When taking a look at Mattaniah Aytenfsu’s resume, your first guess wouldn’t be that she had no prior experience within her pursued field going into her freshman year of college.
While balancing being a student in college, the young science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) student worked with the likes of NASA and TaskRabbit — which eventually led to Google.
The Road To Working At YouTube
Developing a deep knack for math and science during her years of being homeschooled drew Aytenfsu in. Although the college freshman, at the time, entered as a systems engineering major, her path took a turn soon after.
Being a lover of solving puzzles, she had a great sense of knowing when things weren’t fitting well. Realizations lead to new discoveries, which in her case happened to be that computer science, along with her longtime love for design, was her true calling — or rather her missing puzzle piece.
Switching majors sparked the trajectory of Aytenfsu’s work history. Going from failing a physics course in her first college semester to now working at YouTube is the definition of a come-up story.
From her first job of teaching girls how to code to now bringing her creativity to her role at the tech giant, she’s always thrived in spaces where she had the liberty to be hands-on.
“I just grabbed at every opportunity I had, even if it was remotely interesting to me or remotely related to what I wanted to do, I would just jump at it,” Aytenfsu told AfroTech. “I would say a lot of the places that I learned the most was where I volunteered — like to work at an after-school program or where I did my internships and all of these different things, more than the actual classroom. I’m very grateful for my college education and I don’t take that for granted, but just being on the job and actually interacting with people, I think that’s what made me a lot more excited about wanting to pursue more things.”
Going Viral On TikTok
Always being open to new opportunities and avenues led Aytenfsu to the land of TikTok, where she began posting videos revolving around the intersection of art, design, and engineering.
With multiple viral moments under her belt, it was one particular video that got the social media community buzzing — her painting that she turned into a musical instrument.
The video was uploaded in December 2021, but she initially started the innovative project almost exactly a year from its publish date. Picking back up on it turned into what now stands at nearly 3,000,000 views, as of this writing.
The TikToker’s audience has quickly increased, which has been both an overwhelming and exciting experience for her.
“As an artist on a platform like TikTok, it’s kind of difficult because TikTok is known for being fast-paced,” she expressed about the platform. “TikTokers always talk about how they have to post three different videos a day to stay on the algorithm and things like that. It’s so overwhelming when you’re coming to TikTok as an artist and you want to focus on making art, not just content.”
She continued: “And that’s not to talk down on content because I love content creators. I love watching vloggers, but it’s just so different when it’s coming from a place where you’re creating art. You have to constantly create, but sometimes it’s good. I think being on that platform has pushed me to actually want to finish things and share them.”
Being In The Tech Space As A Young Black Woman
Navigating in a predominately white field as a young Black woman can be a daunting experience, but what has kept Aytenfsu encouraged is interacting in spaces with people that look like her.
It’s a story that many Black creators in tech share for keeping themselves grounded and empowered amid hardship.
“I went to a PWI and even though my school was like 70 percent women and 30 percent men, there was just a handful of girls in all of my computer science classes,” Aytenfsu shared. “I was very much used to being the other. The first community that I stepped into that was community-based was that summer tech camp that I worked at for all girls. And, so, that was one sort of part of my identity. Then, the summer after that I was in a community that was focused on Black and LatinX people.”
She added: “I think being in those spaces sort of gave me a different perspective and made me more inspired just to see other people who looked like me and other people that were doing incredible things that I had no idea that you could do, who also looked like me and had the same interests.”
Balancing being a Black woman engineer and her newfound TikTok fame, Aytenfsu is fully stepping into where her innate creative vision has guided her.
Her advice for aspiring Black STEAM students?
She says to tap into the inspiration that can come from both real life and online communities.
“I would say just to stay curious and to really focus on building communities and learning from each other,” Aytenfsu told AfroTech. “I would say the moment that a click switched on for me and I was like, ‘Okay, I can be in tech or I can pursue these different fields’ was when I was placing myself in environments of like-minded people.”
To keep up with her, check out her TikTok.