Next in our “Staff Profile” series is Inicio’s Art Director, Yiwen Lu. Coming from a background of teachers, Chinese-born Yiwen Lu was expected to follow the same career path. However, she fell in love with technology and mentoring – and found her true calling in Sweden when she started working with Inicio. Yiwen talks about her background, why she is excited by the future of technology, and she shares some invaluable life advice.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Shanghai. All my family members are teachers (except one cousin is a pilot), covering different subjects from primary school to college. Of course they would expect me to become a teacher as well. That expectation was part of the reason that I went to a “normal university” (a university that aims to train future teachers, no clue why it’s called normal university, there must be abnormal universities) to do my bachelor.
In China, education in general is very exam-oriented and the class is always big size of around 50 students. Teachers are expected and trained to be rigid and harsh so they can take the class under control. That was when I figured out being a teacher is really not my thing.
What area of technology did you study?
I studied educational information technology for my bachelor in China and media technology for my master in Sweden.
What drew you to your study area?
My bachelor programme was very interdisciplinary, involving pedagogy, electronic, software and media technology. I got the chance to learn about different things and I found media technology most interesting.
What role do you have now, and what was it about this role that made you choose this organisation?
My role is mainly to take care of media contents including presentations, brochures, pictures, videos, etc. It matches my interests and profiles. As we are still a very small team, everyone kinda needs to do a bit of everything. That’s also good because there’s always opportunity to learn and try new stuff.
Who have inspired you the most in life?
My parents’ background has nothing to do with tech, but they have always encouraged me to go for what I like. I guess in their mind, as long as I’ll be a teacher, it doesn’t matter what I’m going to teach, either literature or science or anything I like. In that sense they have been very open-minded and encouraging.
Famous inspiration – which famous people have inspired you? If you had to invite three-five people to dinner who the who would they be?
I can’t recall any famous people that specifically inspired me into the tech world. But I think being a documentary and movie fan made me prefer to express through pictures/videos instead of words.
What do you wish you had known before entering the tech field?
Life is hard, so is programming.
General advice about being a woman in the tech field? What are some of the challenges, and what are some of the opportunities?
I would say fight your way by good work. Now that gender equality is being more and more promoted, some companies/schools try to increase gender quality by putting lower requirements for women. To me that’s just another way of discrimination. Good quality of work is always the best way to prove that we can do it, we can do it equally well and even better.
Having said that, being in the tech field should not be about proving how amazing you are, or how you are better than someone else. The best motivation is to go for something interesting, use technology as a tool and do something cool.
What general advice about life do you wish you had been given?
Focus on experience instead of results. When I grew up, people would keep telling me I should learn this because it will get me into a good university, I should do this because it will look good on CV, etc. Of course these things usually are not something bad to do, but being too attached to the desired outcomes will make you narrow-minded.
To go further and happier, try to work with a view towards learning and discovery. There’s one quote from Steve Jobs that I really like, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
What excites you the most about the future of technology?
To me, seeing technology helping people improve life quality is the most exciting part. For example, there are already glasses that help color-blinded people see color. Hopefully in the future technology will continuously help people make life easier and better.
Any inspirational quotes that you live by?
In China we have a popular proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
Which are some of your favourite Inicio workshops?
I like the summer school we did last year where kids got to build a fountain that danced to music. In one-off workshops kids usually just focus on building the kit and finishing the task. The summer school was two weeks long, so the kids took their time, they got to know their mentors and learn about things when they perform the task. It was delighted to see the lights in their eyes when the fountain worked in the end.