My STEM journey can be traced back to when I received my first computer at age 13. I instantly felt a curiosity awakening as I wondered how this machine in front of me worked. Eventually, I joined a robotics club in high school and was introduced to computer programming. I was intrigued when I learned how to program a robot to navigate an obstacle course autonomously. My school counselor noticed my interests and shared an opportunity to attend a STEM summer camp at the University of Texas at Austin, to which I applied and was accepted. That experience convinced me that I wanted to study Computer Engineering after interacting with engineering students and professors in that major.
I knew going to college and majoring in Computer Engineering would not be easy, especially as a young brown woman with a low-socioeconomic background. I was raised by immigrant parents that did not have the same opportunities as my sisters and me. However, they believed that an education in this country would be the key to a better way of life, so they empowered us to pursue our dreams and let go of our fears of failure.
My first year at UT was one of my most challenging academic years as I was transitioning to a new chapter of my life while taking courses I wasn’t fully prepared for. Fortunately, I joined organizations that gave me the resources to find tutors, develop good study habits, and find internships. I was able to land a summer software internship at Qualcomm in San Diego. I worked with professional engineers, gained mentors, and obtained experience in web development. After realizing I could have fun innovating as a Software Engineer, I fell in love with it and was motivated to gain more technical skills. Each summer, I interned at a tech company and continued taking classes that would prepare me for a career in Software Engineering.
Looking back at my journey to where I am today, I can definitely say that my interest in engineering has not faded. However, I have faced many challenges throughout my journey. In a male-dominated industry, I have found myself experiencing imposter syndrome throughout my career, leading me to work harder than my male peers to prove my worth. I overcame this by looking back at the achievements that led to my current role and practicing positive self-affirmations, which helped build courage and confidence. Joining women in tech organizations was also a great way to meet and learn from other women with a similar background as me.
My advice for those wanting to pursue a career in STEM would be to not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, such as learning a new skill; break down big goals into small ones, and celebrate the small victories along the way.