Name: Takara Small
Job title: Founder, Venture Kids; freelance tech writer
From: Warkworth, Ont.
Currently lives in: Toronto
Education: BJourn, Ryerson University
First job out of school: Freelance journalist on the business, science and tech desk at CBC
Takara Small remembers the move that changed everything. At 19, with hardly any money, she left her small, rural hometown of Warkworth and returned to her birthplace, Toronto, to study journalism. “It was scary,” she says. “It was life-changing. But I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t taken that leap.” And it’s a good thing she did because her work as a tech journalist and charity founder is helping to diversify Canada’s tech scene in the present and set it up for a better future.
Small is the founder of Venture Kids, a non-profit that provides underserved Ontario youth with the means to start tech careers. The organization gives students in both rural and urban areas basic necessities like Wi-Fi and meals while teaching them the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and coding. Alongside this, Small is a freelance tech writer and speaker and has worked with FLARE, CBC, The Globe and Mail and Fortune among others. (Oh, and she interviewed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.) Today, she considers herself a “STEM advocate.”
Even before tech became the topic du jour, Small recognized its potential and value. “I realized that tech and business…provide a lot of opportunities to change the world and your community [and that] learning those skills is incredibly important,” she explains. For her, tech’s appeal is that it impacts everyone, regardless of race or socioeconomic background.
Early on in her career, Small realized she wanted to do something about the lack of diversity in tech. “It was the same type of founder I kept seeing, the same type of tech worker I kept seeing,” she says. Venture Kids is meant to diversify Canada’s tech ecosystem by providing opportunity to underserved communities, which are often made up of people of colour. What keeps Small going is “working with youth who are diverse and seeing that the next generation might not ever feel the same way I do or might not experience the othering that I feel to the extreme.”
Warkworth, which Small describes as “the most undiverse you could possibly get,” prepared her for the racism she faces as one of very few Black women in tech. But she believes her work and trailblazing are necessary. “It’s not lost on me that there aren’t many women who write about this subject, and there are definitely not enough women of colour,” she says. “It’s so incredibly fulfilling that someone who looks like me can highlight when there’s bias or when there are discriminatory or racist policies or issues.”
It’s been a process for Small to learn to be confident. For a long time, she felt she shouldn’t speak up because she was young and didn’t look like anyone else in the room. “Now I feel like, ‘OK, I’m in this space for a reason, and my personal perspective on life or on what’s happening in the world is definitively unique and needed,” she says. While she knows Venture Kids isn’t going to make anyone wealthy, she still finds it beyond rewarding to run. “If you want to make a change in the world, you have to be that change.”