Women in Stem Interview Series - Shirley Q.



Another day in May, another great Women in STEM interview! It is once again our pleasure to introduce you to a Software Engineer from San Diego, California by the name of Shirley Q.! Inspired at an early age by Chemestry and an old online game (Neopets) she went on to realizing her STEM potential and working in the fields of computer science.

The Interview - Shirley Q.

  • Name: Shirley Q.
  • Age group: 22-25
  • STEM Field of Study (or profession): Computer Science - Software Engineer

Personal Experience

Q: What was (or is) your favorite subject in school and why?

Shirley: “In high school it was Chemistry. It’s everywhere in the world around you! Food, clothes, medicine, cleaning supplies etc… “

Q: What was your daily routine like (in school, work, or at home). How might this have impacted/influenced your participation in STEM?

Shirley: “Spending time with friends and meeting people with different interests in the field of STEM. Computer Science in pretty broad, you can do front end development, back-end development, full-stack, pen-testing, IT etc. Meeting and talking to people who have had different levels of experience and interests helped me determine what I might be interested in.”

Q: Describe the first time you heard about STEM, why was this an appealing thing to be a part of?

Shirley: “Kaiser Permanente partnered with my high school and offered health-pathway classes such as physiology and biotechnology. We were welcomed to the medical center and got a taste of day-to-day functions in the various departments. “

Q: When was the first time you became actively involved in STEM? Do you recall a specific project or initiative?

Shirley: “Neopets in the 5th grade. I learned a bit of HTML and CSS to customize my home page. Nothing fancy or crazy, but I was so proud of myself at the time.”

Q: How have your beliefs, motivations and aspirations changed over time? When did a career in STEM become a priority or choice?

Shirley: “When I was younger, I believed that if you put in the effort everything will just fall into place. Obviously life doesn’t work like that and you’ll face roadblocks in life and you’ll just have to find some way around it make it work somehow. You learn to adapt and work with your current situation. “

Q: Who has served as an ‘influencer’ in your path to a STEM focused education and/or career?

Shirley: “When I was a kid (probably 12 years old) my uncle showed me the command line tool “IPCONFIG” I was in awe and eventually decided on studying computer science in college.”

Q: What is your dream job? Can you see any roadblocks or challenges which might be influenced by your gender?

Shirley: “I’ll know when I find it or I’ll start my own company. I think at any company, big or small, you’ll work at you’ll have to deal with internal politics, condescending people, harassment and what not. “

Q: Are hobbies in STEM important? What about hobbies in general? Can you share some of your hobbies that may (or may not) have contributed to your STEM involvement?

Shirley: “Since I sit in front of a computer 90% of the time at work I try to have non-tech related hobbies. I am interested in fountain pens, notebooks and stationary. “

Q: Has there been any point when you (or someone close to you) wanted to give up STEM (work, hobby, both)? What made you stay?

Shirley: “I stayed because nothing is easy in life, if I give up now what else will I give up in the future. You just have to work through it and persevere through it. It will pass and you’ll learn from the experience whether you end up succeeding or failing.”

Women in STEM Impact

Q: What does STEM mean to you?

Shirley: “Science, Technology, Engineering, Math”

Q: Can you recall any times when you questioned your involvement in STEM because of your gender?

Shirley: “I try to surround myself with positive and supportive people. I don’t need negative people in my life and I have no problems with cutting them out. “

Q: What are some of the personal experiences - or compelling arguments - that have influenced your thinking around gender and STEM, and have motivated you to get involved in being an advocate for change?

Shirley: “Did not notice it much in college. I believe I had a healthy group of friends. Was not sure of what to expect when I started working at my first internship. I didn’t have any prior work experience to compare. “

Q: Can you talk a bit about some of the specific ways you have advocated for change? If so, please tell us more about the successes and challenges you faced?

Shirley: “Change does not occur overnight. I try to be as blunt as possible and get straight to the point. Sometimes people don’t realize what they’re saying or the assumptions they make are silly.”

Q: Do you have a network of women in STEM around you to share knowledge and remind you you are not alone? If so, how did you go about creating that network?

Shirley: “I have a network of men and women in STEM. You talk to people and get to know them like you would with anyone else. We share our opinions, offer any advice and talk about our salaries.”

Q: Do you have a mentor or friend who inspires you? How/Why? (someone you know personally)

Shirley: “My team lead. She reminds us to not be afraid to speak up. “

Q: Are you involved/can you recommend any organization(s) that support Women in STEM (shoutouts)?

Shirley: “Not at the moment.”

Q: Top three changes which could make life easier for Women in STEM?

Shirley: “Stop making assumptions. Don’t be afraid to speak up. I don’t have a third.”

Advice to the younger you and women considering a career in STEM

Q: Which achievement do you look at and think “I’d love to go back in time and tell younger me that this was possible”?

Shirley: “I wasn’t the best student in college, but I made up for it by finding an internship and having work experience on my resume before graduating. I would tell my younger self that there are many ways to do things. If something doesn’t work out then find another way to do it. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you’re able to meet your end goal. “

Q: Did you ever stay at a place where politics got in the way of curiosity, technical progress or personal growth? How did you realize, and at which point did you decide to move on?

Shirley: “Yes. Initially it was a relatively small company of less than 100 people and very unorganized. I didn’t know what to expect, but I got a front-row view of the internal politics and that was not pretty. Since then I got the chance to watch it grow and the right people were hired. It is more productive now.”

Q: If you could go back and change one thing in your STEM path, what would that be?

Shirley: “I wish I took more non-STEM classes in college and add some variety. “

Shirley: “If they’re curious they should talk to people in that career-path and ask about how they got to where they are at now, any difficulties faces, what their day-to-day is like. If they are questioning their STEM related studies I would tell them that no one can stop them, but themselves. Whether they decide to stay or leave STEM it should be a decision made on their own without the influence of other people. I don’t think there is anything wrong with not wanting to stay on the STEM career-path. You can still be successful without a STEM related career. Ultimately it is their decision to stay or leave. I think everyone should have an end-goal they want to work towards. “

What’s next?

Be sure to check back tomorrow for another great Women in STEM intreview! Also, later today, we will be having our first live stream. During this live stream we will be interviewing Lindsey (the_engineeress) and talking to her about her STEM story! Be sure to follow the countdown on the 96Boards OpenHours website, instructions on how to participate in our live stream should be on the page.

See you there!

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