for social good. TFTP’s mission is to deliver an interdisciplinary publication to create a sincere and robust relationship between the government, technology, and all industries to benefit you — the people.

Learn more about TFTP and Valerie’s story as a founder! You can find TFTP on Instagram & Tik Tok: @techforthepeople

Tell me about your inspiration behind Tech For the People. How did you initially find your passion for tech and social impact?

This all started in the third grade; I was obsessed with the idea of creating a self-driving car with a keyboard for the disabled and elderly. My goal was to build that car, but then Google released their self-driving car and Tesla as well. With time, my interests pivoted to politics. I enjoyed having debates with friends discussing different political views and just building my knowledge in politics. Simultaneously I was also very interested in technology. I wanted to learn more about AI and how we could ethically use machine learning and natural processing language to better our society. I then randomly found out about civic tech (where technology meets government) and realized there were so many other interdisciplinary technologies! So, I decided to create a platform for just that interdisciplinary tech so that people could learn more about how their passions could intersect with tech to have a social impact!

What does social impact mean to you, and what do you hope to accomplish through TFTP?

In the most straightforward words possible, social impact means doing good. It means paying close attention to how your actions will affect and benefit others. If one comes from a place of privilege and wants to have a social impact, it’s critical to take a step back from that place of privilege to have a social impact. All actions that have a goal of having a social impact must come from honest empathy to be most effective. With TFTP, I hope to amplify the voices of those who are using interdisciplinary tech for social good. I hope to highlight that though the tech industry can seem closed off, the tech industry must work with other sectors to provide inclusive and ethical solutions that will benefit all.

Favorite industries/topics to explore?

My favorite industries include artificial intelligence, politics, and of course, interdisciplinary technology (civictech and greentech). I have learned so much about how technology intersects with different areas from writing articles for TFTP, like augmented reality and virtual clothing (tech + fashion) or GIS and health equity. It is incredible!!

What was the process like while building TFTP? What role did WeBuild play in building TFTP?

The process of building TFTP took a lot of dedication and a lot of precision. I spent a lot of time focused on how I wanted the workflows to run for the editorial. It was a whole other world for me, something I had never done, so there was a lot of research! In terms of running the TFTP team, I have learned the importance of communication and how to be hands-on and allow space for autonomy. WeBuild provided me with the support and encouragement I needed to start TFTP.

What is one failure that you have endured in your journey with TFTP that taught you something valuable?

I think one thing I’ve learned throughout my journey with TFTP is that communication is vital. Especially with having a team that is spread out across four different time zones, it’s essential to create an environment of motivation, accountability, and great morale 😊

Since leaving WeBuild, how has TFTP grown and expanded?

TFTP has grown a lot since WeBuild. For one, TFTP now has an entire team (Marketing, Writing, and Design). They are all fantastic and believe in TFTP’s mission. We’ve also soft-launched through social media and have slowly built our audience! Our website is set to launch in April 2021, and I can’t wait.

Do you have any advice for those looking to build their own venture?

  1. Surround yourself with other student founders, exchange resources, workflows, and accountability!
  2. It is entirely ok not to implement advice or ideas you have received from someone, even if it comes from a great place. It is up to you to preserve the mission and vision you have set for your venture. At times, that advice no matter how great, might not align with your mission or vision, and it’s ok to let it go!
  3. There is no set timeline when creating a venture; sometimes, you may accomplish your set goals way faster than anticipated, and other times it will be the complete opposite. At the end of the day, adaptability is key!

Thank you for reading Valerie’s story and journey! You can learn more about Tech For the People here. If you have any questions about TFTP or would like to reach out to Valerie, please feel free to email her at robert.v@northeastern.edu

WeBuild is a community-based thought-incubator for a cohort of 8–10 women. This is a semester-long set of innovation and design thinking classes, helping women develop the soft and hard skills necessary to problem solve and build out a venture or business idea. If you have any questions about WISE or WeBuild, email us at northeasternwise@gmail.com or DM us on Instagram @northeasternwise!

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