When we met Leah, we knew she was a lady after our own hearts: loves the color yellow, into augmented/mixed reality and believes that people in the STEM fields are incredibly supportive and will go out of their way to help newcomers? Fibonacci Sequins has been incredible for making new friends and Leah is no exception. Read on to hear about this adventurous young woman’s next move
Tell us a little about you.
I’m constantly growing. Growth has been the core tenant of my mindset since I was young and I’m always trying to develop a few areas of myself at a time.
This summer, I’m traveling for three months. I started in cities that are familiar and filled with great friends: Seattle and San Francisco (+the Bay Area). I’ve interned in both places so it was amazing to catch up with my old teams and stay with some former roommates and friends.
I’m currently writing this from Rome, having just said goodbye to two friends that I’ve been traveling with for the last few weeks. I’m exploring by myself for the next month. I’ve never traveled alone for an extended time, but it’s freeing to learn how to do things by myself. I’m ending my trip in China, where I will be meeting my mom. We’re going to Shanghai, which is a new city for me. I’m planning on growing a second stomach for the street food once I’m there.
I only started computer science in college, but I spent the entire time immersed in the tech world, and it’s been really nice to step back for a bit. I was a two-time intern at Microsoft and Seattle is still my favorite city in the summer. The weather is perfect and there’s everything I could want in the city. Seattle turned me into an outdoors person. Running, hiking, and kayaking, I don’t do any of these activities at home in Maryland.
I just finished my degree Computer Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, and in the fall I’m starting a new job in Stamford, Connecticut as a Product Manager at Bridgewater Associates. The people at the company are amazing and I’m really excited to learn from them.
Tell us about what you’re wearing.
Today, I brought two different outfits with me.
A few months ago, I discovered my perfect pair of jeans; the Nico by Hudson Jeans. I love dark wash skinny jeans, I think they go with every outfit. But this pair also has the perfect amount of stretch to them so that they stay comfortable all day. Better yet, they don’t stretch out so they look as perfect at the end of the night as they did when I first put them on. I paired the jeans with a teal cami and a sheer sleeveless yellow blouse. I’m wearing nude pumps. I’ve had the heels for years and they remain one of my most comfortable pairs. My purse is bright yellow. I love the color. It’s never dull and will always cheer me up, especially on a gray day. I wear a lot of bright yellow, my friend jokes it’s because I’m an extrovert and the color is eye-popping, upon reflection he might be a little correct.
My other outfit is a black floral dress: Nothing screams summer like a sundress. I grabbed the dress at a crazy end of the year sale at Urban Outfitters and paid close to nothing. I’m wearing a white cardigan. I like the contrast between the black dress and the white cardigan and it prevents me from freezing in the chilly air-conditioned office buildings. I’m wearing nude sandals with this outfit, bought with my freshman year roommate in D.C.
I always wear a watch. Despite being a technology enthusiast, I haven’t gotten into the smartwatch trend. I love that my watch can go years before I have to worry about the battery. It’s also great when I’m in a meeting or talking to someone one-on-one so I can keep track of the time without distracting myself from the conversation.
How did your style evolve to what it is now?
Over the years I’ve learned how to dress better for my figure. I’m rather petite and it took me a while to figure out what outfits would enhance my stature. I used to like having a lot of clothes, but over time, I realized that I don’t like most of them so now I focus on just buying clothing that I love, rather than articles that are a great price. Maybe it’s just a part of growing up.
I wear a lot of mid-thigh to knee length dresses, which I find are much more comfortable than individual bottoms. I’ve also started to really love outerwear. Trenches, pea coats, and leather jackets are my staples throughout the spring, fall, and winter. I love heels but I’ve spent the last few years on a gigantic college campus so I default to flats. I make exceptions for boots, though
Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?
Try it. Technology is no longer just a niche industry, instead it has permeated every other aspect of the world. Being a good technologist now makes you more capable in every other discipline; The skills are almost universally transferable, so don’t turn away from a field with so much potential without giving it an honest attempt.
If you’re worried about culture fit, the STEM world is much closer and more tight-knit than the alienating reports that permeate the media. Although it’s not the most diverse community (yet!) as a whole, the people in these fields are incredibly supportive and will go out of their way to help newcomers. It’s one of the few fields that regularly gives its interns/new hires exciting and business critical projects that you can work on from Day 1.
What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?
At Bitcamp, a hackathon hosted by my school, I created an Augmented Language Immersion System (ALIS) with my best friends, Kate Tolstaya and Brent Schlotfeldt. It’s really just a fancy way to say we hacked a Google Cardboard to do a live stream of the world and used MetaMind’s image recognition algorithms to identify objects and translate the words into a target language.
Augmented reality really excites me, as do languages and culture - I used to want to learn all of the world’s languages when I was younger. I’ve since shifted my focus to programming languages, but human languages still fascinate me.
I can’t wait until technology advances to the point where augmented reality becomes indispensable in the day to day - just imagine all the ways the world would be enhanced when information is deeply integrated into the world, rather than just a distracting notification.
What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?
Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn / GitHub / leahxu.com
We 100% believe in Lean’s vision that someday (soon!) Augmented/Mixed Reality will become an integral part of the world and will help make our lives better and richer–than than being a nerdy distraction. We hope she will let us join her in the journey to make that a reality!
Dona & Beth