Stefania Druga - The learning Architect

Stefania Druga - The learning Architect

Your major doesn't define you and your career direction

Stefania Druga is a maker, full stack web developer, and entrepreneur. She created Hackidemia, a science kit for STEM education and an open platform to document and remix DIY science projects to create more scalable tools and platforms for knowledge transfer. We had the chance to meet her and talk to her about her profession, mission and vision.

We may think that the choice of our major will define our entire life career. Stefania, proves by her example, that it is only a fixed mindset.
Even tough she was graduated from a Master in Communication and public relation, she is now an engineer, full stack developper and entrepreneur.
Her true purpose is to democratize STEM education in developping countries. Among other, we can learn from her that the only way to grow our "superpower" is to go toward what feels impossible to us.

I was hired for my capacity to learn

I come from Romania. I was graduated from a Master in Communication and Public Relation and involved in many education projects, using digital and technologies.
After years of researchs and studies and projects with upcoming educational institutions, I applied to a position at Google.
I was hired by Google as search quality evaluator, in a very technical environment. I was not hired for my skills but for my capacity to learn. After some time, I realized that Google's business model was not anymore aligned with my vision. I left to create Hackidemia, and then AfriMakers, educational projects to democratize STEM education (Science, technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in developing courntries. Lately, I built a couple of platforms and tools to help scale my work. Explore her latest projects.

Making educational at school to resolve real life challenges

When i came back from a teaching experience in Cambodia, I realized that we need maker activities more than ever. Everything is abstraction today. “In a world where everyone looks at online education, I believe that we should bring the hands-on learning back to the conversation. We should give children an opportunity to understand old know-hows and adapt them to our current reality.” I had the idea of running workshops where children can design and print objects, learn the basics of the electronics or experiment with robotics to solve local challenges. I want to bring them the idea that they can prototype any solution. That is how i came up with Hackidemia. We want to go in places where no one goes, that is where you change kids life. From now, we have trained local teams in 40 countries with 600 mentors and 10,000 children involved.

Always start from their inner motivation

Children and students are absorbed and motivated to learn when they are not forced to do one thing at a time and when they feel they can truly change their reality.
In other words, I believe in tapping into their inner motivation. For example, at the end of the workshop, children have to comment a demo, because the best way to learn is to explain to others. Youth are the drivers of change in the society, especially in developing country. We just have to give them the motivation and the tools to make change happen.

Pull instead of push strategy

We have two rules :

  • Keep the content open
  • Keep the budget open

By communicating, we attract the one who wants to work with us. If you work with people who calls you, you don’t have to spend energy on searching for clients and proving your value.

By surrounding yourself by the right people, you can make the impossible happen.

I thought working with hardwares was impossible. My father used to build everything, but was not including me. On the opposite, I met a fab lab manager, who invited me in his lab. Dan Barry is a former astronaut, who failed 10 times before suceeding. I met him during my summer at Singularity University (SU), a Think Tank San Francisco based, offering educational programs and a business incubator, focused on scientific progress and "exponential" technologies. One day, I invited the founder of Noisebridge, Mitch Altman to teach how to build TV-B-Gone, remote controls to turn off TVs in public spaces. At the last minute, he cancelled. But Dan Barry encouraged to do it myself.
I led a session about solders, capacitors, notions i had learnt about the day before. From this story, I began to love the electronics.

When you learn how to learn how to do things, you can learn how to invent & modify & build any projects.
I never thought it was possible to move to Africa alone. We have so many stereotypes about this country, and we start to have a wrong image about people and country. But, if you are a nice, adaptable person, you become part of their family. African people have connected with me with incredible authenticity. It was very hard to come back to European, with much colder, transactional relationships. I didn't believe I could so something like that.

In some way, you get rewarded when you take big risks. You can teach technical skills but courage is very hard to teach. It is necessary to keep that in mind.

Your true superpower is to go toward what feels impossible

Interview lead by Diane Lenne on May 2015 in Paris.