My First Tech Conference

This weekend, I had the privilege of attending a conference for women in computing for the first time in my life. I am so grateful to the Director of Engineering Diversity Initiatives at my university for encouraging me to apply to the OCWiC Scholarship. 



I used to be a liberal arts major. My empathy naturally drew me toward the liberal arts and social sciences. As a 14 year old, I only imagined myself working as a lawyer, so I could fight for justice and help uplift people and my own community. However, after taking several classes in the field, I began to get bored by the curriculum. I read non-fiction history and political science books for fun as as a young teen. To me, everything I was learning in college was just review. Why should I spend thousands of dollars to re-learn the same material? Last year, I finally interned with a lawyer and realized the field really wasn't right for me. 

Engineering was a field that really fascinated me, but unfortunately, I did not have the right background for it. I was already in my junior year, and my university had a mandatory co-op program for engineering majors that would set me back five years. As an international student, I really could not afford to do that. 

I initially never considered tech because I didn't fit the stereotype of a typical professional in the field. Weren't all programmers supposed to be misogynist white men who hated feminism? How would I, a brown hijabi feminist, fit into that picture? Plus, most of the computer science majors I knew had been programming since they were teens. I would stick out like a sore thumb. 

My friends encouraged me to try tech so I could see if I enjoyed it or not. I was a bit hesitant, but I switched my major to Information Systems anyway. The degree combined business with tech, so I had the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by trying two different fields. After my first semester, I fell in love with the tech side. I realized I had completely misunderstood the field. Programming wasn't the only possible career you could have in tech...and there were many minority programmers who were the sweetest people I've ever met. I found a community in this field, and that community convinced me that I belonged in tech. 

I finally switched my major to IT, which had more programming classes. My life has changed so much in the past few months! I am learning my first programming language (Python), attending my first Hackathon (MHacks 9), working on my first tech project (a workflow engine I am building with a coworker), and starting my own club for women in computing. I am so excited I discovered this fascinating field and even more excited to think about where it may take me. 

The OCWiC Conference helped boost my confidence. I met so many talented and hardworking women with diverse ethnic, educational, socioeconomic, and professional backgrounds. I discovered fields I never even knew existed, such as localization, which enables people to combine their passion for foreign languages with their interest in computing. 

I will now be graduating a year later than I was originally supposed to, but honestly, as Dr. Margaret Burnett said to me at the conference, "it is better to be a Sophomore in a field you love than a Junior in a field you have no interest in." 

:)

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