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Sonia Araujo Ada Lovelace Day 2021

October 12, 2021

Ada Lovelace Day: To Mars and Beyond

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      Sonia Araujo

      Sonia Araujo

      Life Sciences Expert


    I was 16 years old, and I knew exactly how my life would pan out. I would read Biochemistry, complete a Ph.D., then go and colonize Mars.

    There was no doubt, not a sliver of hesitation. My parents were horrified. They worried I would chase a dream that would never materialize, and that my potential wouldn’t be achieved. Note that my parents didn’t say that this wasn’t a woman’s place, nor discouraged me from learning all I could about the subject. I am so very fortunate to have them as my first mentors in life, always encouraging and pushing me forward (well, apart from the Mars thing…)

    Ada Lovelace – Mathematician, First Computer Programmer

    Today – the second Tuesday in October – is Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration devoted to the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Ada Lovelace was a 19th-century English mathematician, often regarded as the first computer programmer. The daughter of poet Lord Byron and a Countess herself through marriage, it is fair to say that her social status helped her pursuit of knowledge, goals and dreams that would have been out of reach for most people at the time. But her achievements were significant, and certainly helped forge a future with better opportunities for women in the decades and centuries ahead.

    Ada’s upbringing and mine were a world apart, in every sense! But there are some shared themes – deep curiosity, the love of science, and the allure of non-science disciplines.

    Like many other children, I was a curious creature. Always asking “why”, often to the annoyance of adults. “Enough! You’re such a curious child,” they would say. To which I would retort, with a smile: “Why yes! That’s the first principle for being a scientist.”

    Mom is a retired oncology nurse. I grew up talking about cancer at the dinner table and running down hospital corridors during school holidays (yes, that would not happen nowadays). No doubt I saw things a child perhaps shouldn’t. I particularly remember seeing a lady outside the doctor’s office where she’d just been told she had cancer. That stayed with me.

    Then came the tech. I simply adored my ZX Spectrum which somehow made me feel I could be on Enterprise’s bridge alongside Captain Kirk or fighting aliens off Earth – yes, even when playing Pong – one of the first computer games ever created. I once declined joining my dad to see a computer that filled a room – I guess I thought that was a silly concept. But by the time I got introduced to Windows 3.11, I was a convert. That start-up splash screen – wow, I was mesmerized. I knew I didn’t want to be a computer programmer, but I wanted to be part of the tech future.

    An Approach of "Poetical Science"

    Ada’s mother was the mathematician, Lady Byron. She ensured Ada was privately educated in mathematics and science from an early age. Not only for the love of math but to try to root out any chance Ada became insane like her father (allegedly). Throughout her formative years, Ada interacted with many scientists like Michael Faraday, but also creatives like British author Charles Dickens. And to her mother’s disappointment, she got inspired by poetry too. That exposure to such wildly different disciplines made her look at her work more creatively, merging poetry with math and science. Ada described her approach as “poetical science.”

    I particularly like this quote attributed to Ada Lovelace:

    "Mathematical science shows what is. It is the language of unseen relations between things. But to use and apply that language, we must be able to fully appreciate, to feel, to seize the unseen, the unconscious."

    Ada had poetry as her non-science interest. I had music. I was accepted at the Conservatorium in my native Portugal as an early teenager and had a parallel classical music education. A top-of-the-class student in normal school, I was a mere mortal at the Conservatorium. And I loved it! I was surrounded by people with pitch-perfect hearing and an obscene amount of talent. Being in their midst and exposed to different perspectives expanded my horizons. Music (and later dance, then remote hiking) are the analog to my digital world. They give me balance, helping me question, see and feel things in a way I otherwise might not.

    Ada Lovelace Day 2021

    Be Like Ada

    Doing what we love certainly makes us happier. And researching our options to make well-informed decisions is important. Armed with both dreams and facts, let’s not be limited by others in our choices. Like all of us, Ada Lovelace had plenty of flaws and her share of failures. She is inspirational because she embraced her flaws, worked hard, and achieved superb results with her creative approach. In the process, she put women on the scene as capable scientists – as fellow STEMettes!

    And Mars?

    No, that didn’t happen… yet. Saving up to buy my ticket to Mars. Elon Musk if you’re feeling generous, get in touch...

    Sonia Araujo

    Sonia Araujo

    Life Sciences Expert


    Sonia is an energetic cross-functional leader, renowned for creating empowered teams, converting corporate vision into product strategy and providing clear product direction.

    She is passionate about excellence and delivering value for global companies, their clients and users, converting data insights into product success.