The Intersection of Creativity and Tech – logi BLOG

Driven by passion, Marija Musja and Nikita Washington make waves in their STEM field while inspiring the next generation of women in tech. Marija is the founder and CEO of Empowerment Lab, a start-up based in Switzerland that connects girls to tech skills and careers, via their personal passions. Nikita is a senior UX designer and public speaker from New York City. As the latest feature in the Logitech MX #WomenWhoMaster series, both women have a lot to say about their unique journeys into tech. Read below for a more in-depth interview with these STEM trailblazers.

Our interview with Marija reveals how her drive to help young women connect to career opportunities moved her from social justice work to creating a start-up that puts tech skills directly into the hands of girls.

Q: Going back to your early days, was tech something you were always interested in?

Marija Musja: No, my motivation for moving into tech was all about empowering young girls economically. I actually studied politics and law because I wanted to become a lawyer and fight for justice around the world. I started my career as a human rights advocate and worked on high-profile cases for NGOs like Amnesty International. Then in 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. 

I traveled to remote areas of Ukraine to see how we could help young women connect to digital skills and careers. We conducted a survey and found that only 1% of girls were interested in computer science! But a similar survey conducted in Europe found that 80% of young women wanted creative jobs. 

Putting those two ideas together, I became convinced that creativity was the tool to spark interest in high-growth digital careers. 

Q: How do you get young girls passionate about technology?

MM: The key to getting girls really excited about the digital world is to appeal to their personal creativity. Our process begins with a fun, science-backed matching quiz that helps girls identify their passions — maybe they’re super-interested in telling stories or they want to work with marine mammals or manage a retail store. 

Then our app reveals a number of amazing tech-related careers that connect to these interests. The girls are offered a range of online courses that let them try out relevant digital skills. They start to see connections between these tech skills and what they’re passionate about, and this draws them in.

I’m all about connecting creativity and passion to tech skills so that girls can discover life options they never even dreamed of.

Q: You’ve gone on to create a start-up company, Empowerment Lab. What inspired you to take this big jump, and what’s it been like?

MM: The girls I met just didn’t see any link between their lives and having a career in digital tech. But I was convinced that if they knew the options and could experiment with different tools, they’d find opportunities that resonated with their own passions. And that conviction fueled me — it drove me to launch Empowerment Lab. 

Building this organization and being able to bring my own ideas to life is one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable. I’ve learned that if you have a vision for something new, trust yourself because no one knows better what you can build!

By sparking girls’ interests in tech-related careers, we’re creating a world of fulfilled and passionate professionals.

Q: Final question, what advice would you give to the next generation of tech professionals?

MM: Entrepreneurship is definitely not for everyone and being the CEO of a start-up is messy, challenging and uncertain — it’s a wild ride. But if you have the drive and the passion to make a positive impact on people’s lives, it’s definitely a ride worth taking!

Similarly, our conversation with Nikita Washington reveals how drive and passion led her to pivot from education to design as a Black woman of Trans experience.

Q: How did you come to technology? Was it something that interested you as a child?

Nikita Washington: No, I wanted to be a teacher. I was the kind of kid who had lots of imaginary friends so I’d collect old textbooks and teach my imaginary students reading, math, history, all of that good stuff! 

I got a BA and an MA in education and taught for 10 years, but I kept getting drawn to edtech — technology was calling my name! I finally looked at all the different types of jobs in technology and discovered that UX Design was a great fit because it was creative. I ended up pursuing a certification with the bootcamp Design Lab and then was hired by Ally Financial as a Senior UX Designer. 

There are so many different routes to a career in technology and people get there in their own unique way — there’s no one right path. 

Q: You knew you wanted a creative position, but most people think of science and math when they think of tech careers. How did you create a path that worked for you? 

NW: Listen, I thought tech equaled all the hard math and science classes I never liked. I never wanted to take calculus, so I just figured a tech career could never be for me. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I finally realized it was doable! Tech is so much more than just engineering and math. The field has plenty of creative roles and they pay six figures and they want people who come from non-traditional backgrounds to be in those roles!

Q: You also are a leader with the non-profit organization Out in Tech. Why was this important to you and your work?

NW: Out in Tech is the largest international LGBTQ+ organization in tech, with over 45,000 members, and I’m the lead on the Trans, non-binary, gender nonconforming channel. As a Black Trans woman and a former educator, I’m passionate about sharing my story and showing people that it’s very possible to pivot into technology, regardless of who you are or where you come from. 

STEM is seen as a male dominated field, but there are plenty of women in tech who are thriving. I firmly believe that if you can see it, you can do it.

Q: Final question, what advice would you give to the next generation of tech professionals? 

NW: A great tech career doesn’t have to go in a straight line. Trust me, I’ve had zigs and I’ve had zags! Don’t allow the fact that you are coming from a non-traditional background keep you from believing you can be successful in a tech role. Your past experience is applicable. It is up to you to extract those skills, so leverage that experience!

Marija and Nikita each discovered the power of technology to open new opportunities and change lives. Now, the former lawyer and the ex-teacher aim to spark those same opportunities in the lives of young women who, like them, never dreamed of a career in technology. Their goal, in Marija’s words, is to build a world of fulfilled and passionate professionals. Because no matter where you start, passion and creativity can guide you on the path to success.

Connect with Marija on LinkedIn and Twitter to learn more about her work connecting young girls to technology at Empowerment Lab. And you can connect with Nikita on LinkedIn or visit her website to learn more about how she pivoted from education to tech as a Black Trans woman.

Women Who Master puts a spotlight on women who have made outstanding contributions to STEM fields. The goal of the series is to celebrate those contributions, inspire future leaders, and help close the gender gap in technology.