The Central Texas Affiliate Award Ceremony from two distinct perspectives

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The venue for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Central Texas Affiliate Award Ceremony was UT Austin and it took place on Thursday, April 6th only a few days after I had committed to studying computer science at UT Austin! So, I was very excited to attend. Moreover, it took place at UT Austin’s new Gates Dell Complex which had its grand opening only a month early where Bill Gates and Michael Dell spoke in person!

The award ceremony’s audience and the award winners’ group was also small which I loved because it gave me a chance to get to know everyone easily. The evening started off with a delicious dinner and soon after that, we kicked off the ceremony with a screening of a documentary from She++, an organization for innovative women in technology founded by two Stanford female computer science students. I actually found out about She++ last year when I read an article about them in Forbes. When I learned that they had finished a documentary on females in computing, I immediately wished to see it however in order to watch it, I would have to either host a screening or attend a screening. As my high school’s engineering club president, I had the resources to host such a screening however there was limited time left in the school year and that little time was packed with other events. So when the She++ documentary appeared on the screen at the award ceremony, I was enthralled. The documentary was absolutely eye opening and inspiring.

Following the screening was an exciting talk from the keynote speaker, a technology manager at AT&T. Listening to her as she spoke about her experiences throughout her career so far in the computing industry increased my passion for computing even more. After this interesting talk, we proceeded with the actual awards. In addition to two awesome trophies (one for me, one for my school), the award winners received an NCWIT messenger bag with a lot of corporate swag inside such as bumper stickers from Facebook and sunglasses from Qualcomm!

The award ceremony then concluded but most remained for some time after to converse with each other. This was a perfect opportunity for me to meet some current UT Austin computer science students and ask them the many questions I had. Two of them also presented their compelling research on teaching computer science in high school.

In addition to networking with these future schoolmates, I reunited with three former friends from the computing industry; all of them are a part of the NCWIT community and attended the ceremony as former NCWIT award winners. I had met one at a UT Austin accepted students’ day and I knew the other two from attending First Bytes, a UT Austin summer computer science camp.

One of these First Bytes friends, Kylie Moden shares her experiences here:

I have now been able to attend the Central Texas NCWIT awards ceremony twice, once as Affiliate Award Winner in 2012, and again this year as a fellow female in tech and a National Runner-Up. The first time I attended, I was simply amazed. The speaker was a powerful businesswoman in the tech field who empowered us to achieve the extraordinary. The awards ceremony itself was quite impressive as each girl’s accomplishments were announced and I heard about people’s experience in everything from web development to creating robots that compete nationally. At the time I attended this ceremony, my biggest accomplishment was having built two iOS applications, but after hearing about all the different areas girls my age were pursuing, I was inspired to continue exploring new areas in computer science even further. Since then I have been able to work with Arduino and web development and will continue this drive to explore fostered by the NCWIT community.

My favorite part of the event, however, was interacting with the guests. Not only was I able to meet successful women in technology, they were asking me questions and giving me great advice. It was so inspiring to hear, especially from college students, about the successes they have made and the opportunities available to those pursuing computer science and other technical fields. This sort of interaction, however, did not stop after that incredible night. The Facebook page for NCWIT winners further connected me to a great group of girls that are willing to share experiences, opportunities, advice, and more. I have recently undergone a grueling college decision and the NCWIT community was there with different girls reaching out to me with knowledge about the prospective schools. I ultimately chose to accept my admittance at Trinity University in San Antonio where I will be able to start research as a freshman and pursue my varied interests in addition to compute science. Really and truly, the benefit of being an award winner does not stop after you get your beautiful glass trophy. There is so much more to be said for the community you gain as a result.

Attending the ceremony again this year has furthered this idea. I was able to talk to new NCWIT winners and encourage them to follow their various pursuits as well as catch up with fellow tech friends I had met already including Aneesha, whom I met at First Bytes camp and is co-author of this blog. It was so much fun reconnecting and being able to share the excitement with the awardees. Aneesha has already gone in depth about the specifics of the ceremony, although I must say having it in the brand new computer science complex was great, and I too was very excited about seeing the She++ documentary I had heard so much buzz about online. Really, at the end of the day, it is the celebration of all the accomplishments of the various winners that makes the ceremonies so impressive, and being a part of the winner’s circle is an amazingly rewarding experience.

Aspirations Community: 
Texas: Austin

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