One of my main role models, Melinda Gates, is asking girls in computer science to share their stories of how they got into computing with the hashtag #ThroughHerEyes. I thought I would share my story here with you all since a caption on social media can’t capture it fully. Here’s my story…
As a child, I was fortunate that my elementary school offered a special program for students identified as talented and gifted in math and science. I stepped into a different classroom to experiment with robotics, learn advanced math concepts, and build a model of the famous Krakatoa volcano and determine chemical reactions that would make it explode. In middle school, I had the opportunity to take advanced math courses online in addition to accelerated math with my classmates. As I got older, I continued pursuing extracurricular classes and summer camps through university programs to enhance my learning. These experiences gave me the knowledge and confidence to solve advanced math problems and to spend much of my free time developing cool projects at home.
Although many girls grow up with natural abilities to succeed in math and science, not everyone is fortunate enough to have the opportunities that were available to me starting in elementary school. Additionally, girls are not always encouraged to pursue careers in STEM fields. Even through times of self-doubt of whether I could successfully pursue a career in computer science, I continued to quietly build my skills in software development in the classroom and in my personal time. I signed up for extra courses in topics like cryptology and problem-solving. I fell in love with my first “Hello World” program I wrote when I was 15, and I have been enchanted by code ever since. And just because I wear flowery dresses and high heels doesn’t mean I can’t perform these skills as well as anyone else can.
One of the many reasons I decided to enroll at Viterbi in 2015 is because, at that time, at least 38% of Viterbi students were female. This is more than double the national average of women in engineering programs, which fluctuates between 17% and 18% each year. At the end of last year, when I received word that Viterbi enrolled 44% female this year, I couldn’t help but get a little teary-eyed. Viterbi fully encourages and supports female engineering students, which will become even more evident as our female engineering graduates become the groundbreaking engineers of the future. And I’m so glad I get to be a part of that.
There is still lots of work to do, which is why successful women like Melinda Gates and Sheryl Sandberg are on missions to break the gender gap in technology. However, you don’t have to have the kinds of resources they have to make a difference. Even volunteering your time or joining a group on campus like SWE makes a little difference that adds up when other girls support each other as well.
At Viterbi, it’s cool to be a smart girl. At Viterbi, I am seen as an engineer, not a female engineer. I feel very fortunate to have all of the opportunities available here, and I am constantly inspired to keep learning and growing as a computer scientist!