Find Your Path in Computer Science

Find Your Path in Computer Science

Here’s what I learned from discussions with my mentors in the industry. I vividly remember the nights I’ve fallen asleep in my college dorm questioning whether I chose the right major.

I vividly remember the nights I’ve fallen asleep in my college dorm questioning whether I chose the right major. In high school, I often responded to the questions about my career aspirations explaining that I wanted to be in technology, but not a “coder.” In reality, I had no idea what “coder” even meant; all I thought was that it wouldn’t sound cool or exciting for a girl like me. I thought that once I’d conformed to the stereotypical geek lifestyle in college, I’d no longer be able to nurture my own personal interests and explore what makes me happy.

While I still wonder what career would be the best fit for me, I’ve learned that a computer science education opens up endless opportunities to find yourself and explore new things. I asked my mentors in the industry how they found their place as a girl in the world of technology, and here’s what I learned.

Conquering Road Bumps

The fear of failure and the stigma of being a woman in CS are some of the biggest obstacles girls face in the pursuit of computer science. Made Lapuerta, a Harvard graduate with a CS degree, recalls that her first exposure to coding was from a video game design class in middle school, and she recoiled, thinking, “This is nerdy…. This is what my brother does.” As a byproduct of CS being such a primarily male-dominated field, many girls have the misconception that they aren’t fit to succeed in it, especially after an unsuccessful first attempt. Made later reflected, “Something I thought was so clearly for younger boys was something girls could excel at too.”

Once we realize anyone can code and we find our confidence, success becomes even more reachable. Stereotypes may remain, but learning to disregard them is a step to success. Lauren Smith, a recent graduate of the University of Washington, mentioned that despite the traditional developer stereotypes — being a recluse, staying up all night, sleeping in —, “I’m just going to keep doing it because I enjoy doing it.”

Choosing a Career

Like many, my initial image of a computer scientist was of a Steve Jobs-like software engineer hunched in front of huge monitors, spitting out code all day with no social interaction. Software engineering at a big tech company seemed like the ultimate goal during my freshman year, but I worried about what I would do if it wasn’t for me. However, after many discussions with my friends and mentors in computer science, I realize that a CS degree is an open door to any destination.

Made reflects on her realizations over the past few years of internships, career fairs, and college classes: “There are so many paths you can take with your coding skills and so many industries that need you — health care, fashion. Any company that needs a website needs engineers.” A computer science education presents you with valuable industry knowledge that employers can’t find elsewhere.

women-in-tech careers-in-tech computer-science data science

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