Introduction

To close out our Women in STEM month of interviews and STEM stories, please join us in welcoming Laura aka codergirl_ to the lineup! Laura is the perfect mix of tech and fashion on her Instagram. To top this off, she even has a small clothing line of shirts and sometimes other work necessities, with clever lines of code and sayings! Be sure to check it out!

May Interviews - #WomeninSTEM

The Interview - Laura Medalia

  • Name: Laura Medalia
  • Age group: 26-30
  • STEM Field of Study (or profession): Software Engineer

Do you have a favorite quote? What is it and who is it from?

Just do it.


Personal Experience

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

Laura: “English because I love the creative side of things and how words can be powerful and Math because I love solving problems (its fun) and computer science because I love solving problems and building things. Seeing a page come to life is extremely satisfying!”

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

Laura: “In school? Wake up, breakfast, class, study, lunch with friends, study run, shower, eat with friends, study, hang out with friends. I think I was good at balancing work with play, so I was getting in both and never too burnt out. I also always made sure I got 9 hours of sleep and a run in.”

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

Laura: “I cant remember the first time I heard the term STEM. I think I was motivated to enter the industry originally because I loved solving problems. I discovered my love of building things later on, I grew to realize how powerful this industry is.”

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

Laura: “When I created my Instagram account called @codergirl. I started to really talk about the fields and share how incredible it is to work in science & engineering.”

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

Laura: “As much as I love problem solving (I really do!), the ability to build things to help others is what has become most important and rewarding to my in the industry over time.”

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

Laura: “My teach in college. A company had come to recruit at my school. They asked a challenge question and said if anyone could get it right they would skip the first part of the interview process and pay to bring that person down. I got it right but kept on explaining how I was really underprepared for the job/kept on emphasizing that I was not going to graduate with a degree in comp sci. My professor pulled me aside and gave me a serious talk on how I should not underestimate myself. He was like stop telling people why you might not be good ha. He really pushed me to believe in myself. I got to work with similar people early in my industry who encouraged me when I felt like an outsider.”

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

Laura: “Working in bio tech or health tech building tech to improve peoples’ lives. I come across unconscious (and sometimes conscious) biases in my career of course- for example people think traits associated with my gender make my less effective as a leader etc. That can be frustrating.”

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?

Laura: “I totally think hobbies are important! I think passion is important. I do not think hobbies in STEM are important- I actually encourage people to explore passions outside the industry they work with. Then you can apply the 2 areas of expertise and especially with tech see how one improve the other.”

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?

Laura: “All. the. time. I felt like I did not belong in the beginning- I stayed because I was encouraged by others and also because I decided to believe in myself. I have missed writing. I decided to start a tech blog I have been curious about working in fashion, or just running away and owning a B&B by the water. I try to be patient with myself. A lot of those feelings tend to come from solvable problems I am facing. With time I can realize the problem and a working solution”


Women in STEM Impact

Q: What does STEM mean to you?

Laura: “Science Tech Engineering and Mathematics”

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?

Laura: “I believe that gender does not affect your ability to be an incredible technologist (when you take away all the societal/industry biases of course and give people of all genders equal opportunities and support). I also believe STEM flourishes with creativity and perspective. And I believe if we increase the pool of STEM candidates we are more likely to get innovators pushing the industries forward. Limiting the industry pool, and filtering out perspectives by gender means we are limiting our ability to innovate. And I strongly believe that statements like women do not belong in STEM lead to self fulling prophecies where you make people feel discouraged and insecure, in turn making them less likely to succeed. I encourage people to remember that correlation does not mean causation. Just because there are less women in the industry does not mean they are less inclined to it. It could, for example, instead mean that we live in a society with norms that make women feel less empowered to pursue careers in STEM. Trying to break down norms that make women feel less empowered to pursue careers in STEM and less successful in their careers is one of my passions- not just because I want to empower those women and give them fair opportunities but also because I think it will let STEM be more innovative.”

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?

Laura: “I use social media to challenge biases in STEM, and to inspire people to enter the industry. It is an incredible place to work and I want people to realize that!”

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?

Laura: “Yes! I found them on social media actually :).”

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

Laura: “Yes coworkers of mine who are incredible problem solvers, patient and creative. They inspire me to be a better technologist, to be more creative, to be more kind and giving.”

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

Laura: “Black Girls Who Code, Treehouse, 96boards :)”

Q: Can you name any women who have made a strong impact in the STEM community? How has their impact made an influenced your life?

Laura: “Fe Fe Li is such a hero”

Q: Are there any (YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc…) influencers out there who inspire you regularly? How/Why?

Laura: “Too many to say! @thecodeness @estefanniegg @bigdatagal @falkyou @programm.r”

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

Laura: “Equal pay, Bias training at companies, have clear ant-bias policies, listen, mentorship programs (for all genders!)”


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”?

Laura: “Creating my teeshirt company/blog. Or just about any product I’ve built!”

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

Laura: “Major in comp sci! Although then again maybe not because I love my journey.”

Laura:1) Definetely explore it! Take a course. Build something. Intern somwhere. Shadow. Find a mentor. Find a hero. 2). Talk to someone, a mentor or someone with experience to help you understand your concerns. 3) Talk to someone, a mentor or someone with experience to help you understand your concerns. “

What’s Next?!

Check out the Women in STEM page for all the other interviews and events you may have missed!