People are inspired by all sorts of things. Sometimes it's a big important event, sometimes it's a tiny insignificant things that spark something inside. Here are what inspired 12 incredible women:
The Muse back-end engineer
My most inspirational childhood toy was a kit of wooden pattern blocks - a set of different shapes where each shape corresponded with a specific colour.
I would empty the box of blocks and separate them by color, which conveniently was also by shape. I would then spend some time visualising what I wanted my end product to look like — not necessarily in minute detail, but the bigger picture of colour placing, the size of my wooden pattern, and the number of centre pieces I wanted to use.
Starting from the centre, I would add tier after tier of blocks to build my pattern; it was an iterative process, because if something didn't look aesthetically appealing or fit correctly, it would require peeling off a layer and re-evaluating ways to fix it.
The best part was the gratification I received when my creation was complete. Though individually boring, collectively these blocks produced an intricate masterpiece that brought art and maths, big-picture and detail, simplicity and complexity closer together - similar to software engineering.
These blocks inspired me to think logically, creatively and symmetrically simultaneously - all strategies I utilize today as a full-stack software engineer.
TIFFANI ASHLEY BELL
Pencil You In CEO and founder
I was in first grade or so and my mom bought me a V-Tech PreComputer 1000. This was about 1991.
It came equipped with games and different learning activities, but I got tired of the built-in stuff. Even as a kid, I was prone to reading user manuals for things. Turns out the PreComputer 1000 had a BASIC programming language tutorial in the user manual and you could write your own programs on it!
Somehow, I figured out what this meant and started making my own word games. That was the first time I ever did any programming.
Fast forward a few years and my mom was still buying me Barbies. I thought they were boring, however, and sold nearly all of them at a yard sale when I was in third grade or so.
Harvard sophomore, former robotic game designer for the Disney Research Lab at MIT
My first personal computer, a text-based BBC Micro motivated my interest in technology. When I was very young - maybe two or three years old - one of my elder brothers sat down with me and scripted an incredibly simple game. The premise was that a snake, represented by an 'S' on the screen could be controlled by the mouse; the object of the game was to eat mice, represented by commas.
This incredibly simple computer game held my attention for hours upon hours upon hours. I was enthralled not only by my super-fun game, but also by my being involved in the creation of it; for the very first time, I'd created my own toy. The impact of this sense of creation, innovation even, has followed me throughout my life and pushed me toward a career in technology.
Software developer and database solutions architect
I was inspired by a children's book. My family owned a few picture books, but only one of them was two books in one. If you held it you would see the cover of one book. If you flipped it over, bottom to top, you would see the cover of another book.
It wasn't as much two stories as it was a description of good little girls on one side, little boys on the other. The little girl was illustrated doing housework indoors alongside her mother, in matching dresses and aprons.
The little boy on the opposite side of the book was pictured outside, playing and climbing trees. I loved climbing trees and I hated that book. Why should the boy be free to play while the girl’s only fun was doing chores?
CEO of EnovationNation
I had the standard toys: dolls, Barbie coloring books, make-up, etc. But none of these compared to the monumental day that I was introduced to Star Wars.
My life was forever changed. I am certain that George Lucas would not consider his multimillion-dollar production a toy, but this one film created for me the best backdrop for the possibilities of life and provided countless hours of imaginary play. I begin to dream of what the world could be, a world where life beyond the stars and interplanetary travel was the standard not the exception. Star Wars ignited the scientist in me.
The visual effects of Princess Leia, both female and Jedi, made me believe that I, a girl, could conquer the stars. This quest for the stars led me to a passion for innovation and science. Whereas most dreamed of going to Mars in our lifetime, I never had expectation that we wouldn't go to Mars in our lifetime. . .
George Lucas, my hero and now the hero of my seven-year-old niece and nine-year-old nephew, has done more to incite the possibilities of science in my heart than all of than any toy I ever played with as a child.
Michelin North America research and development engineer
When I was growing up, Legos were my and my sister’s favourite toy. We had a giant bucket full of them (or at least, it seemed huge then), and we would dump them all out on the floor with my dad and play for hours.
I think that most of the time we built just for the sake of building, but I also built many variations of paddocks and stables for my Lego horseback riding set (at that age, I wanted to be a veterinarian).
I didn’t decide to become an engineer until I was in high school (thanks to my fantastic physics teacher, Mr Roberts), but looking back, I can see that building with Legos was a clear precursor to the degree I pursued and the job I have now. To this day I still really enjoy problems that require me to visualize objects in 3D and work in different 3D coordinate systems.
PATRICIA CRISTINA PEROZO
Stanford freshman, intends to major in computer science
I was given ello as a child and really enjoyed creating houses, people, animals and furniture out of the pieces. It was like Legos but more interesting and directed at girls. Although I will never become an architect, I believe that it really contributed to my spatial understanding and problem-solving capabilities.
Consultant, former pharmaceutical chemist
My mom searched far and wide for the perfect Christmas presents for me, and she bought me tumbled gemstone and crystal growing kits. The tumbled gemstone kit used a rock tumbler to polish agate, quartz and jasper minerals.
This was a long (and loud!) process, but it was well worth the time and effort. I learned to identify the different minerals and classify them. The kit also came with jewelry-making tools, and I made rings and necklaces of some of my favorite stones, and saved the rest for my ever-growing rock collection.
I also loved my crystal growing kit. Over several days, you would grow crystals on rocks which take on the appearance of amethysts, rose quartz and other beautiful gems. The kits came with a little lab notebook to record your observations, which prepared me to become an insightful, patient and detail-oriented adult (all of which are necessary traits to have if you work in a lab environment).
The scientific interests that I pursued in my youth will always remain my foundation, and I will never cease to be inquisitive, passionate and see the world as only a "scientist" would.
Case Foundation, senior fellow; Georgetown professor
We did not have many toys when we were growing up. Our parents were immigrants, with limited means at the time and hence they offered us a tonne of creativity and energy. Since I can remember, our mom taught us our multiplication tables before the age of five. Helping her around the kitchen, following her around, she used to randomly ask multiplication table questions. Our basic toys were largely blocks, coloring books and paper, crayons and pens.
As we got older, our dad used to teach us how to fix things in our house and the car, so we learned basic mechanics. Then, our parents, when they had the means bought us our first Apple computer when no one else had one and I learned to program.
Xerox chief technology officer
Most of what I did was read books (we went to the library weekly) and spend time with our animals.
We had so many animals while growing up: cats, dogs, hamsters, turtles, goats, rabbits, chickens, a horse, birds, fish, etc. . . A lot of my time was spend with them, especially my horse. My dad grew up on a farm, so I guess he wanted his kids to experience some of what it was like to grow up with animals.
Twice a year I would get a "present," for my birthday and the New Year. Most of my presents were related to our animals. Reflecting back I must have gotten my love for science from interacting with our many animals. For a while I even dreamed of being a vet.
Google software engineer
When I was younger I never tired of playing with Marbleworks.
Marbleworks sets come with a variety of tubes, chutes and tracks that when snapped together allow marbles to hurtle down the plastic course until they satisfyingly smash into the little cupped finish line.
As a kid, I connected an unending number of tracks. I left my masterpieces wobbling and snaking around the rooms of my house. Elaborate constructions would start in the most perilous of places: at the tops of stairs, in one bedroom and trailing to the next, some reached as high as the ceiling.
I was enthralled by building even bigger, better racetracks for my marbles, and loved sending handfuls of them down crazy paths.
Marbleworks was a toy that ignited the same passions and ambitions that computer science does.
When I write code, and wait for it to run, I get that same jolt of excitement I did when I sent the first test marble down an elaborate course. And the best part, is that both Marbleworks and engineering make it easy to be successful. I didn’t need the precision of perfectly balanced blocks, or complicated instructions in order to build towering structures, I could speedily snap together pieces, and send waves of marbles down in an afternoon.
In the same way, when programming I can start with an idea in the morning and actually see progress by afternoon.
I loved building as a kid, and I still get to build today, with code.
Iowa State senior majoring in computer science
Throughout my childhood, I played with Legos. I loved making things and breaking things and exercising both sides of my brain (though at the time I didn’t realise I was doing so).
I would build with my sister for hours on end, we made everything from big castles to ziplines for the Lego people. To this day, I keep some Legos in my room just in case I feel like making something cool again.
When I discovered programming, I equated Legos to code. I thought of blocks of code as Lego blocks. Putting them together into a program was like building my next castle. By coding, I was able to make things like I always had, just with a computer in front of me.