Like many women working in tech in the Caribbean, Women Techmakers ambassador and Google Developers Group co-organizer for Trinidad and Tobago Maria Divina O’Brien has a full-time day job in addition to two several side projects she spends the rest of her time working on. Her business, Design Change, is a design firm focused on social impact projects to improve Caribbean women’s lives. "I'm using what I've learned as an activist to find ways technology can help women and how we can create a community to work on these solutions,” Maria says.
Maria is also the chairwoman of MindWise, a mental health nonprofit focused on digital content creation and curation that Maria co-founded in 2019. MindWise developed FindCareTT.com, a digital directory of mental health services. Maria, a cancer patient, is also working on “Views from the Waiting Room,” a collaborative art project aimed at bringing more attention to women’s health.
When she isn’t working on Design Change, MindWise, or art projects, Maria works for the Corporate Communications Department of the Office of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, where she produces digital design and visual assets and consults on broadcasting design projects. “I get to produce content and solutions that directly impact the democracy of the country,” she says. “For example, I worked on a team that problem-solved how to make democratic functions virtual during COVID.”
Maria connected with the Port-of-Spain Google Developers Group in 2019 and became a co-organizer, and went on to become a Women Techmakers (WTM) ambassador. “Last year, we pulled together 12 major diversity communities for the first International Women’s Day Caribbean Tech Summit,” she says. “Women in Tech Caribbean, Caribbean Girls Hack and four WTM chapters from other Caribbean countries participated, and this year, we’re hoping to get someone from each Caribbean country to represent each country’s current challenges.”
Maria hosts a virtual International Women’s Day event with Jerrod Best-Mitchell.
In September 2021, Maria launched the Building Sustainable Minds Volunteer Program, a collaboration among MindWise, the Trinidad and Tobago WTM chapter and the University of the West Indies. Maria created a virtual studio where students can create content for a mental health news platform called Open Minds that shares stories about mental health news and the experiences and unique challenges of people in different Caribbean cultures. Maria and her colleagues are training students to do virtual interviews, create design templates and edit their work. All 55 student volunteers plan to continue their work for the rest of the school year.
Maria supporting and documenting fellow local Women Techmakers at the pioneer LAIKA Stop Motion training programme at the TTAP Factory of UTT, with Camille Selvon, Jessica Yawching and Mindy Bailey.
Today, Maria is working on recruiting more Caribbean WTM ambassadors. “We have four chapters in the English-speaking Caribbean, and my goal is to have 15 by the end of this year,” she says. “There is a really exciting generation of influencers and creators building the next Caribbean, and most of them are women. Let’s take a chance on changing the culture.”