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How to be the Serena Williams of Whatever You Do


How to be the Serena Williams of Whatever You Do


Forget the fact that Ms. Williams fell just short of that Grand Slam title, let us remember that she's one B.A.B (I'll let you guess) and that we revere her...forever.

After her US Open win in 2013, I started to study Serena Williams. Y'all, she is so much more than a tennis player. She's successful, independent, influential, and real. If you want to be the Serena Williams of anything that you do, then you need to exhibit the following behaviors:

    • Dedication: Be dedicated to your craft. Become obsessed with it. Eat, sleep, and breathe whatever you love to do (or get paid to do). This is one of the well-known contributing factor's to Serena's success.
    • Be enterprising: See opportunities in everything. Capitalize on your talents. Diversify that portfolio. Did you know Serena is part-owner in the Miami Dolphins? Also,  she's a certified nail tech..
    • Be 100% you 100% of the time, even if that means not being "on" all the time. This is what I mean by that:

  • Blaze those trails: Serena wore a black lycra cat suit to the US Open. She's also earned more prize money than any other female tennis player ever. Fearlessly pursue your dreams and don't be afraid of being the first - you may be paving the way for others like you.
  • Be confident: Never question why you're "here". Just do what you can with what you have and enjoy the moment before it's gone.


I think she's well on her follow suit.



Re-Visiting Women in STEM: A Multi-Faceted Problem

(FYI: This is a 6-minute read) "If more women want to be a part of the computer industry today, they have to do more to put themselves there. Nobody is keeping them out." <- A troubling quote from a very successful video game designer, who also happens to be a woman.

In this post, I'd like to offer the college student's and friend's perspective on the "women in STEM" problem that we love to grapple with in detailed and comprehensive articles (that quite frankly are missing the point). This is not the perspective of the proud professor, the confused university administrator, the couldn't-be-farther-from-the-issue journalist, or the superhero venture capitalist.

My roommate here in Seattle is a 25 year-old woman who has just finished up her second year of undergraduate coursework at the University of South Carolina. She worked full-time upon graduation and decided to go back to school, looking for more from her career as librarian. Her high school GPA earned her the Carolina LIFE Scholarship and STEM enhancement, totaling $7500 each year. In-state tuition at USC is ~$11,128 (you do the math). Because Kayla kept up a 4.0 GPA as a computer engineering major, she received a $500 per-year scholarship from the College of Engineering and Computing. The annual student fee for her respective college is a whopping $400. Money (or lack thereof) is just one of the things that is keeping Kayla and many other women like her out of the computer industry today.

If one woman is able to pay for her schooling or has parents who are willing to do so, she has made it over just one hurdle as a woman in STEM. She's in the college, but now she has to stay there. In class, she feels pressured to raise her hand from time to time, and only asks her burning questions after much apprehension and deliberation. She feels as though she needs to know everything about everything, never miss a beat, do every extra credit assignment, and sit in the front of the class; she never misses class.

The halls of the Swearingen building, which house the College of Engineering and Computing at USC, have a certain pungent stench. That is of Mountain Dew and body odor...See, the CEC makes available to all of its students lounges and areas in which they can convene. More often than not, they are usually full of young brogrammers (yes, that's a real thing) playing or discussing video games amongst each other. Environments like this are often intimidating for the few women who do major in CS or CE, so they find themselves studying alone at the library or in the comforts of their own homes. From early on, they are left out of study and social groups, which often overlap. There's nothing written in these areas that forbids women from partaking in the fraternizing, but that's not to say there aren't unpsoken rules...

Your typical computer science/engineering student is a young man who was meant for this life. He grew up in a middle or upper middle class home; how else would he have access to a computer? High school wasn't too tough for him, and he wrote applications and video games in his spare time. He is awarded a full-ride scholarship to USC and is a student in the Honors College, which grants him access to honors-only courses and early registration. He maintains the 2.5 GPA necessary to keep his scholarship, thereby pocketing the "allowance" his parents would have otherwise used to fund his education. No need for any full-time or part-time employment, freeing up time to socialize-- let's be real, he's been coding since age 12; he's not spending his time poring over code libraries for his upper-level courses. He is buddy-buddy with his professors; they see younger versions of themselves in him.

Last year, 30% of the University of Washington's bachelor's degrees in computer science were awarded to women. UW also receives millions in monetary contributions from Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, a large recruiter of CS students in the area (so it only makes sense). Still, nationally, women are earning only 14.1% of computer science bachelor's degrees and 11.2% of computer engineering bachelor's degrees. <--Not being a Negative Nancy, rather, a Truthful Tati.

"But I heard we have more women majoring in computing fields than ever before!?" - while statements like this may be true, we are not awarding degrees to as many women in computing as we should. Understanding the backgrounds from which these women come may give you some insight into the underlying issue:

1) Late-In-The-Gamer: A student like Kayla who has decided to go to school for the first time, or a student who has decided to go back to school and begin Career 2.0. These students are passionate, interested, gritty, and willing to learn. They are usually paying their way through school while working a full-time job and are interested in getting the most from every learning experience presented to them.

2) The transfer: Many students, like myself, changed majors after being previously discouraged to go into the world of computing. Whether it was the thought of multiple calculus classes or being in a class with all boys, we were hesitating, but decided to pursue our dreams after realizing it was the right thing to do. We are eager to learn and all-in.

3) The organic: Much like the traditional computing student, the organic grew up knowing she was made for computing. She may be part of that boys' club, she may not be. Regardless, she may question her decision to go into this field because while it may be something she's naturally good at, she's not necessarily passionate about it. (nobody cagalyxinhg

*Women in computing majors are not limited to the above three personalities, although you may find yourself fitting into one of these categories. That is OK. The thing they have in common is their willingness and eagerness to learn while just surviving in an environment that isn't necessarily conducive to their success.

Am I done complaining yet? Yes. Do I have any solutions to offer? Of course.

1) Schools need to give more support to those who didn't start on the regular route, as many female computing students did not. 2) Institutions should reward the people who have shown passion and interest throughout their collegiate career. 3) Financial aid offices should reconsider awards for those who are performing well, not just those who have proven themselves before entering the degree program. 4) Schools and companies need to incentivize women in other ways besides salary; we know the money is there, but it's not always at the forefront for us. 5) Professors need to build curriculum that is based on service learning and team projects and collaboration. 6) Spaces where women can discuss their experiences (SWE, NCWIT, and women's computing organizations with university chapters) need to be visible and accessible.

There are quite a few approaches to getting women into computing and keeping them there. Creating safe spaces in and out of the classroom where they can reflect and share experiences is number one. Opening up these environments in a way that encourages questions and evolving ideas is crucial to the success of women in these fields. While we've partially overcome the hurdle of getting women into these fields, but we must, must, must do everything and anything we can to keep them there.

"The most damaging words in the English language are, "It's always been done that way."" - Grace Hopper


Moving to a New City - What You Need to Know


Moving to a New City - What You Need to Know


A lot of prep work was involved in my move to Seattle. I wanted to know what to wear, what to bring, where to eat, and how to act. I'm 2000 miles away from home for the summer, and I want to make the best of each day. It's been 3 weeks now and my transition to my temporary home is smooth as could be. Moving from the relatively small city that is Columbia (and momentarily Atlanta) to the major city that is Seattle was unavoidably overwhelming; I empathize with anyone who experiences that kind of move. Whether you're studying abroad, transferring schools, or living in a new city post-grad, these tips may come in handy for taking on your new city like a pro.  1. Say yes to everything! You'd be surprised where you end up when you just let go and say yes to spontaneity. Of course, I don't recommend doing anything that could get you into trouble ;-)

NewCityPost6 2. Talk to everyone you meet. This is including but not limited to: cashiers, servers, doormen, passers-by, and bartenders.

"There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met."

3. Yelp! is your best friend. My trick for going through Yelp! reviews is seeing which spots have the most reviews or pictures, but not necessarily the highest reviews.


4. Use Pinterest! Before you make the move (or the trip) and gather up some cool ideas of sights you want to see, restaurants you'd like to eat at, attractions, and things unique to the city.


5. Use a map! No paper map required, but help plan your day and avoid zig-zagging around town by seeing where things are.


6. Just go outside! Take a walk around the block and take in your surroundings.


And of course, I would be remiss not to include some resources for finding events and happenings in your new home :-)






It's become quite evident that my blog has been and always will be a giant compilation of nuggets of wisdom my mother has shared with me but I wouldn't listen to until now. She always instilled a sense of confidence in me, and I didn't appreciate it until I had a moment to myself today. My mom never set boundaries or limits for my goals and accomplishments and she never told me anything was impossible. She facilitated and accommodated and allowed me to pursue what I wished until I scraped my knee and admitted failure or succeeded. Side note: my father did all of the same things alongside my mother I just found it fitting to mention her because I'm about to talk about a women's conference (sorry, pops).

Confidence is key.

This past weekend I attended the Advancing the Careers of Technical Women - Seattle conference as a first-weekend-in-Seattle activity. I was blown away by the wealth of information, and from the perspective of an organizer, by the structure and smoothness of the day. The sessions served to sharpen our technical skills and help us advance our careers.


ACT-W is an annual conference that supports, empowers, and educates women in technology while creating a sense of belonging and community. 

I learned how to:

  • get out of my own way
  • find mentors
  • continue my own professional development
  • let go of my guilt
  • fake it until I make it
  • stop qualifying my ideas
  • have clear set goals
  • take risks
  • negotiate my salary
  • stand tall
  • pick a supportive partner
  • be persistent
  • admit to not knowing everything
  • tackle things I can't grasp
  • redefine
  • rebrand
  • relaunch
  • learn what works for me
  • lift up other women
  • embrace my own femininity
  • be myself
  • ask for help
  • shine my light on others
  • run data science experiments
  • unclog the STEM pipeline
  • change stereotypes
  • internalize my accomplishments
  • externalize my impostor
  • practice my power pose
  • take credit for my contributions

I can't do any of the above without confidence. And you can't do anything without it, either. But the amazing thing is with just a little bit of trust in yourself and your worth you can do everything on this list and more. Confidence is admitting that you don't know everything and you never will. It means not being ashamed to ask for help and understanding that you can't do it alone.

Last year, The Atlantic published an amazing piece, The Confidence Gap, that addressed our (women's) lack of self-assurance, where it comes from, and how it impacts our careers. It breaks my heart to hear about young women not going for positions because they don't feel fully qualified, or young women who miss out on opportunities because they don't feel like they're deserving. Confidence is the difference between filling out an application and submitting one. It's the difference between watching life happen or making it happen. It's the difference between $50k and $70k. I urge you to instill confidence in the young women around you and build yourselves up, because confidence can take you very, very, far.

Don't fill your head with worries, there won't be room for anything else.


A Not-So-Quick Recap


A Not-So-Quick Recap

As I grudgingly move into finals week and eventually on to my internship this summer (more excited for the latter), I can't help but think of one thing that has helped me get here: support. On April 25th I hosted an inaugural women's conference alongside a group of dedicated students; this conference is the first of its kind at our university.


#CHICKS2015 was a success and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Our conference was planned in under 2 months. We had 250 registrations in under a month. We procured over 20 amazing speakers. And now that it's all over we're looking to reach goals, break personal records, touch lives, and shatter glass ceilings. This conference wouldn't have been a success without the support of our sponsors, peers, mentors, advisors, professors, leaders, friends, parents, speakers, attendees, and university community surrounding  us. Our support network has helped us get to this point, and I couldn't be more thankful to cap off my university experience with such an amazing day.

"Strong women lift each other up"

In our time planning the conference, I learned a few things I'd like to share for anyone looking to shake things up:

  • Have people from all walks of (university) life on your team
  • Don't be too proud to beg for any favor - big or small
  • Admit when you're wrong and pick your battles wisely
    • Ask yourself: is this really going to help us get to where we want to be?
  • From time to time, catch up with your outside mentors who will keep you accountable
  • Remember: you can't do it alone.

From the conference, a beautiful support system was born. The women who attended this conference made friends and connections that will last forever. We enjoyed having them!

Tweets from the conference:         





Press from the conference (thank you for covering us):

Planning CHICKS was about two months of chaos: literally running across campus, 2AM meetings, phone calls to Timbuktu, budget re-writes, and brainstorms, but I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. My hope is that next year the conference is even bigger and better and keeps the integrity of professionalism. leadership. empowerment.

Keep up with CHICKS on Twitter @CHICKconference





My First Think Piece/The Last Women in STEM Headline


My First Think Piece/The Last Women in STEM Headline


This is my first blog post...ever. Bear with me. Enjoy. It’s November 3rd, the Eve of my favorite day of the year, Election Day. 20 year old wonks much like myself celebrate such a day because it gives us the supreme opportunity to decide which money and power hungry WASP will represent us in Congress. But that is much beside the point. Today, I have also come across such headlines as: ‘The Shortage of Women in STEM Explained’, ‘Empowering Women in STEM Field’, ‘Detroit STEM Conference May Open Doors for Women’, and’ Why Aren’t There More Women in Tech?’ among other nauseating titles I will let you google for yourself. The point I’m trying to make here is that if you want to help women in STEM you’ve got to listen to the women in STEM (like me). I’m not entirely sure my two cents is needed or wanted, but I’d like to put it out there anyway. I’m a 20-year old multiracial woman studying Information Technology at a large university and I have internship and work experience in a woman-owned startup, a non-profit, and a Fortune 500 corporation. I will let you know, and to no surprise, that working in the woman-owned startup was the most enriching of my diverse work experiences. If you would really like to help women succeed in STEM fields, you’ve got to do a few important things:

Knowing the Difference

On a MS Word pie graph, it may look as though your company is “diverse enough”. But this 1:1 men to women ratio means nothing if the women aren’t in management and do not feel included in the big decisions regarding the direction of the organization. Understand that you have to go above and beyond if you want to include every person in your organization, and that it will benefit you in the end if you do so.

Understand the Value Women Bring to the Field

From Ada Lovelace giving birth to computer programming to Lise Meitner articulating the concept of nuclear fission, women have been adding value to STEM if not revolutionizing them for over 100 years. Much like people of all genders, creeds, backgrounds, and cultures, women bring something much different to the table of men in blue suits. Today, women like Ursula Burns of Xerox and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! Are leading the way for women in STEM, and their mammoth organizations are realizing the benefits. Celebrate our differences! Yay!

Hire us because you want to, not because you have to

Forgive me, as it sounds like a commercial tagline, but it is the truth. After you have understood the value that women bring to STEM and you are ready to bring women on board, do just that. Always be genuine, and make us feel wanted and needed. There are times when I have felt out of place as the only female security intern at an organization, and that I was really only there because they needed to fill a quota. When you hire women because you want to, they will quickly find their niche in the organization and do better work. Those diversity groups your company has mean nothing if you just meet for coffee once every quarter.

Make us feel accountable, important, and responsible

This may be just a millennial thing, but I want to feel that what I am doing is meaningful. Do not get me wrong, it is normal that all professionals must do some things they do not want to do for the greater benefit of the organization, but we all need something more. Tack a great responsibility on women, make them feel that their input is make-or-break for the organization, and make them feel personably accountable. While an unhealthy amount of pressure placed on one person can be unfeasible, we must hand the reigns over to women as decision makers. When women are given this great obligation, there is more buy-in and that ultimate sense of belonging.

This piece is for business student who is missing something from his “world-changing” startup (gee, I wonder). This piece if for the middle-aged middle-manager. I will not simply beg and plead for change, but I will fight for it. This is no complaint or manifesto, but simply my two-cents. As an aspiring technology professional, I hate to see young women scared off by The Sacred Brotherhood of STEM. What is de jure in universities, startups, and corporations alike is not always what we see. If thought-leaders in STEM can really drill this attitude into their listeners, we won’t have to see another headline about women in STEM for quite some time. *Sigh of relief*