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Stories from the WIT Trenches: Susann Luperfoy

[This is the tenth in a series of posts exploring the personal stories of real women in technology. Every woman in tech overcame, at the very least, statistical odds to be here; this blog series aims to find out why, and what they found along the way. 
 As Executive Director of UPOP, Susann Luperfoy (ln) equips MIT students for careers in STEM. With an impressive background in Artificial Intelligence and Akamai technologies, Luperfoy provides insight to how she got to where she is today and challenges she faced along the way. If reading her story inspires you to share yours, please email me.]

I’m Susann Luperfoy, a former research scientist and engineer in artificial intelligence who also worked on several startup companies as well as startup ventures inside established companies.  I now teach MIT undergraduates the skills they need to thrive and lead in STEM careers outside elite academia.

1. Can you take us back to your “eureka!” moment—a particular instance or event that got you interested in technology?

So many eureka moments: the first GUI (I was used to programing on ASCII terminals), the first demo of xMosaic and the worldwide web as an elegant replacement for FTP.  But the relevant answer to your question would be the moment I watched a social science major get promoted over an MIT grad who was not only vastly more qualified technically, but also more creative, more generous with his ideas and his time, harder working, more productive, better able to manage a project team, etc., however not interested in anything that sounded like management.  A string of such surprising experiences prepared me for teaching UPOP.

2. Growing up, did you have any preconceived perceptions of the tech world and the kinds of people who lived in it?

Growing up the plan was always to be a physician. (An engineer was someone who drove a steam train.)  But I loved technology from the start, anything that involved tools; fixing things and building things—cars, bicycles and custom designed clothes as a 5’11” teenager.  Tools and medicine: in some parallel universe I am now a happy surgeon.

3. As Executive Director of UPOP, what led you to this career path? When did you first start working with tech? Was it by choice?  

UPOP was never remotely in the plan, but so many experiences in the world of work prepared me for this position.  When UPOP was first conceived, I was still immersed in work as a research scientist and engineer in Artificial Intelligence.  When UPOP launched in 2002 I was busy in the Cambridge startup world. It was such a great program that I was happy to support it from the outside and eventually took it on full time. Continue reading Stories from the WIT Trenches: Susann Luperfoy