Asel Botpayeva ’08 (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan / Carnation, WA) is the first of many future FizzBuzz profiles. FizzBuzz, previously Epischool, is a digital program focused on catalyzing growth by teaching members how to build software applications along with the fundamentals of tech entrepreneurship. FizzBuzz was co-founded by Branko Backovic ’07 (Despotovac, Serbia / Lisle, IL) and his partner Paul Orland in 2021.

Since its launch, FizzBuzz has welcomed many alumni from the FLEX and YES programs to both complete the Coding for Founders program and intern alongside Paul and Branko.

Read more about Branko’s background and journey to co-founding FizzBuzz here.

The following interview with Asel was also recorded for the FizzBuzz podcast.

Please introduce yourself to the FLEX community.

Hi FLEX community! My name is Asel Botpayeva, and I am a FLEX 2008 alumna. I am from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and am currently living in Madrid, Spain. I describe myself as a digital nomad with a passion for projects that have a deep social impact and serve rural communities. 

Can you tell us more about your studies and work experience? 

My current work is a mix of being an early-stage entrepreneur, independent consultant, and project manager. I used to work with international organizations such as the United Nations on projects related to food security, reconstruction, and economic development in rural areas. 

I hold a Masters in International Public Affairs from Columbia University, where I learned about impact investing and social entrepreneurship. At Columbia, I took my first programming classes and learned Python; however, I did not think I would come back to web development. 

How was your American Councils / Epischool Summer Session experience? 

When I first chatted with the Epischool team, I found the course really interesting, but I never had a programming background. At first, my thinking was that I would learn technology skills and apply these to my project management work. I was excited to speak the language of the tech teams. 

After four weeks on the program, I realized I liked programming, and the Epischool team encouraged us to test our skills on a personal project idea. I never thought that I would be able to build my entrepreneurial project, but I am working on it now and it is an amazing experience.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned with summer? 

I learned how valuable it can be to work with dedicated coaches. Epischool paired me with my own coding coach, which allowed me to work at my own pace and still have my coach follow up on how I am doing, check my assignments, and provide “hands on” support.  

Paul and Branko were also available to talk about tech and entrepreneurship topics (e.g., how to start my own project). From there, I can have in-depth discussions with my coach on how to program my software MVP. I really like the program structure and found it highly valuable.

What technology entrepreneurship project did you start during the summer? 

I am building a wellness platform that helps women learn about and monitor different stages of pregnancy. I observed first-hand the social and health issues women in rural Kyrgyzstan face, and I want to leverage technology to help these women. 

For example, maternal mortality rates in Kyrgyzstan are one of the highest in the region and this is unacceptable to me. I am driven to collaborate with medical institutions, nonprofits and leaders passionate about women’s health to solve this important problem. 

One of the most exciting breakthroughs that happened recently is that I partnered with two FLEX alumnae to accelerate the project. I am now joined by an alumna who is a UX designer and an alumna who is a mother of two and used to run a yoga studio for pregnant women. 

Together, we believe we can positively impact pregnant women in rural Kyrgyzstan and help with providing credible, high quality educational content when these women need it the most. 

What was your dream job as a kid?

I really wanted to travel the world and at the time knew only two options: 1) country ambassador, and 2) journalist at the National Geographic. I feel like I am realizing this dream now as I am fully embracing the digital nomad lifestyle and moving to Spain. 

Do you have any tips on starting to learn about technology and entrepreneurship? 

I am learning every day and only recently made a career change with a focus on coding and entrepreneurship. However, I can share some tips as I know many people who are learning to code and changing careers. My perspective is that it is a difficult transition but worth it! 

First, it is a very interesting journey. You might fail many times but this is all good because when you fail you know what you are doing wrong. Second, do not be afraid to look foolish. Something might seem hard the first time you are learning about it, but it might only take 10 minutes of Googling and you will solve it. Finally, be brave and adventurous.

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