Hello, I am Blanca Huergo, and I am studying Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Oxford, where I obtained a Distinction in my Preliminary Examinations and am now a St. Hugh’s College scholar. Being so passionate for my course has pushed me to balance my studies with competing at an international level during high school and, more recently, teaching and training others to achieve, hoping that these skills can help them as much as they have helped me.
I have been working in the intersection between these two subjects since I turned 11, when I started taking online university courses on calculus, algorithms and artificial intelligence, such as MIT’s The Analytics Edge or Stanford University’s Algorithms Specialization. At the age of 16, I landed my first job working as a data scientist for Merkle Spain, where I optimised data pipelines, designed algorithms to predict consumer journeys and delivered intelligent systems that performed well with unbalanced datasets. The following Summer I continued my journey in Empathy.co, where I developed an alert system to help clients react fast to unexpected events and for which I had to design an accurate algorithm to predict future time steps for e-commerce time series. These experiences motivated me to constantly develop my skills and I have now taken over 60 online university courses and have completed a Research Engineer internship in DeepMind, where I was able to apply both the more abstract mathematical problem-solving knowledge from my Mathematics course and my engineering skills for my internship project, while gaining more insight into how DeepMind research projects work.
Despite the effort I put into these personal projects on a regular basis, I never overlooked my studies and have gone on to perform well both in high school, obtaining the best mark in Spain in my Additional Mathematics and Co-ordinated Sciences (Biology, Physics, Chemistry) Cambridge iGCSEs and the best score in the world in seven International A-Level papers; and in my degree, where I obtained a Distinction in my Preliminary Examinations. I have been awarded for these results with a Google Generation Scholarship, the María Cristina Masaveu Peterson Foundation Degree Scholarship for two years in a row and the St. Hugh’s College Scholarship.
Throughout high school, competitive programming played an important role in my development. I found in these contests a way to apply my algorithms knowledge but at the same time a motivation to keep working on it. I went to my first competition, the VIII Asturian Informatics Olympiad, aged 16, and ended up winning. This classified me to the 2019 Spanish Informatics Olympiad, where I won the prizes for the best Python score and the best female performance. One year later, I was part of the Spanish International Team, having won a gold medal in the 2020 Spanish Informatics Olympiad and the best female performance prize for the second year in a row. I went on to earn a silver medal in the Iberoamerican Informatics Olympiad (CIIC) and to become a finalist of the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI).
Despite having enjoyed my time as a contestant so much, I was frequently the only girl in most Olympiads I attended. I was determined to help other girls in Spain find their path in competitive programming and co-founded and am the Chairwoman of the Spanish Informatics Olympiad for Girls (OIFem), which we use to select the Spanish representatives at the European Girls’ Olympiad in Informatics (EGOI). In only two editions we have already helped hundreds of teenagers all over the country learn the skills necessary to compete, get to know each other and successful women in the industry and what they can achieve. All of this is free for our students with the help of our sponsors (BBVA, Amazon, Empathy.co, Merkle and FNAC) and all the work put in by voluntaries. I frequently develop, test and optimise coding challenges for other Olympiads too and am a member of the Scientific Committee of the Spanish Informatics Olympiad.
After the success of OIFem, I decided to teach to a wider audience and created and published my Udemy course: Competitive Programming. I now have over 7000 students from 148 countries signed up. In Summer 2021, I was also the keynote speaker and a mentor of the 2021/22 edition of C1b3rwall Academy, an initiative of the Spanish Police Force and the University of Salamanca to teach cybersecurity to a large audience online. More than 40,000 students all around the world have already taken this course and I keep receiving very positive feedback.