This new feature in the Logitech MX #WomenWhoMaster series brings together two exceptionally creative leaders in technology who have a lot to say about passion and creativity in the industry. Marija Musja 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 Washington is a senior UX designer and public speaker from New York City who says that if technology is calling your name, you should answer, even if — or especially if — you come from a non-traditional background.
But here’s the thing: neither started their careers in technology. They never majored in math, engineering or computer science, and neither came up through the standard routes to leadership in tech. Marija worked in non-profits and Nikita was a high school teacher. But both were struck by the many empowering opportunities that technology could open up, in their lives and in the lives of young girls and women. As Nikita says, their paths to tech careers included a lot of zigs and zags. But passion kept them on course.
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.
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."
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 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.
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.
MEET THE MASTERS AT THE FOREFRONT OF STEM
Women Who Master
Logitech MX is committed to spotlighting and supporting impactful initiatives and individuals that are disrupting the industry worldwide, to inspire girls and women to pursue a career or continue thriving in STEM.
With #WomenWhoMaster, our mission is to ignite an industry-wide movement that addresses the gender gap and unequal access to opportunities in tech and IT, once and for all.