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For Ada Lovelace Day: the women who inspire us at FutureLearn

It’s Ada Lovelace Day: a day to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. Here, members of the FutureLearn team talk about the women – both past and present – who inspire them everyday.

A color woodcut-style portrait of Ada Lovelace, based on the nineteenth century A. E. Chalon portrait.
A woodcut-style portrait of Ada Lovelace, based on the nineteenth century AE Chalon portrait.

Paula Clerkin

by Melinda Seckington – Developer

I only met Paula Clerkin for the first time in real life at a hackday last weekend, but ever since she emailed me about the event she’s organising, I’ve been hoping to meet her. Paula is a Computer Science student at the University of Nottingham and a member of HackSoc Notts, a student society for hackers (this is the let’s-build-awesome-stuff type of hackers, not the let’s-break-into-networks type).

Paula is organizing WIT (Women In Tech), a conference to learn about and from the women currently working in the tech industry. It’s aimed at students of any age, from any background, who have an interest in tech as a hobby or career. It helps them get inspired by all the things that women are currently doing and creating within our industry.

I don’t think there’s anything more inspiring to me than helping others be inspired.


Bethany Koby

by Simon Pearson – Product Manager

I’ve been a fan of Bethany Koby ever since I discovered the amazing Technology Will Save Us.

We live in a world now where much of the technology we interact with day-to-day becomes less and less open to us as it evolves. Stripping down and reassembling a modern car these days requires a level of electronic engineering skill far beyond most. Upgrading the RAM in my laptop requires special tools (and might invalidate the warranty). This makes me sad.

After buying several of their awesome kits as gifts (and OK, maybe a couple for me…), I’m totally in love with the work that she and TWSU are doing. Through maker kits and education programmes, they’re empowering the masses to get hands on with computers and physical hardware, and let their imaginations run wild.

I’m sure Bethany and Ada would have enjoyed many an enthusiastic cup of tea together!


Sofia Kovalevskaya

by Alla Kholmatova – Designer

Sofia Kovalevskaya was one of the greatest Russian mathematicians, famous for the valuable contribution she made to the the theory of partial differential equations.

Despite her obvious talent for mathematics, which she started to demonstrate at a very young age, Sofia was denied a formal higher education in Russia because of her gender.

She was forced to contract a fictitious marriage, in order to study mathematics abroad. But even in Europe, universities were reluctant to allow women into certain classes, so she had to teach herself a great deal (which was much more difficult when the internet didn’t exist!) or resort to private tuition, when she could afford it.

Eventually Sofia managed to earn the respect and recognition she deserved. She became the first woman in Europe to gain a doctorate in mathematics, and was the first to be appointed professor of mathematics. Not only a great mathematician, Sofia was also a prominent writer, an advocate of women’s rights in the 19th century, and an inspiration for millions of women all over the world.


Hilary Parker

by Chris Lowis – Data Analyst

Hilary Parker is a Data Analyst at Etsy. She’s made the transition from academic research to the word of technology startups and product development, which gives me confidence in my decision too.

I love her blog where she shares really useful code and tutorials, as well as fun things you can do with data and the R programming language. Also, cats.


Lea Verou

by Jusna Begum – Developer

I first saw Lea Verou speak at a conference earlier this year and I was very impressed by how she was able to capture the audience’s attention on a very specific topic, which most people would struggle to make sound interesting.

As a fellow Front-end Developer, I have been following Lea and her work for the last couple of years, and have been inspired to follow her example. Making awesome tools to help web developers; educating people on various aspects of CSS3 through talks and workshops; and researching new ways to use CSS to solve design problems are all brilliant things that Lea does – and I wish to find the confidence to do myself.

She is also currently an invited expert of the CSS Working Group and a research assistant at MIT CSAIL. How she finds time for all this is amazing!


Denise Wilton

by Nicky Thompson – Developer

I will admit to being a little awestruck on realising, when I joined Moo in 2007, that I would be working with Denise Wilton – I love pixel graphics, like her City Creator. She’s since gone on to design great products and services at Berg and HMRC.

As it turned out, Denise was a talented and lovely person to work with. (She also wears really cool trainers.)

She freely shared her knowledge of design, community, UX and print with everyone at Moo. So working with Denise really helped me round out my rough developer-centric corners; add new skills to my craft that I’d never thought of trying; and showed me that if you are led by example and trusted to do good work, you can surprise even yourself with the things you can do – which I think is the very definition of inspiring.

Is there a woman working in science, technology, engineering and maths, who really inspires you? Tell us who in the comments below.

If you want to know more about Ada Lovelace Day, visit or #AdaLovelaceDay.

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