Jayla Williams’ passion is problem-solving, which is fortunate as the year 2020 delivered a surplus of practical problems that need solutions. The Fisk University sophomore is competing for the first time in Black Enterprise’s annual BE Smart Hackathon, hosted by American Airlines.
As part of a five-member team of Fisk tech wizards, Williams is contributing to a data-crunching project that will help airlines accommodate travelers with respiratory issues. As she explains it: “We can provide safe departure times and make sure passengers with health issues aren’t surrounded by people when they arrive at the airport.”
The effort is a creative technical adaptation to life under a pandemic designed to protect both lives and jobs – a perfect distillation of the BE Smart ethos, and a telling example of Williams’ creative spirit.
Speaking from her home in Hillsboro, Oregon, near Portland., where she distance learning her way to a degree in computer science, Jayla talked about her journey and where it might take her.
“I was born in Los Angeles, but we moved to Oregon when I was one. I have always been creative. I enjoyed art, painting, singing, playing instruments. I studied flute for seven years. I especially enjoyed writing songs. I guess I’ve always been attracted to the idea of creating something from nothing – making something just from the tools I have around me.”
At first glance, one might not see how a love for the creative arts connects a budding career in technology, but for Williams, it was a natural transition. She excelled at math and science, earning a 4.0 average in high school. College was a given, but where?
“I applied to 31 colleges and most accepted me, including Fisk. To be honest, I really wasn’t looking hard at Fisk; it was not my number one