During her keynote address at OETC 2015, Danielle Feinberg, director of photography – lighting for Pixar Animation Studios, viewed the world through the lens of code—sharing lessons from her life, highlighting the power of technology to create, and affirming the importance and value of education in realizing dreams.
Feinberg’s love of combining computers and art began when she was just eight years old and first programmed a Logo turtle to create images.
As a junior high student, she spent a weekend figuring out a difficult concept in computer graphics because of the freedom one educator gave her to explore projects of her own creation. Through the experience, Feinberg learned the power of passion in overcoming challenges.
“There are a lot of times when you’re convinced that you’re either smart at something or you’re not, you’re either good or you’re not,” she recalled. “And, this was the moment when I realized that if I just sat down and worked really hard at something because I really cared about it that I could actually do it. And, so this gave me that very specific kind of confidence in computer programming that I might not have had otherwise.”
Throughout life, that passion is what compelled her through the many challenges she encountered. “Passion is a very big, important part of all of this,” she said. “It takes passion to make good things. It also takes passion to overcome the naysayers who say you can’t do that or this is too hard.”
For Feinberg, code was key to unlocking her imagination.
“One of the things that attracted me to code from the very beginning is that you could create something new,” she explained. “So with code, we can create any world we want.”
As a Harvard computer science major, she found her niche as she viewed early Pixar short films from the 80s and the early 90s. “It was the greatest combination of art and code that I could imagine,” she recalled. “I couldn’t believe that all of the coding, but also math and science, was coming together to create worlds of characters that I was just falling in love with.”
For Feinberg, code unlocks potential. “This is the thing that I love about code: If you learn to code you can do anything now. You can choose any path and combine it with your passion,” she said. “The true power of code is that it can break down traditional barriers and it can really empower people.”
Feinberg closed by appreciating educators for their role in helping students find their passion.
“Mentors have been one of the most important things in my life,” she said. “All of you have so much influence over kids. I hope that you will continue to get them excited about coding and about STEM in general. But most importantly, I hope you can help them find their passion and give them the courage to pursue it. I don’t think there’s anything that is more important than education in this world. And so I have to tell you that I’m completely inspired by what you do and thank you for everything.”