A 10-year-old applied to a prestigious tech fellowship. This is the letter she got back.
When Five by Five, an "innovation agency," launched their summer fellowship program, a lot of qualified people applied.
The program, running from July 18-29 in Paris, promises 20 of the best and brightest minds "2 weeks of funding, tools, space and mentorship to start prototyping the change they want to see," in the city of Paris.
As expected, a huge pool of applications came in from brilliant Ph.D.s, accomplished urban developers, data scientists, and specialists.
What they didn't expect was an application from a 10-year-old girl named Eva.
Eva's application to the prestigious program involved her pitch to build a robot that would make the streets of Paris "happy again" because, right now, she wrote, "the streets of Paris are sad."
In her application, Eva wrote that, despite learning how to code, she had trouble making her robot work and wanted to join the fellowship to get help.
In the competitive world of science and tech — and the even more competitive world of applying for a prestigious fellowship in the field of science and tech — asking for help can be a rare thing.
Asking for help is something we all need to do, and Eva's application is notable for that reason in particular.
“There is a tendency to act as if [asking for help] is a deficiency,” Garret Keizer, author of "Help: The Original Human Dilemma" told The New York Times. “That is exacerbated if a business environment is highly competitive within as well as without. There is an understandable fear that if you let your guard down, you’ll get hurt, or that this information you don’t know how to do will be used against you.”
Whatever your goals are — writing a book, building a robot, or even just building some Ikea furniture — it's both brave and beneficial to ask for the help you need.
Kat Borlongan, a founding partner at Five by Five, was so inspired by Eva's application that she not only accepted her into the program, she published her acceptance letter publicly on Facebook.
(All emphasis mine.)
"Dear Eva, The answer is yes. You have been selected as one of Paris’ first-ever Summer Innovation Fellows among an impressive pool of candidates from all across the world: accomplished urban designers, data scientists and hardware specialists. I love your project and agree that more should be done — through robotics or otherwise — to improve Paris’ streets and make them smile again."
Borlongan goes on to describe what she thought was the most inspiring part of Eva's application — the simple ask for help:
"You’ve openly told us that you had trouble making the robot work on your own and needed help. That was a brave thing to admit, and ultimately what convinced us to take on your project. Humility and the willingness to learn in order to go beyond our current limitations are at the heart and soul of innovation.
It is my hope that your work on robotics will encourage more young girls all over the world — not just to code, but to be as brave as you, in asking for help and actively looking for different ways to learn and grow."
It's true, asking for help can be difficult, and at 10 years old, Eva is already truly inspiring.
Not just because she knows how to program robots (and wants to get even better at it) and not just because she wants to use that knowledge to make people smile ... but because she knows that no one succeeds on their own and asking for help isn't a sign of weakness.
So, congratulations, Eva. You're already making us smile, and you didn't even need a robot to do it.