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Meet Josie Zec – Teenager Opening Doors for Girls in Croatia

Opening night at Pyxie Dust Project, November 2015 Josie Zec with US Ambassador to Croatia, Julieta Valls Noyes

Opening night at Pyxie Dust Project, November 2015 Josie Zec with US Ambassador to Croatia, Julieta Valls Noyes

She is only just 15 years of age but has already had her own book published, represented Croatia at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, and currently is leading a project supporting girls and women in STEM – Science Technology Engineering and Math…

We love to focus on people doing good things in the community in Croatia, and one teenager with a huge drive making a difference is Josie Zec from Zagreb.

When she was just 12 years old in 2013 Josie won a scholarship to attend a software conference in Berlin – EuroPython and participate in a Django Girls event. This event was organized to motivate women to learn about coding and Josie was the youngest participant. She thought more girls would want to enjoy such events and came up with her concept targeting teens and the Pyxie Dust Project was born. In front of a crowd of almost a thousand conference goers, she presented her lightning talk on stage.

Josie soon founded the Pyxie Dust Project focused on helping teach girls from the age of 13 to 20 to learn how to code and get them interested in technology careers. Josie helps organise free events and will be holding the next event in Osijek Co working space Osijek from 4-5 March 2016.

We chatted with Josie before she set off for Osijek for her next event.

You are multi-talented, not only are you a published author, vlogger and lead organiser of the Pyxie project, but you also represented Croatia at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2014 in Malta. What field do you hope to pursue a career in?

Well I am really interested in music and technology. I would like to combine music and technology in a new, unique way. I am still discovering.

It is not every day that a 12-year-old publishes a book. How did you decide to do that, what was it about and what were the main challenges?

I wanted to write a book because I wanted to save my idea and give a story to my idea. My idea was about mixing animals for an app that would turn them into Animingles. Animingles are two animals combined that a ruler, the Aniqueen would create. In my book I explained the whole adventure and beginning of the Animingles through triumphs and the challenges they went through. I was very young and I had to learn a new process and it was my first book but not my last☺ I had to write down the story, sketch the characters, make up names, find a way to publish my book and do workshops with my book.

How was the experience of representing Croatia at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest?

Even though it was only two years ago I have noticed that I have grown and strengthened myself. I noticed now I was very innocent about the whole Contest. It showed me what were the most important things in life….faith, love, trust, family and friends.

 Josie at Junior Eurovision on tour of Gozo, Malta with her backup dancers November 2014

Josie at Junior Eurovision on tour of Gozo, Malta with her backup dancers November 2014

You are a keen programmer, which is not very common for young girls to get into, how did you get an interest in that?

I’ve always loved how they portrayed programming in the movies so I wanted to try myself and see if I was good at it so I went to the EuroPython 2014 event where I participated in Django Girls —coding workshops for women. There I learned a lot and developed my skills, some basic knowledge for programming and desire to learn more.

You founded the Pyxie Dust project, can you tell us how and why you started that.

When I was at EuroPython(European event for programming) I realized that I was one of the only teenage girls their learning how to code. I wanted to give an opportunity for other girls my age to have this experience. Later on I found out the reason why I was one of the only teenage girls was because many girls my age aren’t interested in the STEM (Science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs. I presented my idea at the event in front of thousands of people. Stating my arguments of why there needs to be more events for girls and how I need money and people to help and that’s where Pyxie Dust was born.

What do like to do in your spare time?

I love to laugh, sing, hang out with my friends and family, go out to the movies and go rollerblading.

Out of all your achievements, does anything stand out and make you the proudest?

I can’t really say that because each of my achievements is sort of just a piece of me and I can’t say which puzzle piece I am more proud of.

How do you stay positive and motivated?

When I need to stay positive and I need to find hope there’s only one thing they can calm me down and bring back the light to me, prayer. That’s all I need.

Josie and Participants of pilot Pyxie Dust Project September 2014 at Impact Hub Zagreb

Josie and Participants of pilot Pyxie Dust Project September 2014 at Impact Hub Zagreb

Who have been your role-models?

I have met a lot of inspiring and great people but I don’t really think I could say or name just one person as my role model. Because actions make a person great.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Honestly I have no idea, but I know that the future is a funny thing. All I know is that in 10 years I’ll probably be finishing college and nourishing some sort of unique career.

Good luck, Josie!

Pyxie Dust Project in Osijek

Pyxie Dust Project in Osijek

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