Maria QuevedoMaria has over ten years’ experience in senior leadership positions across the charity and private sectors.

In her role as Director of Code Club, she has focused on implementing innovative strategies to grow Code Club’s community of volunteers and venues, expanding beyond the tech sector to engage new and diverse audiences.

She leads a team with UK-wide and global capacity, encouraging them to explore creative approaches to increase and widen the programme’s reach.

Maria is also a Director at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK-based charity, leading Code Club. Code Club is part of the Raspberry Pi family and is a worldwide network of free, volunteer-led coding clubs for children and teenagers. The mission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world. In 2019, the Raspberry Pi Foundation aims to raise £4.25 million to pursue its educational initiatives including online coding projects, free coding clubs, and volunteer support. They are only able to do this important work thanks to the generous support of their partners.

Please contact [email protected] to get involved.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your current role

My name is Maria Quevedo. I’m Code Club Director at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Code Club is a global network of 12,000 coding clubs for 9- to 13-year-olds. These clubs are led by teachers, often with the support of volunteers, and we provide training, teaching materials, and support so they can help club members learn how to code and make their own games, animations, and websites. I lead a team of very talented people, working with them to develop the strategies for growth and engagement our community of volunteers and teachers.

Previously, I led educational programmes at a social business, and community projects in a charity working in one of the most deprived areas of London.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I didn’t! I trained to be a translator and for many years interpreted for refugees and asylum seekers in London. Then I worked as a journalist, became a researcher at a think tank, and soon ended up managing the team. It was in this job that I realised how much I enjoyed leading teams, and later I decided to use my skills in programmes I really cared about. Education is key to helping people in challenging circumstances, and I see tech education as one of the main drivers against inequality in the future. We should make sure all young people — whatever their gender or background — have access to learning how to make things with technology, as this will open up lots of opportunities and improve their life chances.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Almost three years ago, Code Club merged with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and it was a very exciting and challenging time for everybody. It was great to join forces with another organisation so deeply aligned with our values and mission, but we had to navigate a huge amount of change. Both organisations brought amazing teams of people who supported this process with an open mind, and we all worked through it together, and very successfully.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

We need to fight the stereotype that STEM is only for men, and increase the visibility of women who are already working in STEM. There are women from all backgrounds working in tech who could be great role models to encourage young women to explore STEM and pursue a career like they’ve done.

My heart sinks every time a woman says that tech is not for her! Why not? I was already in my forties when I joined Code Club, and my coding experience consisted of editing HTML text on a website 15 years previously. I’ve learnt so much alongside children and colleagues at Code Club, and now I can have a lot of fun with my son by coding  games and making animations. Everything is possible if you set your mind to it, so why not STEM?

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’ve mentored a social entrepreneur for the past four years. I supported her in developing the idea and in setting up and establishing a charity that provides cultural experiences to kids of low SES. The experience was very enriching for me, and I very much enjoyed supporting my mentee’s personal and professional development. I have also been mentored and found the experience really useful.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Settling in the UK. I came here from Argentina when I was 19, I spoke very little English and didn’t know anybody. It took a lot of determination to settle here and to grow professionally, and I’m very proud of everything I’ve achieved.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

It’s been six years since Code Club started. We continue to grow steadily, and currently there are clubs registered in 25% of UK schools. There are over 5,000 clubs in the rest of the world, we’ve tested different approaches to expanding our reach, and my next challenge is to establish the right model to scale. We want a Code Club in every community in the world!