Behling: Stroke of genius

Behling: Stroke of genius

I was in awe of Winnie Karanja when I met her in 2016. She agreed to an interview with me for our January 2017 cover story on “The 20-Somethings” of Madison. Winnie is the founder and executive director of Maydm, a Madison-based computer programming company with a mission to diversify the technology sector by connecting young students – particularly girls and students of color – to experiences that allow them to learn coding and programming. While she’s the face of the business she started, she’s still a somewhat private person. So I was honored to have her tell me more about herself during our interview. She’s trilingual. She grew up in Kenya. She earned an undergraduate degree in Wales and a master’s degree in London.

Describing her as “a 20-something” didn’t cover it. Out of any path she could have chosen, which could have led her to any city in the world, she decided to move back to Madison, the place where she grew up, and take a risk on a startup idea that fed her passion. She combined her skills with a purpose to provide an entry point to kids who are underexposed to the technology industry. That’s genius.

We don’t use that word enough to describe the work people do. Genius is not defined by intelligence alone. Genius requires creativity and boldness.

This month’s magazine is full of genius people and ideas. Our 2019 M List awards honor innovation in diversity and inclusion. Karanja’s nonprofit is joined by two other businesses and two people who are purposefully reaching out to diverse communities in creative and meaningful ways.

Genius can also be found in the work of artists, musicians and performers featured in this month’s fall arts preview. These talented individuals speak languages in the form of musical notes, movement and prose, and they share this beauty with the world.

The work of Gloria Manadier-Farr and the Allied Wellness Center is genius for how it addresses the health and well-being of the people in the Allied Dunn’s Marsh neighborhood (page 30). There’s also certainly some creative genius at play in mastering the artistry of a simple, delicious, salt-sprinkled soft pretzel.

And don’t get me started on the sheer brilliance and bravery of John Roach and his monthly musings.

This issue is a celebration of the genius all around us. I hope it inspires you to exercise your own.