San Francisco, CA, April 13, 2016 — On October 21, Toptal launched Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women, a program designed to empower and support the next generation of female computer scientists, software engineers, and developers through a combination of financial support and mentorship.
Today, we’re thrilled to announce that the fourth winner of the scholarship is Tondi Butler, a Health IT Manager from Cleveland, Ohio, who is also the inspiring founder of T.E.A.M.S. Ohio, an amazing non-profit that introduces underprivileged teenagers in Cleveland/Akron to careers in STEM.
As a scholarship winner, Tondi will receive $5,000 to use to further her educational and professional development goals, as well as a year of weekly one-on-one dedicated mentorship with a senior software engineer from the Toptal network.
“When speaking to Tondi, her determination, intelligence, and passion for giving back to her community are immediately apparent,” said Toptal Director of Engineering Anna-Chiara Bellini, who leads the Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women initiative. “Impact is extremely important to the scholarship committee when we’re making our decisions, and it was clear to us that Tondi would take full advantage of the scholarship, and that she would amplify its impact to the larger T.E.A.M.S. Ohio community that she has built.”
T.E.A.M.S. is a non-profit that Tondi founded in 2015 that stands for Teens Exploring and Achieving in Math and Science. Today, the organization hosts monthly sessions with STEM leaders for dozens of underprivileged youth, focusing on 13-18 year olds in the poorest areas of the city. Tondi explains that while at first she organized meetings with professionals in fields that included Civil Engineering, Forensic Science, and Aerospace Engineering, she has recently narrowed the educational focus to software development, robotics, 3D design and manufacturing, and computer repair and troubleshooting.
“My goal is to teach our students how to start their own business in a STEM field, including everything from coming up with ideas, analyzing competitors, identifying target markets, filing patents, and more,” says Tondi.
Despite little to no funding or outside support, Tondi has done an amazing job of growing T.E.A.M.S. Ohio, and the organization is now partnering with several schools in the area to work together on STEM workshops with her students as well as the school’s. The Lebron James Boys and Girls Club in Akron has even signed up to attend several of her workshops, and she will be hosting an event at their facility soon.
Tondi has been passionate about technology and software development her entire life, and is eager to dive in and begin building even more experience as a developer so that she can share what she learns to help the students she teaches.
“I came from a foster care background, where it was really difficult to focus on career development or find anyone who could point me in a productive direction,” says Tondi. “When I aged out of foster care, I started college and knew I wanted to major in Computer Science, but in the first class I took, no one wanted to team with me, and I had an extremely hard time understanding the professor. I ended up graduating with a degree in health administration with a focus on informatics, but I never lost my love for Computer Science.”
Through her own internal drive and determination, Tondi graduated with honors and has built a successful career as a Health IT professional. She plans on using the scholarship winnings to attend a coding bootcamp so that she can rapidly build her software engineering skills.
“I’d like to work with my Toptal mentor on a project that I’ve had in mind for a while — building a KPI application that will allow my students to see engaging visuals that clearly show how their businesses are doing and where they need to improve,” says Tondi.
In the long-term, Tondi’s goals include scaling T.E.A.M.S. Ohio so that she can get her own building, lab facilities, and computers. Ultimately, she would like the organization to be an innovation hub that not only prepares underprivileged youth for successful careers in STEM fields, but also stays on the cutting-edge of technology and creates products that will have a significant impact on the industry.
“My students are full of ideas, and it’s really amazing to see,” says Tondi. “They’re thinking of everything from apps that monitor electricity usage, winter boots that automatically heat up when you put them on your feet, and bracelets that monitor sleep patterns to wake you up at optimal hours. All of these children want to grow up and make their own footprint in technology. So how can I do as much as possible to help them? How do I inspire them to understand that their past does not limit the potential of their future? I want that to be my legacy.”
Tondi especially wants to inspire the girls in the T.E.A.M.S. Ohio community, as she has noticed that many of them have begun to lose interest, since the STEM professionals who come to speak with the organization are primarily men. She is driven to build her own skills as a software engineer so that the girls in her community see her as an example and stay engaged.
Tondi also explains that the organization’s progress within the community has been so positive that many of her students’ parents are getting interested in learning too, particularly about topics around robotics. For a community that is eager to learn but has limited opportunities to get into STEM fields, Tondi’s work is already having an enormous impact.
Tondi’s passion for technology, dedication to helping others, and determination to build her own skills as well as those of everyone around her are truly amazing and will be the foundation of her long-term success with T.E.A.M.S. Ohio.
At Toptal, we are deeply inspired by Tondi’s story and are excited to be able to support her and her organization as she builds T.E.A.M.S. Ohio into an innovation and education center for underprivileged youth in the Cleveland/Akron community. We can’t wait to begin working with her and to see what she will be able to achieve in the future.
Please join us in congratulating Tondi Butler on becoming the fourth winner of the Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women program!
About Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women
Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women are a series of 12 scholarships that are awarded monthly over a year, with Tondi as the fourth scholarship winner. Women from across the world of any education level are eligible to apply to win $5,000 and a year of weekly one-on-one technical training and mentorship from a Toptal senior technologist, in order to help them pursue their goals as future professional software engineers.
The first scholarship winner was Rojina Bajracharya, a Python developer, entrepreneur, and mentor from Bhaktapur, Nepal. The second scholarship winner was Ana Sustic, a Python developer, system administrator, and project manager from Ljubljana, Slovenia. The third winner was Gabriela Mancini, a freelance designer and former primary school teacher from Córdoba, Argentina.
To apply to Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers and for more information about the program, visit https://www.toptal.com/scholarships.
Founded in 2010, Toptal is one the fastest-growing and most innovative companies to emerge from Silicon Valley. With backing from Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley’s famed venture capital firm, Adam D’Angelo, founder of Quora, Ryan Rockefeller, and other investors, Toptal today connects thousands of elite freelance software engineers and designers from around the world to over 2,000 blue chips such as J.P. Morgan and Pfizer, tech companies such as Airbnb and Zendesk, and numerous startups to provide world-class solutions that meet the most complex and challenging requirements. Toptal’s rapid growth is testimony to exploding client demand and the unmatched quality and reliability of the company’s services.
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