Paulina Modlitba, Alum of the Year 2018, lecture on October 17


On October 17 we welcome all alumni to a lecture with Paulina Modlitba at KTH Campus Valhallavägen. Paulina Modlitba is awarded Alum of the Year 2018 for her commitment to interest young women in technical education.

Time: Wed 2018-10-17

Location: KTH Campus Valhallavägen

Watch Paulina´s speech at the graduation ceremony in Stockholm City Hall on May 29.

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Paulinas speech:

Dear diplomandi and honoured guests,

I have to reveal that this isn’t the first time that I’ve received a distinguished award. Nor is it the first time I am being asked to speak in front of peers. On the contrary, I am a very typical “duktig flicka”. A true “prestationsprinsessa”. Since I started reading and writing at the age of four, I’ve dedicated my life to excelling in absolutely everything I do. At the age of twelve, I wrote my own math book because I had already finished the ones that were available in school. Since then, I have received an award for best grades/best student at every school and university that I have attended. As a matter of fact, 12 years ago, I was invited to this very hall to receive an honorary award.

There is, however, one slight problem. Not ONCE have I been able to truly appreciate the awards that I have been granted. The honors, letters, grants, articles and kind words from family, friends and peers have all just been confetti left on the floor, while I’m long gone, working my way up the ladder to ”true success”. Without even knowing why I am doing it.

Not once have I been able to feel truly worthy of an award.

Until now.

When I received the very unexpected call from KTH the other month, saying that Sigbritt Karlsson, president of KTH, had just approved me as Alumn of the Year, my first thought was that they had called the wrong person. Later, when I read the motivation: “Paulina Modlitba is awarded "Alum of the Year 2018" for her tireless commitment to interest young women in STEM education and inspiring them to get more involved in the Swedish tech startup scene”, I started crying. It was as though everything that I had been working for, without even knowing why, fell into place. In fact, if there is anything that I want to be remembered for, anything that I want to change in the world, this is it. I want to disrupt old structures and truths. I want to make it possible for anyone, irrespective of gender or background, to be curious, to innovate and to love technology and other STEM fields. And I want you all to be able to have fun while doing it. I want you to be able to do it in your own unique ways.

Since I was here, 12 years ago, I have gone from doing “everything right” to doing "nothing right”. I have quit three jobs in anger and frustration because I didn’t get the roles I was ready for; two of them while being pregnant. I have openly criticized the most important people - all men - in the industry for not being inclusive enough. I have started my own company without a proper plan, a website or a logo. I just got divorced and bought my own apartment as a single mother of two with no “real job”. Still, I have this near-religious feeling of everything coming full circle in life. Looking back, it feels like everything happened for a reason and I am right where I want to be without even knowing where I wanted to go or who I want to be.

So, just a last piece of advice for you all: if you feel confused and lost and have absolutely no idea where you want to go or where you want to be next, don’t worry. Just 1) stay curious and never stagnate, 2) say yes to things even when they feel irrelevant or overwhelming, 3) be generous and help people out - especially women working their way up the career ladder, 4) exclude projects, jobs and people that consume energy and make you feel inferior and useless rather than amazing, 5) and join every network out there because networking is the shit - and things will work out. I promise.

And last but not least: be immensely proud of yourselves.

Thank you!

2018-10-17T00:00 2018-10-17T00:00 Paulina Modlitba, Alum of the Year 2018, lecture on October 17 Paulina Modlitba, Alum of the Year 2018, lecture on October 17
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