Governess Simpson’s code for success
CSE student finds her career path—and her voice
As a 16 year old, Governess Simpson wanted to be a pop singer. But, her Advanced Placement chemistry instructor at Stillwater Area High School saw her as something else. “He thought I had what it took to be a chemical engineer,” she said.
The University of Minnesota’s reputation in the field led her to the College of Science and Engineering (CSE), where she is majoring in industrial and systems engineering, with a minor in computer science. Simpson, who will graduate in 2022 and is a recipient of CSE's 3M Diversity Scholarship, is working toward a career in software engineering. “I love coding and programming, and hope to work for a tech organization where I can build something that makes a difference," she said.
In this Q&A, Simpson discusses her love for the field and the experiences that shaped her academic career.
What drew you to this area of study?
I switched majors a number of times. I had always been interested in software. But I struggled with the coursework. I had imposter syndrome and started thinking that maybe I shouldn’t be a software engineer.
What do you mean by “imposter syndrome”?
For me, it’s that feeling of self-doubt, that I don’t belong in this field. I had never coded before college, and I wasn’t really a “science kid,” so taking STEM classes was challenging.
It wasn’t until I started getting internships and working in tech that I started telling myself that I am capable.
Was there a particular experience that bolstered your confidence?
During my freshman year, I got accepted into a research experience for undergraduates that was hosted by the National Science Foundation. It was a 10- to 12-week program for students to study and do research with a professor.
It was my first professional research experience in computer science.
I got to code and build tangible products and see how my work applied to what my professor was researching at the time, which was virtual reality and how it applies to architecture and interior design. I was one of the first authors on a paper that got published. My professor told me it would help me as I applied to internships. That whole experience kick-started my career.
Are you doing an internship right now?
I’m interviewing for a software engineering internship. This summer, I was a program manager intern at Microsoft. It was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot about how to engage with people, ask the right questions, build mockups of a product, and figure out what role it will have and how it will perform in the market.
You took part in a leadership program last winter. What did you gain from that?
It was the LeaderShape program with students from CSE and the Carlson School of Management. We learned about our own leadership style, how we function within a team, what we would do in certain situations, and how to use our voice to drive change.
The biggest take away was learning about myself and finding my voice.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your time at the U of M?
For me, it’s all the communities I've been able to find and join. I’m in an engineering fraternity and am really close friends with everyone there. I’m in a venture capital firm based in the Carlson School, which is crazy because I never foresaw myself in that type of environment. I’m on a powerlifting team, and I’m part of the Minnesota Student Association.
What has it meant to receive the 3M Diversity Scholarship?
I would not have been able to go to the University of Minnesota without the 3M scholarship. And it has allowed me to explore my options and expand my network so I could figure out what’s best for me as a potential career.
Learn more about the 3M Diversity Scholarship in CSE News.
Read about Simpson's experience with the LeaderShape program in CSE News.
Edited with permission from the University of Minnesota Foundation; original Q&A by Kim Kiser.
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