Blanca Huergo, 18, is this year the godmother of the annual cybersecurity course C1b3rWall from the Avila Police Academy. its chat The inaugural virtual, delivered at the end of last September, was on algorithmic biases. Huergo’s lecture is one more step in an extraordinary career: he studies second degree in mathematics and computer science at the University of Oxford after having spent his adolescence in internet courses on computer languages, and having competed in international mathematics Olympics: “My parents gave me the password for my computer when I was little and I was looking for life to find the things I liked,” she says by video call to EL PAÍS from Oviedo, her hometown, where she ends the holidays before traveling to the United Kingdom.
“Blanca perfectly represents the ideal profile of the digital professional, masters scientific and technical subjects and has a high component of motivation for self-training and continuous education from a very young age”, says Inspector Casimiro Nevado, coordinator of C1b3rWall. “It is the precise profile of the cyber police of the future,” he adds.
Huergo’s interest in mathematics began early and in a non-technological way: “I learned to multiply because I heard the concept when I was three years old,” he says. “I looked it up in the dictionary, a traditional paper one, without examples,” he explains. At the age of three I was already reading dictionaries. Although she had already made her first steps in kindergarten, where she caught the attention of the person in charge: “I always knew the date, name and surname of all the students and the name of the grandparents,” she explains.
Huergo comes from a family of law professors. His parents teach at the University of Oviedo. But she knew from a young age that her thing was mathematics: “I am not interested in having an engineer uncle. Since I started school, math was the subject that appealed to me the most. When I got home I would turn on the computer and on the internet I would start looking for more about the topics we had given or I would do summer notebooks for more advanced courses ”, he explains.
The English school where he studied was too small for him. At age 11, in 2014, his father read a blog post by another law professor talking about free online courses posted by professors at American universities. “He sent it to me in case I was interested and I went looking and found two pages, edX and Coursera,” he says. In these seven years, Huergo has done more than 50 of those courses of hundreds of hours in everything imaginable: machine learning (machine learning of machines), computer languages like Python or R, tensor flow, data science, algorithm. “They are long courses but many times I would watch the videos at twice the speed or it took less time than expected for homework,” he says.
Partly from his training, Huergo knows that randomness plays a key role in our lives. “Whenever I needed a 10, I would go for 12. because there are always random factors that can cause something to go wrong and I would try to go too far so I wouldn’t get caught,” he says. One day, in his spare time, he hopes to apply his knowledge to soccer, one of his favorite sports alongside tennis. “I am not at all asocial. I’ve always been out with friends a lot. I have Instagram and I use it frequently. TikTok no, because it’s not my style. Video games don’t appeal to me. Maybe some football but I’ve never been from Fortnite [uno de los títulos más populares] or to be flawed, “he says. Nor does it happen with television or long series. He prefers movies.
It is not the first time that they ask him what to do to have a child like Huergo. “For a child to learn to program or anything else, it takes one curiosity to learn and two effort. I frequently get messages from parents of 10 or 12 year olds saying they want them to go to Oxford. And that is starting the house with the roof. The first thing is to let your child explore until he finds something he likes. Forcing beyond that can be dangerous, ”he says.
“From what I read in many messages, there are parents who want their son to be a robot portrait of something they have seen because they think it might be good for him: for him to be a programmer, since it is fashionable; that he goes to a certain university, which will have more outings and has prestige ”, he says. But it is a wrong path and it can end badly. “Many times it is the child’s way of being that makes these wishes come true or not and, above all, they must become wishes of the child and not that the wish of the child is to meet the expectations of their parents,” he adds.
Huergo has even more recommendations for parents concerned about the intellectual future of their children: “It seems much more practical for your child to see you reading in your free time, since being someone he admires he will see it as something positive, than telling him for active and passive that he reads ”.
Huergo not only was better at these subjects. Also others. At school, he skipped the equivalent of 1st ESO, but it wasn’t something that excited him. “I have not wanted to be overtaken, that idea of 7-year-olds graduating in Physics, I have never liked them,” he says. But the reality was that school was easy for him: “The agreement I reached with teachers was that when I finished what I was doing in class they let me take out the computer. I don’t like to bother me either and I didn’t want the teacher to give me something else, ”he says.
This is how adolescence passed and it was time to decide on a university. He ruled out the US because he wanted to specialize in math and computer science from the start. The tests that they did to him are with court and so specific that it cannot reveal the content of the questions. Basically, the tutors look to see if the student will be able to react and find the best solutions for the problems that they pose.
They gave him a place in Oxford (United Kingdom) and since 2020 he has studied with a group of students from around the world who represent the elite of the future. “At Oxford they look for students who excel a lot in what they are going to study and, if it is a double degree, then you have to excel in both, which makes it very difficult,” he says. Now you can no longer be aware of other things in class. “It is very difficult,” he admits. But for the moment he is doing well: he is in the group with the best grade in the class. At his university, no matter how good they are, the number of A’s remains stable. “We are about 30 or 40, from all over the world. They are all Olympic multi-medalists [de matemáticas o informática]. Each one has a special story, with different profiles but all very good in their subjects ”, he explains.
Huergo also participated in the Olympics. He has a Spanish gold medal and an Ibero-American silver medal. Although he regrets being late: you can only participate until you are 20 years old if you have not graduated. Perhaps to compensate, since last year he founded, together with other Olympiad colleagues, the Spanish Computer Olympiad, a non-profit association that teaches competitive programming to teenagers from all over Spain. Training for this type of competition is very specific: “It is not something that is explained in high schools. You need to have gone to an academy or a lot of people have a programming parent. It’s rare a case like mine of someone who has asked for it alone, ”she says.
To fill that gap, he put together a lesson plan with sponsors in two weeks. “We are now over 120, 12 to 20 years old,” he says. “They usually find us through interviews with me in the press, social networks and thanks to their motivated teachers who tell them about the initiative”, he adds. Last year they already got a bronze.
This summer Huergo wanted to offer a similar course on Udemy, an online education platform. The first week was free, now it is paid and it already has more than 7,000 students. It is just one of his first jobs. At Oxford they keep making her dizzy: “I get daily offers from all over the world and from large companies,” she says.
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