Kitt Vanderwater

2008 National Award Winner
Mountain View, California
Software Engineer

The program that NCWIT has built around their Aspirations in Computing award has provided me with years mentorship and support that ultimately have lead to my success throughout college. A few years ago, as a timid freshman, I nervously entered North Central College to find I was the first girl at my college to ever pursue a degree in computer science. Furthermore in my core classes, the ratio of men to women is approximately 20:1, a figure more biased towards men than the national average. However, statistics alone can’t describe the loneliness I felt everyday walking into classes dominated by boys. To make matters worse, freshman year, many of
 my male classmates didn’t take me seriously as a peer, and actively ostracized me from their groups. Had I had not had any support, I am certain that I would have dropped my Computer Science classes and opted for a more female friendly program.

Fortunately, I was able to muscle through that first year due to the great network of women in the Aspirations in Computing program. This program exists through multiple online portals, Facebook, email, etc. This allows mentors and other group members to send and broadcast notifications and updates to us young award winners. It was intensely gratifying to be in constant communication with people who had a deep understanding of the field that I was trying so hard to break into and could offer me advice on how to survive my testosterone filled classes. Through these conversations I built strong relationships and ultimately found the internship of my dreams at Google and today I work full time as a Software Engineer there. Without my NCWIT credentials and the relationships I’ve built there I would have never found this great internship opportunity, much less had the confidence to go for it.

All in all, I’ve really grown through the Aspirations in Computing program. My classmates and coworkers take me seriously, I’ve worked three amazing internships all across the United States, and am so amazingly in love with the major I chose. I know I could not have had such a fulfilling college career without the help and mentoring that NCWIT provides through this program. Because of my success, I think that it is essential to provide mentorship to women in these fields in order to build a society where women are comfortable choosing technical careers because they know programs like Aspirations in Computing will back them.