Where Are They Now


Alexandra Marlette

Award: 2016 National Award for AiC Honorable Mention, 2016 Georgia Affiliate Award for AiC Winner
Computer Science
Georgia Tech
Atlanta, Georgia

AiC Community Member and TECHNOLOchica Alexandra Marlette uses mentoring to conquer imposter syndrome.

"Many awful things happened my junior year of high school that made me seriously question going into Computer Science (CS). Senior year, I quit all the technology clubs at my school and really tried to pull myself together looking for the confidence and passion I had held for programming. I rediscovered these things by teaching two groups of middle school girls (one group with NCWIT AspireIt and one with the Girl Scouts). When I felt lost and my passion waned, getting back to basics and teaching about what I loved helped ease the sting of my bad experience in technology and reinvigorate my want to pursue CS. I'm now a senior in college, and if I told you I didn't struggle still with imposter syndrome, I would be lying. However, being in college and bonding with the other women on my campus, mentoring other women in STEM, and being active in the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Community helped me find a supportive group and keep in contact with them. Knowing when to ask your support group for help is not a weakness, it’s a strength. I am still finding my niche in the technology field, and it’s OK if it takes a few tries to find your niche. Finding an environment where you are happy in a role that you enjoy is far more important then being in a certain role because of your degree. No journey is straight forward or on well paved paths, and if it appears that everyone else has it all figured out, they most likely don’t, and that’s OK. I have faced my fair share of discrimination, but supporting other women and having their support goes a long way in overcoming the hard parts. When you move up, take women with you; and, never feel to important to stop and teach someone. A mantra I hope to keep, and maybe a mantra for those still feeling lost in college, regardless of your major: YOU ARE TALENTED. NOT AN IMPOSTER."

Ananya Cleetus

Award: 2015 National Award for AiC Honorable Mention
Software Engineering
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, Illinois

As a high school student, 2015 National Award for AiC Honorable Mention Ananya Cleetus participated avidly in robotics competitions, presenting her invention of a prosthetic hand for leprosy victims at the 2014 World Maker Faire. These days, though, she’s exploring ways to use technology to foster inner well-being. After experiencing firsthand how high-stress environments and other factors can contribute to mental health challenges, Ananya developed the Anemone app, which walks users through self-care practices that support mental and emotional health. During a summer internship at Microsoft, she connected with a mentor who offered space to talk about mental health in the workplace and what it’s like to be a woman in the tech field. Now, Ananya is passionate about promoting a positive work-life balance, and she has learned to always trust her gut.

Caeley Looney

Award: 2014 National Award for AiC Honorable Mention, 2014 Central Florida Affiliate Award for AiC Honorable Mention
Satellite Mission Analyst
Harris Corporation
Central Florida

After she received a National Award for AiC Honorable Mention in 2014, Caeley went on to study Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and today, she works as a Mission Analyst for Harris Corporation, where she loves her role designing satellite missions and optimizing spacecraft subsystems. (Learn more about how Caeley discovered her path in this Wogrammer post.)

Even as her career was lifting off, Caeley had her eye on another goal: creating a print magazine for girls and young women who are interested in STEM fields. In her vision, the magazine was something like the fashion magazines she had enjoyed as a teen, but instead of featuring celebrities and style trends, it would focus on inspiring stories of women in STEM and articles about exciting technical innovations. To help her make this dream a reality, Caeley shared her idea with the AiC Community. Soon, she had a whole team of volunteers eager to help! Reinvented Magazine was launched online in 2018, and the first print edition is scheduled for release in August 2019.

Joy Buolamwini

Award: 2016 NCWIT Collegiate Award Winner
Researcher
MIT Media Lab
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Rhodes Scholar and Fulbright Fellow Joy Buolamwini has been very active in the movement to bring greater ethical oversight to the tech industry. Based at the MIT Media Lab, she describes herself as “a poet of code who uses art and research to illuminate the social implications of artificial intelligence.” Buolamwini founded the Algorithmic Justice League, which aims to raise awareness about the existence and impact of “coded bias.” She delivered a TEDx Talk called “How I’m Fighting Bias in AI Algorithms” that was featured on the TED Radio Hour. In 2019, Buolamwini was asked to testify before members of Congress in the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Hearing on Facial Recognition Technology.

Khalia Braswell

Award: 2008 National Award for AiC Winner
Founder
INTech Foundation
Charlotte, North Carolina

2008 National Award for AiC Winner Khalia Braswell was working on her master’s degree in Information Technology with a concentration in Human Computer Interaction when she got a job offer from Apple. She moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to California to pursue a career as a UX engineer working on enterprise applications, but she remained passionate about encouraging girls from her own hometown to get involved in computing.

In 2014, Khalia used a series of grants from NCWIT AspireIT to start a non-profit called the INTech Foundation, which offers coding camps and after school programs for 6th-12th grade girls in North and South Carolina. In particular, Khalia wanted to create opportunities for women and girls of color to explore their interest in tech. In 2018, she left her job at Apple to focus full time on running INTech and expand the organization’s programming. Khalia is currently a PhD student at Temple University studying Computer Science with a focus on Education.

Patricia Garcia

Mechanical Engineering
Florida International University Honors College
Miami, Florida

Patricia Garcia’s mom has been one of her biggest inspirations. As she watched her mother struggle with a health condition that eluded diagnosis, she developed an interest in medical technology. “The only logical answer for my [never-ending] questions,” she reflects, was “the application of engineering principles and design concepts.”

The summer before Patricia started college, she took a research position at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), where she worked on creating bio-engineered scaffolds to enhance the regeneration of damaged tissues and organs. She spent the summer of 2018 at MIT, working on a biomechanics project that consisted of engineering 3D skeletal muscle tissue. During the school year, she studies Mechanical Engineering at the Florida International University Honors College. In her spare time, she helps inspire Latinas to explore the tech field as a TECHNOLOchicas Ambassador.

Rebecca Kahn

Award: 2016 South Carolina Affiliate Award for AiC Winner, 2017 National Award for AiC Honorable Mention
Clemson University
Charleston, South Carolina

Since receiving two honors from NCWIT Aspirations in Computing (AiC), Rebecca has applied her computing skills towards her passion for medicine: for example, Rebecca has volunteered at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) hospital and has conducted a patient flow analysis with her fellow volunteers.

She also got the opportunity to interview her long-time role model, Apple CEO Tim Cook. The conversation they had was so inspiring that it led to the creation of Innovator to Innovator, a series of personal essays and stories of innovation, as told by AiC Community members by way of conversations with Apple executives. Read Rebecca’s contribution to the series at aspirations.org/Innovator-To-Innovator.

Victoria Chávez

Award: 2011 Illinois Affiliate Award for AiC Honorable Mention
Computer Science Faculty and Consultant
University of Rhode Island and CS4RI
Providence, Rhode Island

For Victoria Chávez, programming has always been a tool for helping others and addressing social problems. At her first hackathon, inspired by her family’s experiences, she created “SNAPy,” an app that could tell users which stores in their area would accept food stamps. After graduating from Brown University with a degree in Computer Science and Hispanic Studies, she decided she was more interested in finding solutions to the barriers that prevent low-income students from persisting in STEM fields than pursuing a Silicon Valley career. To support this goal, she enrolled in Brown’s Master’s program in Urban Education Policy and took a position as a researcher at CS4RI, an organization that works to ensure that all Rhode Island students have access to high-quality computing education.

Currently, Victoria teaches Web Design and Programming at the University of Rhode Island. As a TECHNOLOchicas Ambassador, she’s also committed to encouraging younger Latinas to explore computing. Her message to the next generation of coders is, “Follow your passions and use them to change the world.”

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