Elen Awalom is the founder and director of The Ola Initiative, an organization focused on the advancement of Black, Latina and Indigenous women in STEM.
Born in Khartoum, Sudan to Eritrean parents, Ms. Awalom immigrated to the United States at the age of 1. Her family settled in the South Bronx in the early 80's, during a highly tumultuous period in the borough's history. The importance of human rights and social justice was instilled in Elen at an early age as a result of her family's commitment to the liberation of their native Eritrea.
A beneficiary of the bilingual education programs which gained popularity in the 80's, Ms. Awalom possesses native fluency in Spanish, along with the indigenous language of her ancestors, Tigrinya. She also has a strong grasp of Arabic, Amharic and Portuguese, having studied these languages at the undergraduate level and during her studies abroad.
Ms. Awalom dived into entrepreneurship at an early age, founding a gift card company with her younger sister at the age of 9. Selling the handmade cards door to door in their diverse Northern Virginia community, she found great joy in the level of independence she experienced & the spark was ignited.
As an adult, Elen eventually became a serial entrepreneur, launching a creative consultancy which provided photography and literary services - including work as a poet, executive producer, editor and writing instructor. Later, she co-founded The Lighthouse, a holistic wellness start-up that merged her skills as a visual artist and healer (meditation teacher, wellness coach and certified Reiki master).
In 2013, after 2 years of studying software engineering via university courses online and DC area programming meet-ups, she attended a coding bootcamp in San Francisco where she studied full stack web development. That fall, she began working on Curatoric, an e-commerce tech start-up focused on the art of the Africas.
Simultaneously, Ms. Awalom devoted her energy to the cause of technology diversity and inclusion, working with organizations like Diversitech in 2011. By 2014, she began to organize around the issue of women of color in technology in San Francisco, with a particular focus on those who identify as Black, Latina and Indigenous. These efforts ultimately led to the birth of The Ola Initiative, an organization dedicated to the advancement of the aforementioned groups in 2015.