Aug. 31, 2021

8. Elena Sinel - Part II

8. Elena Sinel - Part II

Hear the concluding part of Elena Sinel's story, the Founder of Teens in AI which exists to inspire the next generation of ethical Artificial Intelligence researchers, entrepreneurs and leaders who will shape the world of tomorrow. This is the second of a two part interview in which we hear how Elena was trapped in an abusive relationship which took her seven years to escape from, and how it drove her to disrupt education and create Teens in AI.

Be sure to listen to the very end of the episode for bonus material.

You can follow Elena & Teens In AI
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elenasinel/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elenasinel_/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/elena_sinel
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/teensinai
Website: https://www.teensinai.com/ 

A transcription of each episode as well as guest profiles and much more is available on our website www.sondership.com

Credits

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Transcript

Danny:

Previously on the Sondership podcast.

Elena:

My mum worked in the museum as a tour guide I used to just bump into these foreigners who didn't speak Russian so I had to speak to them. The kind of people I met were absolutely amazing they were British ambassador or American ambassador that would come into town. I left because I got married quite young, to somebody who I worked with and I thought this would be the person that I would change the world with. I've been to some of the really, really poorest places in the world, places in Africa and Asia, but still that memory of the Erol Sea is something that will probably never be erased from my memory.

Danny:

So you're in the South of France, you're on your yacht and you're not on yacht your I know.

Elena:

Yes. I ended up on a yacht. I'm like, oh my God, I don't even know how to swim, I just don't see myself ever being able to fit in this very commercial society we need to go somewhere else. My daughter was born in France, so she was only about seven months when her father found a job in the Balkans in Macedonia. I like it when I'm put into a country where there is hardship and it's like a post-confict situation where, okay, I can solve something. I can help you. But how?

Danny:

You leave the comforts of the South of France you go into a post-apocalyptic war zone and you go I'm home. I feel good now there's something for me to do here. Yes.

Elena:

I know I'm one of those strange, crazy people then we just settled.

Danny:

Is that what you're constantly looking for ways to help people you're constantly looking for ways to make a difference.

Elena:

I convinced my husband. I said, let's go. let's go somewhere more exciting and we found a really exciting contract in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa and I'm like, wow, this is, this is definitely me. This was the first time I've ever seen a black person. And I met these incredibly warm people, the warmest people I've ever met, and I realized that you don't have to have anything or you could do with very, very little and still be so happy. I kind of felt England just wasn't the right place for me I'm sort of was more drawn to warmer cultures, maybe so Africa, Asia, you know, anything outside of England, I just felt I was closer to my heart.

Danny:

Welcome to the Sondership podcast, I'm your host, Danny, Attias. We now pick up Elena's journey, living in the UK, but not quite feeling at home. You started off by trying to make a difference

Elena:

Yeah and then unfortunately I stopped for seven years. I could do nothing, Danny. I literally could do nothing, but go to court and fight a person who really wanted to suppress every creativity, everything I had to offer them. It was a very, like a dark time, seven years of court. It's going to be very sad, this is where people will cry and say what happened? Bloody hell like this woman. I mean, I'm always asked her, like, you should write a book about it because it will inspire so many women because you're such a resilient character, but maybe I will, I'll probably find a ghost writer.

Danny:

Elena, you've been all over the world you've experienced huge number of cultures. We're now leaving Africa, we've come to the UK. We've got onto a yacht again. Have you been traveling ever since, as your life continued in this way?

Elena:

I wish I really wish that probably would have been a very romantic way to live just do what you really want to do but unfortunately the life is not like that and often times life just throws challenges at you and obstacles and then it watches you, the universe just watches your, how's she going to do it now. What is she going to? What is she going to do to get out of this one? And unfortunately, as we came to England, we kindof figuring out what to do next and we did get an offer to go to Bangladesh and we did go for a few months, but that was very shortly because sadly, whilst all of this, what seemed like a glamorous thing, you know, it was traveling and yachts and amazing things that I was doing at the same time unfortunately, there were cracks in my marriage. I've realized after some months that I married somebody who was very controlling and, and life wasn't really, as, as rosy, as I really thought it would be what the marriage I thought was going to be or was meant to be. So I was very young when I, when I got married and it taught me so many different things, you know, you go through being a mum to kind of rediscovering yourself and that experience of being a mum as well, being a parent really does something to your brain as well, where you kind of realize that it's just not going to be the same as before. But also with the cracks in the marriage, I was married to somebody who was very controlling. He was very jealous, was very sort of power seeking and really manipulative sometimes. And I kind of knew it would be an end at some point and I suppose that and had to come in Bangladesh when unfortunately I found him cheating and I was just quite happy with that. I was just so happy because it gave me a legitimate reason. And to end this marriage. Because before that, I kind of tolerated a lot just because there was Victoria and I just wanted, I kind of thought if I exit the marriage first of all I always had him threatened me that he would take my daughter away and I would never see her again. So, that kind of kept me like always on guard and always worried and stressed. Is he really going to do this? Because I was kind of still a foreigner, a girl from Uzbekistan that didn't really have any rights anywhere and we would travel and everywhere we would travel. I was just why traveling with somebody who was British. And so that kind of put me into this position where I was always fearful. What will happen if I really did do something naughty, which is to end the marriage, but it had to go that way sadly. And it wasn't something I could tolerate anymore with me finding out and then me telling him I'm going to have to divorce you because it's just, there is no way anymore. And I think he was very, very angry when he learned about it and suddenly I realized that that place, where we were in Bangladesh was probably the least safest of all places in the world for a woman in my circumstances, we were Chittagong Hill Tracts, which was a very militarized zone in order to get into Chittagong Hill Tracts you needed an extra visa and an extra permission. So as you go into Chittagong Hill Tracts, which is a very special area in Bangladesh, very militarized, you had to give them a reason why you're there. And when you exit that area, you also had to give them a reason and seek permission to leave the area. And I kind of didn't tweak at that time, but what am I doing, I should have probably come back to England first or something like that. I just had that urge in me that I couldn't say anything, but enough is enough.

Danny:

You don't strike me as the person who holds back. Yeah.

Elena:

No. Well, lots of things have happened. I mean, I am, I am the way I am because of all of the things that the positive and the negative that have happened, I suppose that shaped me. But at that time I was quite petrified of this person because he had the kind of powers and the kind of privileges that I didn't have. For once he held my passport. It was one of his things to just always own my passport and never give me any money, never have an account of my own. So I was literally trapped. I was a prisoner for seven years of our marriage. I did everything I wanted to do in terms of making an impact. And I think that's, what's probably one of the things I was so looking forward to doing, because marriage just wasn't working, but I was able to do something that made me so happy.

Danny:

Okay.

Elena:

Yeah. So, but the seven years of being in that marriage also meant that I wasn't happy in my marriage being married to somebody who was just aggressive and jealous and just was there because he wanted a child and that was kind of his thing from the very beginning I wanted to have a child has to be a boy but hey ho it's a girl. Yes. It was very, very strange to begin with and I kind of knew it would end, but when yes and Bangladesh was just that point. And I just felt very, very unsafe at some point when he kind of told me once, well, one day I'm just going to leave you here by the way and I'll just take Victoria abroad somewhere, but you won't be able to leave Bangladesh because you don't have any rights. You don't have any papers. And he said he was holding this slipping pills in front of me saying, well, why didn't you. Take all of the sleeping pills, you will fall asleep and I'll take care of Victoria and everything will be absolutely fine when you hear this kind of stuff. I was really petrified

Danny:

I can't, well, I mean, I definitely can't imagine, but you know, you get these kinds of situations happening every day, all over the developed world, all over the UK and you just think about the amount of theoretical support that there is and the opportunities for escape which aren't often taken and it is severely problematic. So to imagine that in an environment where you're literally in a prison, you're in a place you cannot come in and out of, and to have that level of control, I can't even begin to imagine how you must have felt in

Elena:

I didn't know what to do. I had no phone, nothing. I went to the chief of tribe in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Chakma tribe. And I spoke to this woman and I said, please help me because my husband is trying to threatening to abduct my daughter, and just leave me here. I had no idea what to do. Um, and she said, okay, let me just call my, my son and maybe we can help you. And his son apparently worked for my husband. So he, and he brought my husband along and I'm like, oh my God, this is really not what I wanted to see. And then I ran it. I literally ran from this house to the school and I said, I need, I need to use your phone. Urgently. And I called somebody at the United Nations we employed my husband and I said to them, look I have to get out of here because I don't feel safe. Like I literally don't know what he will do because nobody will find me if something happens, like nobody will find me here. I said, I need to get out and you need to let me out of here. So please send a car after me and my daughter and he was kind of like in the non-believer. How do I know you're what you're saying is true. And I said, I said, I don't care whether you believe me or not. I don't feel safe here. I need to get out. And if you don't get me out now, I'm going to call the Reuters and BBC, I'm going to release the story. I'm going to tell the world that the United nations is employing a wife abuser. I think he got a bit worried and he said, okay, fine. We have a car somewhere. Not far away from you. I'm going to send somebody and they'll pick you up. So I literally had half an hour to pick, put things into some suitcase and I said to Victoria, we're leaving. We're going to the capital we're going to leave in Dhaka with a couple of friends, just for a little while, because she didn't know what was happening. And she could see the tension. Unfortunately, it's unavoidable.

Danny:

How old is she at this point?

Elena:

Only six, I think six or seven years shifts. Very young. Um, yeah. And she still remembers mommy, you didn't, you forgot my scooter. Do you remember when we were living at Chittagong? You left my scooter. Mommy. I still remember. I'm like, whoa. Okay. That really was not something I was thinking about at that time, but we escaped, we escaped. I also found my passport and Victoria's, but I was really worried he could apply for another one. So I immediately went to the British embassy and said to them, look, I have to get out somehow I have to get, get back to England, but I have no means nothing at all. What am I going to do? And I think it was just the United Nations told my husband. Go back to England sorted out. And then if you have a chance to come back, then come back. So we came back to England on the same flight together, and we came to England, got into a taxi, came home and the next morning it was like nothing happened. He just took Victoria and me to school. But on the journey on the way here. One day, I will take her from school and then I will go across the ferry with Victoria and, and you will never see her again. I'll just take her across a ferry and you will never see her again. And I was petrified. I think this was the last thing or the last time I wanted to hear it because I heard it so many times and I thought, right, this is just not going to happen again. I went to school, I was crying. I told them I didn't. No, how long I can, I should wait for until he actually comes and does it. I said, I have no idea what's on his mind because you just don't. And they said, okay, well, this is doesn't sound great at all. We're going to take you to citizens advice bureau. I didn't even know what, what that was at that time. And I was just sitting in citizens advice bureau. I still remember that day. It was 8th of October. And I was sat there. I picked up a flyer that said domestic violence. I've never heard of that word before. Didn't know what it meant, but I ticked every single box except physical violence. He wouldn't do anything physical to me, but everything else, like I take it, it was unbelievable. I'm like, whoa. Okay. I learned a new word today.

Danny:

So many of the things are, so you don't realize they're wrong, you kind of think they're wrong and they don't feel right, but then you see a flyer and you realize, oh, hold on these are the signs of domestic violence of domestic abuse. And also you realize. This is not unique, you're not alone. This is a real problem. And you should absolutely not accept it.

Elena:

Absolutely. I didn't realize that I was apparently victim of domestic violence. They put me in touch with the police straight away. Every police has got a domestic violence unit or they spoke to me they said, ah, okay, right. That doesn't sound like a safe situation to go back to. So we're going to come with you. We're going to help you pack your bikes and we're going to take her to a woman's refuge. So what's that said, well, it's a place where women or your circumstances where it's becomes unsafe for you to stay at home. We will take you, it will be your temporary place of living and we'll just stay there, eh, you will stay there for a bit with your daughter. And I was like, I don't know how to get there. Where will it be? And they said, well, there are only two refuges in the UK, in the entire UK who will accept a woman in your circumstances because you have no recourse to any public funds, nothing and I literally said, I have zero money in my account. Like, I don't have any money, no accounts, nothing. I have 20 pounds in my pocket. And that was my, what he gave me today to buy food. That's it. And they said, it's okay. Don't worry. We will cover the expense of taking and, and the refuge is going to, um, to look after you, they will have some something some way to support you. So, and I said, okay, fine. Let's do it. And yeah, I went home, uh, with the police was already there. They kind of met me there. Um, and my husband wasn't there at the time. He was just busy, sorting out. Uh, how can he empty his accounts so that I don't get hold of anything he, he already kind of knew I was getting divorced and we were getting divorced and how can he be protect his money? So that was it, I was like, okay, great. So I picked, packed my bags and Victoria's things and I got taken to my friend who looked after my daughter. She picked her up from school and just before we're leaving, he came back home and had a, had a very unpleasant exchange with the police, asking them, where are you taking my wife? Eh, where's my daughter. And all of that, who was very angry. And then he followed the police car to see like where she's taking us and all that. It was very aggressive and unpleasant. And the police had to threaten him and tell him, like, if you don't go, we're going to have to call back up and all of that. So it was like this kind of drama that you don't really want to witness or see and he asked the police just brought me and Victoria to a refuge and we had to stay there for six months. So that was very interesting. Yeah. We lived there for six months. There was nowhere for us to go. And at that time I was going through that divorce, like I'm hearing, where will the child be? Because obviously he went to court, wanting Victoria and telling the court that he is there for her. And I am just a foreigner. They can just send me back home.

Danny:

And he had the funds to get the support, the legal support that he needed.

Elena:

Yeah. It was super hard for me because we had social services involved trying to understand where will Victoria be. And all of that was super stressful. He was trying to find that refuge, there was kind of, yeah, like stalking and finding and all sorts. It was a lot of drama, but at the same time he was writing to the home office asking them, you can just send this woman back because I'm not supporting her, I'm not her sponsor anymore. And guess what? I received a letter from the home office telling me you can go back. And I was like, maybe I should, you know, I'll just take Victoria and go home because I haven't seen my mum by then, like in seven years he wouldn't let me go and see my parents because he was worried that I would never come back. So I thought, yeah, maybe it's time to go home because I can do anything anywhere as long as. And of course the refuge told me, no, you can't because the moment you say yes to the home office, that you're ready to go, they will take Victoria from you because she's British. And that's exactly what he wants. So my dear girl, they told me you're going to have to fight this one. I said, no, but I'm already fighting like in this court and at that time, obviously I didn't realize that this would last for something like seven years of my life would in court but they said, you're going to have to fight this one. And we're going to help you because you have to stay in this country. And yes, I had, um, a barrister all the way from Oxford who would come to Wales to the immigration tribunal to defend me and explain to the home office that I'm a victim of domestic abuse. And the home office definition at that time was physical violence is what domestic abuse was and that anything else is not abuse, you know? It's just marriage. So they, it was incredible. It was so laughable. I thought, okay, well I have an amazing barrister and she, she really was amazing. So we had so much evidence, so many witness statements so much, and she said, well, this woman really went through all of that stuff. Locked away in Ethiopia for two days when he took Victoria way to a hotel to kind of as a form of control and intimidation, you know, so many things threats of these threats of that. And, uh, and so the judge read through all the evidence and he said, he looked at me and he said, what are you doing here? I'm like, well, I said, guess what? Um, even UN workers can be wife abusers. So I'm here because obviously with what happened, and it seems like I have to fight in court. I have to be here in front of you to defend my right, to stay in this country, to then fight for my daughter for my right to be mother. To be with my daughter. That's where I am. And he looked at me and he said, wow, I have this, what an incredible background you have things you've done. And yet you're here and I've just seen the evidence and everything. He said, I'm going to let you stay here based on all the evidence and everything else. But he said the words that I will never forget. He said, I know you are going to do something phenomenal in this country. That is another reason why I'm living here, here, all the stuff that you've described and all the evidence I've read, but you're going to do something phenomenal. And, um, and at that time, you know, am I in court, red eyes crying, really thinking, oh my God, they are going to deport me. I'm going to lose my daughter. It kind of went over. I didn't even want to know. And then a friend of mine who accompanied competent, he said, do you remember what the judge said? Well, he said something about making a difference. I don't know what it was all about. He said, yes. He said, you're going to make a difference one day here and he believes in that and yeah, it was very, um, like a self-fulfilling prophecy type, like a prophecy that I didn't expect to hear from a judge either. So he left me. I was very happy. So like a year later or two years I became British. It was a massive win for me because that kind of re affirmed my rights in this country and made it so much easier for me to just be here, being recognized as a British person, with the rights that I'm entitled to knowing that he can't just throw me out and nobody else can either. It was such a powerful thing to do. And, but fortunately, you know, my, my battles with this man just didn't stop there because he was just very adamant and hell bent on what he said. I'm just going to destroy you and destroy every opportunity that you could have to do anything you want to have. So he just had that. And I had to defend myself so many times in court where he would say, oh, she missed the weekend, Victoria didn't want to talk to me today. So he would send the police round and say, can I do a welfare check? And I had the police having a cup of tea here at home every Wednesday or something, you know, whenever he was meant to have a conversation with her and she would say, oh, but I want to talk to my friend today or I'm visiting something else. And who said, well, no, it's the mom who wouldn't let her speak to me. So can I please do a welfare check and check that my daughter is safe and that kind of nonsense.

Danny:

And by this time she's a young teenager.

Elena:

She's a young teenager by then. Yeah. Yeah. It was incredible. And so I had to run away. I had to find a way because he was talking and he wouldn't just let go of anything. So I found a way to, I kind of probably caught him in, at a time when he was a bit vulnerable and quite unwell. And I was the only person he asked for help. I don't have any eggs at home. Can you buy me some eggs? I'm like, okay. And I'm like, okay, sure. I'll do it. You're ultimately the father of my daughter. Yeah. And I kind of caught him in that empathetic maybe, which was kind of so unusual and rare. And I said, look, I have to go to London. I really do not see myself doing anything in Bournemouth. This is not my place. It's beautiful, but it's unhelpful. I cannot find the job that I will really. And at least in London, my degrees in politics and international relations. I have a business management degree as well. I think I could do a lot more in London and I said, Victoria will go to really good secondary school here and, and all sorts. And, um, he kind of got convinced and we signed an agreement that he will only let me go. If I bring her every other weekend to see him. And I said, fine, like anything I will sign. And that was my freedom. I bought my freedom. It was very, very difficult. And I ended up in London. I arrived in 2013. And I think I told you very briefly, just before we started, I asked my mom, where do I live in? London is such a massive place there are safe, unsafe places. Like what do I do? And she said, just find a community where there are a lot of Jewish people and, and this community is going to be the safest. There will be the best schools, the best businesses. So find somewhere like that. And I literally Googled and said in Google asks where do Jewish people living in London? And it came up with Golders Green. So that's how I ended up in London and Golders Green. It's in this beautiful, beautiful place. And my daughter went to an absolutely ordinary school. So she was completing her six form here and then started her secondary school here as well. It wasn't escape. It was, um, massive move forward because somehow, and it doesn't happen every way. I literally had to reinvent, rethink my identity because particularly in the refuge in a six months of horror, by the time I left the refuge, I inspired two women to start their own businesses. So that was what I had to do because

Danny:

always on.

Elena:

yeah. Um, I was like, wow, I'm speaking to this incredible women, but they're all very much caught in that trauma. And I'm like, the way out of trauma is to find your purpose, to find something that you really are able to do and again, make a living. So, yeah, it just even happened in the refuge. By the time I left, you know, two women started their businesses, one in food and one is in something else. Yeah. There was one time. I only remember where I felt really bad because there was a woman that came with four children once into women's refuge and, um, she was distraught. She was, I could see that she was escaping from somewhere far away. She was in the car coming from Isle of Wight and she didn't stay the next morning, she left the refuge and I felt guilty that I did not convince her because I spoke to this woman and I told her, it's going to be fine. Your kids are going to be fine. They will go to another school because she was very, very emotional and tearful and she didn't think it was the right thing to do because it takes so much courage to leave that abusive relationship. And so women don't, but they should, because when it comes to that point where you don't feel safe, For your life and your children's life, you have to go and find somewhere safer. And so many women don't and it just ends up really, really badly. I can literally finish every single story of a woman who goes through domestic violence. Every single story is all the same. It's incredible. And these women who would come to the refuge. So many broken stories and just such vulnerability, I've never, ever met such people. And I, again, I was so drawn to helping I needed help myself, but I was there like for them talking to them and trying to see what can I do either for your kids or for yourself. And I felt guilty. I cried on the day when I saw this woman lived the refuge and I cried even more. Well, I was very, very mad at the refugee staff. And I also, why didn't you stop her? You could have stopped her. You could have not. And they told me, Elena, we cannot do anything. If she wants to go back, we, there is nothing we can do. It has to come from her. She has to decide firmly in her mind and in her heart that she has to go and nobody else can do this for her. So she's going to go back. It's going to get worse and let's hope that she will be able to escape next time. But she might not, and this is not your responsibility. This is not our responsibility. This is her story. It was so painful, Danny. It was one of those times when I thought my goodness, I feel so incapable and so like useless, it's completely helpless. I didn't know what to do. Yeah. But anyway, yeah. Lots of stories from that, uh, times that it was just incredible. It was, yeah, it just made, gave me space and time to. And what am I going to do? I'm kind of stuck in England because I know her father will never let me out. He would not let me out. So I had to rethink and revisit, what can I do in this country? There must be some problems. There must be something I can do. And of course that problem was staring in my face. As soon as Victoria went into secondary school, I thought, my God, a school education, it's the same as mine. What the hell, she's still learning how to pass an exam. How can we, how can it be that she is still learning to do in the same way as I was. Surely education in England, which I was told was the most advanced anywhere in the world, like the best, the best. This is what my ex-husband, um, was telling me is the best education in the world. We have to go back to England. Victoria will be educated in the English system. I'm like, okay, fine let's go, but it wasn't, and, and this is really the problem that was staring at my face. And I thought, okay, I found it. This is what I'm going to disrupt. This is where I see I can make a dent and I can perhaps reinvent something within education. Teach my daughter, how to learn differently and maybe others as well at that time, I wasn't really bothered about all this. I thought my daughter needs to know that there are so many other exciting things in the world. So I was surrounded in London. You cannot be not be surrounded by tech and entrepreneurship and innovation, you know, and I'm like, wow, the world is so exciting, but education hasn't caught up with this exciting world of technology and innovation. How can we bring this?

Danny:

Until this point, you're not part of the tech scene. You're not part of innovation or so, so even though you said, look, I hadn't touched a computer until I was 18. It's not like you then became the world's best programmer. You're now several years later, you're not still part of, of tech even though

Elena:

I

Danny:

thing that you currently are

Elena:

but Danny, I still do not know how to code. I literally do not know how to code still. And it's not something that I'm even interested in because my I my unique selling point, what I do best is I bring communities together. I, I help you find the purpose that that will hopefully unleash your potential. That is what I do, I can inspire. I can motivate, I can heal, rehabilitate societies. I can bring in innovation and entrepreneurship and economic development into whole countries, which is what I'm doing right now, but I don't know how to code and that honestly, it does not matter. I know so many other things,

Danny:

if it makes you feel, any better, I was listed as the number one technology leader in the UK. I don't know how to code either.

Elena:

Really that's incredible.

Danny:

know. I don't know how to code,

Elena:

That's amazing.

Danny:

it's ok

Elena:

That's incredible. yes, it's okay. And so, when I discovered what my purpose was, which is to disrupt, bring something new into education in terms of innovation and whatnot. I was doing my masters at that time in, in conflict, security and development. There you go completely, completely unrelated. And it's not security as in cybersecurity. It was security as in political security and all of that. So completely unrelated to technology either or entrepreneurship.

Danny:

I remember reading this about you a few months ago, and looking up those courses, those masters, and just going this is fascinating, this is fascinating. Something to learn and have a better understanding of how the world works is incredible. Your capacity Elana is endless your drive is limitless.

Elena:

If you have been in prison for seven years, and then you were in another prison incarcerated, for whatever reason in the circumstances that you were, and your freedom has been suppressed for as long as mine has been. Then when you finally get a chance to explore that freedom, that creativity and express yourself, you really become unstoppable, which is why a lot of people like you've just said. There was nothing that can stop you. You just have so many such a drive, so many things are happening. It's happening because. I have just been suppressed for so long that when you come out of that prison, that's suppression that you just realize that my goodness, I can change the world, I can do anything. And I think anyone that is going through any difficulty in their life, they should know that all of this is temporary, it is not going to last forever, and as long as you persevere and also find a positive angle, like I don't blame my husband for anything, at the moment. I think maybe it took me a while to think that way, but I am what I am and I am that powerful, resilient, and incredible person that people say I am because of all of the bad experiences and all of the amazing experiences that have happened. And they all have happened by the time I was, you know, 27, 30. So when I hit my thirties, I'm like, okay, nobody can stop me because I can change the world and I can do anything I set my mind to and so, and so this is it. This is my, my story, but obviously it's only the beginning and the work I'm doing hopefully is going to make an impact and the judge that told me you're going to do something, something phenomenal and make a difference. Maybe I will.

Danny:

That's incredible. Elana tell us just a tiny bit about tens and AI and where people can find out more about how you are disrupting the education system for not just your daughter, but for people all over the world.

Elena:

Definitely. So, uh, Teens in AI is all about, about unleashing that potential in young people and empowering them. The medium we have chosen is AI, just because it's super cool. And there is just so much happening in that space that it would be a shame for young people to miss out. But in reality, it's a very holistic program that really taps into your leadership potential. The skills that we teach you are not just AI and technology, but it's also about design thinking and innovation and entrepreneurship, and it really forces you to think outside of the box. So we really teach you how to unlearn and how to learn things a completely different way. And so the programmes we run a very rich in all of this content. I mean, this summer, we're running a three week entrepreneurship camp and AI accelerator. And for the first time we will be sort of working on your leadership skills and self development so we will be covering so many aspects, a very holistic program that doesn't just accelerate your project and your innovation, but it will accelerate your individual potential as well. And we run this programs. I mean the summer program is only in the summer, but other than that, we run large campaigns around the world where we try to. Improve diversity. And so we specifically focused on women, nonbinary and other genders to really make sure that the future technology sector is a bit more representative of everyone else, everyone in the society. And that is so important, particularly with technologies like AI. That are shaping the world. And it's very important that it's the young people who will be in that driving seat, understand how to shape this in the better way so that we don't have Cambridge Analytica happening again so that we don't use facial recognition technology anymore, which is biased or emotion recognition technology because why. That we use technology only for impact something that will save lives, something that will improve humanity. So if I can do that and help young people discover that and understand how this works. And as you said, you know, you can, don't have to be a coder to be in tech, there are so many ways you can contribute to the improvement and betterment of this world. And as long as they have the passion, which is what I want to try and unleash and help them discover their passion and their why, their purpose, that's really all that matters.

Danny:

That's wonderful. And you had you advise parliament as well on this.

Elena:

Uh, not so much the parliament, but it's an all parliamentary group, uh, in artificial intelligence. And, um, and I'm in the education task force, but when it comes to governments, we're working in Brunei, out of all the places in the world who are listening to us, uh, sort of advocating for the sort of revitalization of their STEM education and we've already trained 55 teachers in Brunei will be really driving that AI for good framework, the hackathons that innovation programs that we've designed, they will be using and implementing them in schools. So hopefully we'll have a lot more happening in Southeast Asia, but right now we've also just. In the middle east so it will be interesting and we'll be working to bring more voices, female voices from the Arab world, um, into four, and really show them that they, they can be powerful and they can do amazing things and all over the world, we were active in Africa and in Europe and everywhere we go, we seek and we find underrepresented populations and communities, underserved so that we can bring them into that conversation. So that technology sector is not just white male and underrepresented as it is right now, which is in a very unequitable and unfair way. So if we can make a dent collectively with the help of the industry, then great. I mean, it would be a dream come true if teachers could learn this and we can train the teachers right now because we've developed a playbook, but it's the willingness of the teachers. I find it easier to work with governments who have this top down approach, where I can pitch to the government. They can see the potential for this program straight away for the young people. And it works unfortunately with governments like in England or other governments who are very democratic and they want the schools to have the choice and, um, you have to pitch to the school directly. It's going to take a very long time. Unfortunately, with the government in the UK, they cannot decide on behalf of the schools or the teachers and the curriculum is going to take a very long time to change, sadly.

Danny:

And perhaps it's something that parents can influence as well

Elena:

Parents have to be yes, they should. They should try because I mean, I woke up this rebel feeling in me as a parent because I just couldn't accept the fact that my daughter was still learning the way that I was, something had to change my way of changing this was to set up my. Enterprise and say, I'm going to do this my way. You watch me. It will happen. And, and that's what I'm doing, but every other parent can contribute as well. They can join us. They can send our program to the school and say, you should be involved. You should set up your own club and AI entrepreneurship club or a hackathons, but kids can even run. Our youngest organizer of a hackathon is a 14 year old girl in, in, in Hong Kong. If she can do it, anyone can do it. We have so many teachers who signed up to be part of our upcoming campaign in October, and there is still an opportunity to get involved, but anyone can do it. And if they can bring this hackathon, even if it is a one or two day into their schools, as a parent and driving this, we will teach you how it's very, very easy, you know, and we can work together. And I think it's when we work together with so many different stakeholders and partners, whether they're parents or companies and whatnot, that's where the real change happens.

Danny:

Elena, that is brilliant. Where can people go to find out more?

Elena:

Right. Well, definitely on Instagram, definitely on Twitter, the teensinai.com a website we're also on podcast. We have a teensinai podcast that's run by teenagers. They, and they ask the most incredible questions to you, so do listen. So yeah, all the usual podcast platforms, you will find us everywhere, just Google put in teensinai into Google and you will see us very active.

Danny:

Brilliant. We will put the link into the episode description so that people can follow all of those links. Elena Sinel thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story with us. The work that you're doing is, is absolutely incredible and the whole world is benefiting from it. So thank you for being on Sondership

Elena:

Thank you for having me thank you so much. Uh, That was a really, really great conversation I thoroughly enjoyed and thank you so much. . Danny: Your daughter kind She will be 19 soon and she's joining IBM, so my mission is kind of like completely joining IBM as an apprentice and I'm so happy for her. She also doesn't have any computer science background and she's taken English philosophy and geography. So even with these grades she's still managed to get into IBM and she will be doing, solutions engineer and also cybersecurity. So it's going to be super cool for her, but the only reason why she became, and she could be interesting for a podcast at some point in the future, but she has a very sad story as well. Her dad eventually died of lung cancer, so, and that was the revelation point for her to understand the power of technology, because she started asking. But mommy, there should have been an AI that could have predicted Papa's cancer when it was stage one, perhaps, because when they predict, when they found it, it was stage four, it was quite late. So it's a very interesting kind of way, the way she came into technology, because I was failing to convert her because her, her father was working in the background trying to prevent her from coming into technology. That like anything that mom says go, it's a no-no, it's like a battle of ideas and intellects and like, oh my God, I really am going to fail aren't I. And then suddenly it was just that. And she got into IBM. She interviewed with Microsoft and Google and IBM and so many other companies and then she said, it's going to have to be IBM. And she really likes the fact that IBM was, um, had a woman CEO. She's also very, very much kind of trained in thinking in those kinds of diverse and gender that we need more women. And yeah, she's very happy. She starting in September, she'll be in south bank, so, and, uh, yeah, uh, it's going to be quite an interesting change in the family as well. Like two women in tech.

Elena Sinel

Founder & CEO

Elena Sinel is a multi-award-winning social entrepreneur and founder of Teens In AI and Acorn Aspirations, motivated to make a difference in the world by empowering young people aged 12-18 to solve real problems through technology.

Elena is committed to inspiring young people to make a change in their community, country, and economy through passion, agility, teamwork, and expert support. She believes we need to teach invaluable skills to our next generation in order to help them thrive in an ever-changing 21st Century workplace.

Elena’s latest appointment as a member of the Education Task Force at All Parliamentary Group in Artificial Intelligence gives her an opportunity to influence policy in respect of AI skills in education. She also advises governments on integrating AI and entrepreneurship skills into the curriculum.

Prior to this, she worked as an international specialist consultant with nine years of experience in poverty reduction strategies, rural livelihood development, and poverty alleviation with a specific focus on the creation of small and medium enterprise development, product design, marketing, and fundraising in Central Asia, the Balkans, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh where she worked in international organisations, including British Council, UNDP, and World Bank.

Elena's latest awards include:

Winner Women in IT UK 2021 Advocate of the Year
Winner GLOMO 2020 - Diversity in Tech
Winner GLOMO 2020 - Women4Technology –
Industry Leadership Award
50 Computer Weekly most influential
women in UK tech 2019, 2020, 2021
100 Women in AI Ethics 2020