"Back to Six" with Linda Liukas

"Back to Six" with Linda Liukas

On the heroine’s journey, a lot of our speakers find that they return to the magic, playfulness, and confidence they had as little girls. Linda Liukas is a beautiful example of this cycle. A computer programmer and children’s book author, she hopes to create a more diverse and colorful perspective of technology – starting with the poetry of coding.

Linda’s coding book for children quickly became one of Kickstarter’s most highly funded children’s books, and her recent TEDx talk has garnered over 1.5 million views. Her unapologetic, girlish enthusiasm is contagious – she’ll get you thinking back to what you were like as a little girl and perhaps remind you of parts of yourself you’d like to reclaim.

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Highlighted Excerpt

Majo: How did you get to your Ted talk, and speaking more broadly about what you’re doing?

Linda: I have this very big passion in combining software and storytelling, and a book was one way of doing that. I’ve said before that a book is like a campfire. People understand what a book is and it’s very easy to collect people around a book and create that campfire. But another powerful way is public speaking.

I spoke at TEDx at Cern, a very intriguing place on its own. I was so nervous about the whole thing, but as I’ve watched thousands of TED talks in my day and had very clear favorites, I did feel ready to tell my story. It was a wonderful experience and I’m so happy I did it.

Majo: Another theme I’m pulling out from our conversation is around identity. Do you feel like your identity lines up around one thing?

Linda: I think computers are binary. They can be one thing or the other, but also, kind of quoting Walt Whitman here, “People contain multitudes”. We can be many things at one time, and that’s what makes us special. I have no idea where my path will continue to take me.

One of the things I would urge people to do is say things out, even before they’re ready. And one example I would give is, I took part in this big conference in Helsinki... one of the moderators of the panel asked me, “So what are you going to be when you grow up?” And I thought, Oh haha, careers in Finland are so linear, like, you’re supposed to do things in the right order. 

But life is so short, I wish there were more horizontal careers where you could do many things. And so I replied with the craziest, most insane thing I could think of: “I’m going to be a kindergarten teacher in Japan!” And this very serious business audience laughs...

But then two weeks later I got a call from the embassy of Finland in Tokyo, and they ask me, “Were you serious about this? Would you really want to come to Japan and be a kindergarten teacher?” And while no, that wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I did want to go to Japan. So I went, and I think I’ve been there now six times in the last year and a half…. The book was published in Japanese last April and it became the most-sold children’s book in Japan for a week.

Majo: No way.

Linda: Yeah! And it all started out with me saying something out loud that was crazy and that I didn’t have a clear goal in mind for. And I could never have connected the dots in the way they ended up connecting. So I think that’s a good side about having a very flexible identity.

Show Notes:

  • Linda as a very imaginative little girl who loved role-playing with friends and tinkering on her dad’s computer. [3:51]
  • How she came to develop a brave and curious attitude towards technology, plus the hilarious story of teaching herself to build a fan website for her girlhood crush, Al Gore. [7:30]
  • Thoughts on identity: Linda talks about how pre-teen girls often feel like they have to define themselves in very binary terms. [13:20]
  • Linda’s decade away from computers and technology, what she did instead and why, and how she found her calling. [18:20]
  • The small steps that led to her true career, early opportunities, and the start of her children’s book. [21:48]
  • On getting swept up by projects, never graduating, and moving to New York to work with a new start-up. [28:34]
  • Dealing with self-doubt as her book started to take off, and the importance of taking time and creating empty space for deep work. [34:45]
  • Launching her kickstarter: How she dealt with imposter syndrome as she started to see huge success. [41:04]
  • On her TEDx talk and speaking more broadly about her work, plus Linda’s insights on being many things at the same time. [48:27]

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).

References:

Hello Ruby website

Linda's TEDx talk

Music:

by Lucia Lilikoi

Episode Sponsor:

Adobe Creative Residency

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