CSpotlight: Inspiring the Next Generation

Why did you choose to study computer science specifically at the University of Minnesota?

I was born in Minneapolis and have lived here all my life. I knew that I wanted to go to college somewhere near home since I am very close to my family and most of my extended family that is in the United States, lives here in Minnesota. I also love going to school on a campus located in the city and attending a large college because of all the opportunities there are to get involved on campus and make an impact. 

The computer science program here at the University of Minnesota is great because it provides you with a challenging breadth of experiences within different areas of computer science that will prepare you well for wherever you’re heading next and also allows you to explore your interests outside of it. Being a large research institution as well, there are so many opportunities to get involved in fascinating, cutting-edge research in CS. 

How did you become interested in computer science? What do you hope to achieve within your journey in computer science?

Ever since I was a young kid, I have been drawn to understanding and attempting to solve interesting problems without known solutions. Throughout high school, I took a few engineering courses and loved them. I actually thought I wanted to major in engineering for most of my life and was originally an aerospace engineering major. However, once I got to college, I realized that I did not enjoy learning the physics required to be an engineer. At the same time, I decided to take a computer science course and thought that it was so much fun! I love the creative aspect of computer science and am motivated by the endless amount of possibilities there are to create new and innovative solutions to problems using technology. 

Throughout my computer science career, I hope to inspire more women and young girls, especially women and girls of color, to see themselves in and pursue a future in technology. I am a firm believer in the philosophy that the engineers who create a product should be just as diverse & representative of the customer base who is going to utilize that technology and have it affect how they go about their daily life.  

Tell us more about your Senior Software Project at Optum! How does this relate to CSCI 4590?

I am currently involved in CSCI 4950 which is an experimental learning program for students interested in software engineering. The course pairs upperclassmen with corporate sponsors where they work on year-long industry-sponsored projects in teams with their peers. I am working on a cybersecurity project with the Active Cyber Defense red hat team at Optum related to collecting and analyzing open-source intelligence. Our goal is to update and enhance the script being used to automate the process of reconnaissance. The project has been so much fun and it is such a great opportunity to learn more about shell scripting, recon, open-source tool automation, and cybersecurity. I would highly recommend applying for the program if you are interested in gaining more real-world, professional project experience!

How did you get involved with the Grace Hopper Conference 2021? Tell us more about your attendance at the conference! 

This year, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the virtual Grace Hopper Conference which is the largest event for women in computing. I was very fortunate to have received a sponsored ticket through the department of computer science. It was an incredible experience! I had the chance to network with tech companies, connect with other women in computer science, and listen to inspiring speakers. I particularly enjoyed the keynote address given by Dr. Timnit Gebru who is a researcher in the field of ethical AI, something I am very passionate about. Her talk was extremely moving as it detailed the systemic discrimination and harassment she faced daily as a black, female engineer at Google. Dr. Timnit’s speech caused me to re-examine the ways in which diversity and equity programs are designed, often only supporting the top 1% of privileged women in technology. 

How did you decide to run for Vice President for Data Analytics for Women in Business? 

Through both of my internships, I discovered that I have a passion for data. In particular, the power it has to tell a story, especially when it comes to things that we may have once believed cannot be evaluated quantitatively. I am also incredibly interested in the business side of technology which is why I thought a role centered around business analytics would be a great fit for me. Women in business has also been such a great opportunity to expand my circle outside of CSE and interact with so many strong and amazing businesswomen! 

Tell us more about your internships at Medtronic and Collins Electrical.

Both my internships were centered around projects related to data and databases which is an area of interest I’m hoping to specialize in during my full-time career. At Collins, I worked on the design and development of a SQL database and Power BI dashboard for tracking project management analytics. At Medtronic, I interned on a DevOps team where I developed the proof of concept for a DevOps data warehouse. I specifically focused on tracking KPIs related to lead time to change - one of the key DORA DevOps indicators related to efficiency in the SDLC process. I currently work at Medtronic as a part-time contractor still in the DevOps space. My current project is centered around automating quality reporting utilizing gherkin feature files, selenium, and APIs along with the pytest-BDD testing framework and azure pipelines. 

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

My biggest piece of advice would be to get involved in mentorship whether that be as a mentor, mentee, or both. My mentors have helped me navigate my transition to college and taught me how to work through combating my feelings of imposter syndrome, especially being a woman of color in tech. I am so incredibly grateful for all the amazing mentors that I have and the time they have dedicated to being a part of my life. As a current CSE mentor, I can say firsthand how rewarding it is to be able to dedicate my time to help give back to someone in the same way that others have done for me. 

What are your plans after graduation?

I will be working as a full-time Software Engineer after graduation this May.