“Simple things should be simple, complex things should be possible.” — Alan Kay
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m currently a senior at Palo Alto Senior High School, and the founder of PalyHacks (http://palyhacks.io/), an international hackathon that brings together students from China and the United States. By expanding our reach outside America, we’re providing an opportunity for talented young programmers from the east and west to exchange ideas and create innovative solutions for everyday problems. In the coming years, we have plans to expand outside of China and the US to create a richer pool of talent and unite the brightest minds across the world to combine their ideas on problem solving.
What # would define your life journey?
I would have to say #justdoit. You never know what you can do until you try it! Before I began dabbling in programming, I was baffled by the complexities. On a daily basis, I would hear people throw around words like machine learning, neural networks, and deep learning, and wonder if what universe they hailed from. Then, I thought I would try learning what some of these mysterious phrases meant, and they began to seem more in reach. I am glad that I decided to give programming a shot, rather than shying away from what intimidated me.
Favorite website / app:
I really like Google’s search engine. Not only do I use it for pretty much everything I do, the simplistic but clear design makes it one of my favorite tools. I am also very reliant on Google Maps, since directions were never my strong suit. Before I got a phone, I would get lost on a regular basis – even on my way back from school!
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I have been interested in programming since a young age. However, when I began to learn more about programming in my sophomore year of high school, I was overcome with a sense of imposter syndrome as I looked at my peers, light-years ahead of me. I often felt out of place, and I began to doubt whether I was cut out for programming. I always found myself being mentored by my peers, and I began to believe I would never match their knowledge. As a result, I struggled to justify myself because I questioned my actions and doubted my capability to learn.
However, as I slowly dabbled through the beginnings of such, I learned that building things was really, really fun. I began to hunger for more, and as I gained knowledge, I was able to slowly able to come to terms with myself. I watched others around me create amazing projects and thirsted for more knowledge, striving to be like them. Watching people grow helped me discover that no matter what, there might always be people who know more than you, but by any means that does not mean that you are incapable or do not belong.
My ideal job would probably consist of improving others’ lives through programming, and helping others gain confidence in their skills, like I have slowly gained confidence in mine. I would also like to express my creativity and build impactful projects.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
If you want to learn something, learn it. If you want to do something, do it. Don’t be too afraid of what others think about you! Once you stop worrying about what other people are thinking, decisions become much easier and simpler.
Emily Yu received Honorable Mention in Aspirations in Computing 2017 San Francisco Bay Area Competition. Read more profile here.
Learn more about PalyHacks, an international hackathon that brings together students from China and the United States.