“Would you be interested in being a panelist at the 2012 NCWIT Bay Area Aspirations in Computing Awards?”
Being a 2010 Aspirations winner, I was definitely interested. How could I forget NCWIT and the people there who had inspired me to pursue computing in high school? Remembering all my remarkable experiences that had happened the past year that had stemmed from winning the NCWIT Aspirations Award, I replied to this question by email with an enthusiastic YES!
A few days before the event on March 3rd at the Computer History Museum, I received another email containing the information regarding the event. My jaw dropped. It was not the questions I had to answer that shocked me, but the three other women that would be panelists with me, whom I would sit next to for a good number of minutes to speak of my computing undertakings. However, I knew everything I had done would be a microscopic speck of dust compared to the accomplishments of a computer science student at Cal Poly, a PhD student at UC Berkeley, and an engineering manager at Google. I gulped and spent every waking moment until the ceremony jotting down notes and practically memorizing my answers to every question.
The day of the ceremony came quickly. I was nervous, and I’m sure the other panelists could tell! However, the moment I sat in my leather chair on stage and looked down at the audience, I was instantly comforted by all the familiar faces. I saw my mother, who had always supported me in my computer science endeavors and who had bought my first computer, my Techbridge coordinators, who had sparked my desire to enter the field of STEM at a young age, and all the NCWIT representatives, who had always supported me and given me the opportunities of a lifetime. That was when the words flowed. I admired the other panelists and all the other women in the room and I did not feel inferior, but instead, felt inspired to be like them. They changed the world with their computer skills, perseverance, strength, and hard work. I spoke of my efforts of wanting to be just like them.
I spoke with the other panelists, and learned so much about their careers. I instantly connected with Diana Eykholt, the awe-inspiring CS student at Cal Poly. Surrounded by employees of Apple, Google and Anita Borg who knew technology like the back of their hands, was like standing in a crowd of A-list celebrities. I met new people from around the Bay Area, who were also interested in computers like me. I jumped at the opportunity to speak to these prominent people. After asking for and obtaining the autograph of the one and only Ruthe Farmer, I was on top of the world. Nothing was impossible.
Sipping my pink lemonade at the table after the panelist discussion, I had an epiphany. I watched as the award winners walked up to receive their prizes and their remarkable accomplishments were read out. These girls were from different cities, different schools, different cultures, and different family backgrounds. But we also had similarities. We were intelligent. We were strong. We were women in computing. That’s when I knew NCWIT had not given me my future; it was my future.
Carmen is a 2010 Bay Area Aspirations in Computing winner and an active participants in Techbridge, an NCWIT K-12 Alliance member.