Women Who Reign: Amy Liu
“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” — Cecil Beaton
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
Hi, I’m Amy! I like adventures and making things. I’m a junior at Stanford University studying computer science. I am passionate about using technology for social impact and most recently spent my summer building a platform to enable people to build web technologies for NGOs while learning web development. At Stanford, I lead the Design and Marketing team for CS+Social Good which empowers students to use computer science to help tackle societal challenges, and for Stanford Women in Computer Science which promotes and supports the growing community of women in CS and technology. Aside from CS, I enjoy drawing, rock climbing, and drinking boba.
Fun fact: I collect subway maps! I think they’re fascinating because they require a ton of information to be crammed into a very small space, in a way that can be understood by commuters and tourists alike. They represent the balance between function and form, abstraction and accuracy, completeness and simplicity.
What # would define your life journey?
Favorite website / app:
It’s hard to pick just one. I’m obsessed with Pinterest because it lets me organize all of my ideas and projects, inspires me daily, and helps me discover new things. I love the design tool Sketch because its lightweight interface and slick workflow speaks to my prototype quickly, fail fast mentality. And of course, I would be lost without Google Calendar.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
I am lucky to have had so many amazing mentors throughout my life — one in particular is my high school math teacher, Steve Earth. Through many after school discussions and midnight conversations over text, he encouraged me and challenged me with problems we stumbled upon. In the four classes I was fortunate enough to take with him, I learned not just math, but also inquisitiveness and creativity, patience and kindness. His passion for teaching and curiosity with which he approaches everything has taught me to never stop questioning, a mindset that has stuck with me to this day.
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I didn’t decide I wanted to study CS until about halfway through college. At this point I felt like I was far behind my peers and that I had to “prove myself” as a computer scientist, a fear that in hindsight I realize is shared by many. I took a fake-it-til-you-make-it approach and threw myself into my schoolwork. I think I finally had a moment of clarity near the end of my intro systems class. Completing the class’s final project — implementing a heap allocator — was the first time I felt like a real programmer. Along the way, I learned that having the courage to ask for help and the humility to admit you don’t know everything is a sign of strength, not weakness. I became intimately familiar with the words “segmentation fault.” Most importantly, I replaced my fear of failure with positive goals like learning as much as I could and remembering to step back and evaluate the progress I’d made.
My dream job is working at the intersection of development and design to create impactful technologies. I’m interested in pursuing a career in computer science because of the scalability of tech and its potential to affect social change. If I have an idea, I don’t have to wait for someone else to create it or go through years of specialized training to learn how to tackle the problem. In essence, CS can give anyone the ability to create something that touches the lives of millions, and I think that is incredibly powerful. I hope to be working on something that challenges me, brings me joy, and is creating a positive impact on society.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Your ideas, experiences, and visions are unique in the world and incredible things can happen if you pursue your dreams with reckless abandon. Fail frequently, even catastrophically, so that you have many mistakes to learn from and so you will no longer be afraid. In the words of Rob Siltanen, “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”