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2019 winner profile with Linda Liukas

Linda Liukas tells us about her plans for schools in the future and offers her advice to those aspiring towards a career in tech
Winner profile
26 Nov 2019
Linda Liukas tells us about her plans for schools in the future and offers her advice to those aspiring towards a career in tech

What did it mean to you to be recognized as a winner at the 2019 Technology Playmaker Awards?

I'm completely blown away with receiving both the Role Model and Technology Playmaker of the Year 2019 Award. Initiatives like this help us feel seen and recognized by the greater public, but also forge important and lasting relationships among brilliant, world-changing, tech-focused women.

I think women have so much to offer to the tech world and our worst mistake is trying to fit in too much. The moment I decided to step into my own possibility and curiosity I started to build a career that looks like me.

Rails Girls is all about building communities of women across technology. Can you explain why building networks and communities of women in tech is important to you?

Community is at the core of everything I do - with Rails Girls, it was connecting people who didn't see themselves as programmers to the existing programmer networks and now with Hello Ruby helping parents and teachers paint a pragmatic picture of a future filled with technology.

I think I'm best at offering people something they can twist, turn, take apart and build upon - be it teachers who create lesson materials or Ruby or Rails programmers who are starting to organise grassroots events around the globe, based on the materials that we have created.

Looking to the future, where are you looking to take your career next? What do you hope to achieve in the next year?

Since last year, I've released a YouTube series called Love Letters for Computers which is shot in the style of Wes Anderson – this is a free resource to help primary school teachers about falling in love with computers – and helping their pupils to do the same.

I'm really excited about working with film and can't wait to experiment more in this area. In the long run, I'd like to make a travelling exhibition where you crawl inside a computer to learn about the big ideas of computer science through physical play, exploration and visual immersion.

Eventually, I see myself working with Primary Schools around the world from the very start of the design and construction stage, to ensure that they combine technology education, society and nature in a completely novel way. These schools wouldn't teach Computer Science as a separate discipline, but as a foundational tool of self-expression and problem solving, starting from the kindergarten. Like a 21st century, Maria Montessori meets Alan Turing meets Björk. So, lots to do!

Thinking of the young girls your book ‘Hello Ruby’ reaches and beyond, what advice would you give to those aspiring towards a career in technology?

If children's book author Astrid Lindgren can say that politics is too important to be left for politicians, I say technology is far too important to be left for technologists. We need a radically more diverse group of people to have their voices heard in the discussion about what kind of problems we solve with technology.

The advancements in technology shouldn’t all come from Silicon Valley. I want Brazilian schoolgirls, Finnish grandmas and Kenyan teenagers to be a part of changing the world with technology too. Imagine a world where the Ada Lovelaces of tomorrow grow up to be optimistic and brave about technology and use it to create a new world that is wonderful, whimsical, and a tiny bit weird.

I want the girls to follow their own curiosity and trust their own voice. They should remember that their unique perspective on the world is what makes them so valuable.

Linda Liukas, the author and illustrator of Hello Ruby, a children's picture book about the whimsical world of computers, as well as the founder of Rails Girls, a global movement to teach young women programming in over 260 cities. Linda was the 2019 Technology Playmaker Role Model winner and was also named the Technology Playmaker of the Year