Brown skin, long hair (really long hair), speaks English as a second language – every time I look in the mirror or hear myself speak, I cannot deny that I embody the underrepresented groups in STEM. Well, almost, save for one thing – I was fortunate enough to have been given the chance to pursue the kind of education that I believe everyone of distinct color, gender, and ethnicity deserves. Because of this, I feel empowered to show my utmost gratitude and give back in a way that I know I can be most effectual and helpful – teach.
Before I heard Matt Stephenson speak about Code2College in his visit to Silicon Labs, I took the time to read about this inspiring organization. I am already a volunteer for two other organizations that aim to mentor and teach “at-risk” students in elementary schools and so I was thinking I would like to be a part of another mentor/teach-based cause. It didn’t take a lot of convincing to get me on board. I am a “numbers person” and the graphs did it for me. To say that I was staggered by the STEM major attrition of underrepresented groups is an understatement. But to see that even fewer of the underrepresented groups enter the technical workforce almost made my eyes water. It brought back memories of almost 2 decades ago – back when I graduated in college.
Right after graduation, the Dean of College where I graduated from offered me a job to teach in the university. I politely declined and said I want to go out there in the field and be a Computer Engineer that I am. Two weeks later, head bent, I went back to my Dean and accepted the teaching role. He was holding it for me as if knowing I will be back. Yes, I was discriminated as I tried to get my way in to the workforce. It didn’t matter that I graduated Cum Laude with a GPA of 3.87, or that I was a known leader of the university’s Engineering department, or that my designs and thesis are the best in all engineering, I am a woman and I was not welcome in the engineering field.
Not knowing how to give up, I put all my energy and passion into teaching. I became more resolute to make sure female students are encouraged and inspired to finish their Computer Science or Computer Engineering degree by starting various clubs and programs or putting together study groups that do not only enhance academic skills but also technical and soft skills. I woke up every day with a mission – to educate my students and make them understand that they are worth so much – each and every one of them. I uncovered so many potentials and tapped on a lot of skills that even my students then didn’t even know they have. I was trying to prepare them for what’s to come and I am proud that they’ve become the professionals that they are in the technical workforce.
When I came here to the US, I taught in three more colleges in between working in the IT industry as a Software Trainer and Technical Writer. I have seen how underrepresented women and women of color are in the technical courses that I was teaching. Sometimes I will have one female student in my class, sometimes none at all. I realized that the problem I had 20 years ago are still here and I so much wanted to be a part of the solution to this problem.
These thoughts were in my mind as I sat with my fellow Volunteers last Saturday during the New Instructor Orientation. Like me, everyone was there to volunteer not only their time, but also their skills, their knowledge, and their heart. I have so much admiration for those who give back to the community with such dedication, passion and sincerity. I was getting more inspired than I already am and I cannot wait to start my journey with this year’s Code2College Education, Exposure, and Experience recipients.