News on the Radar: 2/24/22

Here is a brief round-up of information and news that crossed NCWIT’s radar recently and which we think will be of interest to you. The practices or content of the news gathered (while not endorsed or vetted by NCWIT) is meant to spark new conversations and ideas surrounding the current diversity statistics and trends in the tech workforce. We encourage you to add your two cents on this month’s topics in the comments below.

Did you know that Season 3 of Modern Figures Podcast is now airing?

Modern Figures Podcast uplifts the experiences of Black women in computing by featuring guests from a wide range of technical fields who share their stories and perspectives. Topics range from reflections on K-12 and higher education, to workplace challenges and successes, to innovation and entrepreneurship. Hosted by University of Florida Faculty Members Dr. Jeremy Waisome and Dr. Kyla McMullen, this podcast is presented by the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences (iAAMCS) in collaboration with NCWIT.

One of this season’s guests on the podcast is Dr. Wanda Eugene, who combines her expertise in computer science, industrial engineering, instructional technology, entrepreneurship, the arts, and African-American studies to make her impact on the world. In the episode “Wandavision,” she talks about her educational journey through several advanced degrees. She describes how a mentor in high school encouraged her to consider a STEM career, and how she felt a sense of belonging when she decided to major in engineering and met other students who shared her passions. One major theme in Dr. Eugene’s story is the importance of developing a network of friends who helped her overcome impostor syndrome and successfully navigate the expectations of her academic program.

In fact, it was the community she formed during her undergraduate years that helped Dr. Eugene co-launch a new initiative to address the lack of BIPOC representation in the technology startup space. She and her colleagues conducted research to understand what conditions fostered greater success and sustainability for entrepreneurs from under-resourced communities. What they learned led them to develop a “pre-incubator” program to support members of underrepresented groups in turning their innovative tech ideas into viable businesses.

Another technologist who is featured this season is Dr. Karina Liles, Chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department Claflin University and the creator of STEM Truck SC. In describing her educational journey, Dr. Liles reflects on the importance of exposing K-12 students to computing topics so that they can make informed career choices. As a good student with an interest in STEM, she was encouraged to become a doctor, and started college as a biology major. When she changed majors to computer science in her first semester, she recalls being startled that other students in her introductory class already knew how to code. She notes that students who had been introduced to computing in K-12 and had entered college already knowing they wanted to study computer science also had the benefit of a summer pre-college program for declared majors, which gave those students a further advantage.

After college, Dr. Liles took a job in the tech industry; however, she missed being directly involved with her community. She decided to return to the area where she grew up and work with schools as a consultant, helping them expand access to robotics and other computing programs for all students.

Listen to these powerful conversations, and explore more podcast episodes, here.

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