Lessons from a 9-year-old programming prodigy

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At nine years old, Arfa Karim Randhawa became the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional. After nearly a month in the hospital in her native country Pakistan, she died two days ago at the age of 16 from epileptic seizure and cardiac arrest. In the weeks leading up to her death, Microsoft had reportedly made its best attempts to provide expert medical care to no avail. Her death is a loss for the tech community internationally, and has been commemorated broadly.

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During her short life, Arfa made her own Windows programmes and studied logic development. Her programming language of choice at the age of nine was C#. Her dream was to be a satellite engineer.

When given the title of Microsoft professional in 2004, Arfa had visited Bill Gates at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA. There she presented Gates with a poem she wrote that celebrated his life story and asked him provocative questions like why there weren’t more women working at Microsoft. Reporting on the trip was GeekWire journalist Todd Bishop, who interviewed the young prodigy on what it was like to be the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional.

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A few years later, when a 9-year-old girl in India broke Arfa’s record, Bishop forwarded the news. Arfa’s response was astute and wise:

“This is the first time I’ve seen this story. But I must say that I’m really happy to have read it. This is exactly what I had been wishing for ever since I got to bring laurels for my country. I am very glad to see that people are following what I did and have succeeded in beating me. I don’t know whether you’ve heard or not but a boy, named Bilal, from Gujranwala in Pakistan also became a Microsoft Certified Professional at the age of nine. I would say that the other youngsters should follow suit, thereby convincing the people to take us kids seriously. Our generation is very talented and so should be promoted.”

To commemorate her death this week, Bishop has pieced together some of her best insights in this audio file worth listening to. Here the 9-year-old shares her life philosophy:

“If you want to do something big in your life, you must remember that shyness is only in the mind. If you think shy, you act shy. But if you think confident, you act confident. Therefore, never let shyness conquer your mind.”