My name is Carla and I’m a software engineer, at the moment I’m completing an internship and am looking for software engineering employment. I really want to work in healthcare but as a recent grad I’m open to any companies that will help me gain the experience that I want. In about 2-3 years I do want to go back to graduate school for my masters in Electrical Engineering, need to find a company that will help pay for it first haha.
Name: Carla Cisneros
Alma Mater: DePaul University
STEM Career Path: Software Engineering
KH: Who/What inspired you to become interested in software engineering?
CC: Honestly, myself, supportive friends, my uncle who came to this country from Belize to become an engineer, and last but not least my grandpa who was an engineer himself, he built a bridge in Belize that is still used in the town where my family is from. Before I went to college I wanted to major in computer science but I was discouraged from people that didn’t think I was smart enough to handle it. My first year I was an Interactive and Social Media major but I didn’t feel challenged enough and I wasn’t learning how to code as much as I would have liked. Being that UCLA is my dream school, I decided to take their two Intro to Computer Science classes during their summer courses and I 100% failed both courses but I loved what I was learning so much that I went back to DePaul and switched my major to Computer Science. The pace at DePaul was what I needed and I ended up doing well in my intro classes which gave me the reassurance that I needed. I am smart enough to be an engineer. I also want to thank all my male friends from my classes for supporting me especially Naoufal Bahloul, he has continuously encouraged me to not give up and I appreciate him so much for guiding me throughout our time at DePaul.
KH: If you could sit down and have a conversation with one woman in STEM who would it be and why?
CC: Katherine Johnson, man that woman is a G.O.A.T. No disrespect to her, I love her and that’s a compliment. She is such an important figure when it comes to first spaceflights and that has inspired me so much throughout my studies. Her birthday is also the day before mine and just makes me connect to her even more. I want to personally ask her what it was like to be surrounded by men, especially as a black woman. I also would love to just give her a hug and thank her for all she has done.
KH: What struggles have you faced as an Afro Latina woman in STEM thus far? How did you overcome those struggles?
CC: I think my biggest struggle has been trying to prove myself to men that I’m as smart as them. Especially Caucasian males... It does take me some more time to learn things but that does not make me less of an engineer. Something that I have to continually tell myself is that I really don’t have to prove myself to anyone but me. The only person anyone should compete with is themselves. Everyone should be uplifting each other and helping each other to succeed. Everyone also learns at a different pace and everyone has their struggles. The only person that I’ve had put me down is my advisor from DePaul. I’ll talk about how he made me feel my first meeting with him in the next question.
KH: Any advice on women that are discouraged to pursue software engineering?
CC: If you have a love for technology and are discouraged from pursuing software engineering or ANY other field in STEM, please please do not give up your dreams. I am so glad I didn’t. Even though I was in honors classes throughout middle school and high school I still struggled with math. I struggled in college too but I got through it. Your past does not define your future. My first meeting with my advisor he discouraged me so much from pursuing Computer Science. I told him why I struggled with my CS courses at UCLA and that I was really excited to continue my career at DePaul with Computer Science despite me failing my classes and he completely put me down. He didn’t believe in me at all. He told me if I can’t get an A or B in the intro classes then I shouldn’t be a computer science major. You know how discouraging it is for your white male advisor to tell you that? Very.
I left his office feeling so angry and mad at myself for not thinking my decision through more. He made me second guess myself so much because he as a Caucasian male did not believe in me; An Afro-latina woman that was able to get A's and B's in her intro classes. I proved him wrong, proved myself right, and I am BEYOND proud of myself. I know I’m going to come across more men trying to prove me wrong and I 100% will not let them intimidate me. You shouldn’t either. A woman engineer is just as smart as a male engineer. So, to all my fellow women, especially my fellow Black and Latina queens, continue your dreams no matter who tells you otherwise. To all the men out there pursuing STEM please support the women out there. It’s not a competition here, we’re trying to make the world a better place while doing something we love.
KH: What has been the most interesting part of your career?
CC: I think the most interesting part of my career is that there are endless possibilities with software engineering. We help the technology on the planet run and that truly is quite amazing to me. Artificial intelligence in itself is mind blowing to me and I think if we use it in the right way it could open so many doors for people. At the moment, I really want to find a way to help people in poverty. Invent some technologies to help the homeless like 3D printing houses or little tents that are mobile or invent some sort of small device to help prevent kidnappings and sex trafficking from continuing to happen.
KH: Best Advice You Have Ever Received?
CC: To not let others or anything discourage me from doing something I love. I’ve had so many struggles and obstacles appear within the last 3 years that I’ve developed depression and anxiety. They’re so hard to live with especially when your major is already hard enough for you. I have a great support system and I’m so thankful for everyone that has helped me throughout my journey. Instead of letting my mental illnesses define me I talked to my professors and let them know what was going on and they were so supportive and patient with me. If you’re in the same position as me and you’re attending college, please be open with your professors. They will help you and if they don’t, go to the dean.
KH: You Stated That There Is A Lack Of Women Of Color In Software Engineering, From Experience, How Do You Think We Can Shift The Dynamic?
CC: I think STEM Sunday’s is a perfect way to start, I want young women of color especially girls to see the amazing side of technology and how fun it can be to develop and create new technologies. My interest in technology came from MySpace so I think if we create a fun and entertaining app or website that concentrates on learning the concepts behind coding we would see a lot more girls pursuing software engineering. I think if we start to put ourselves out there on social media more young girls of color would have someone to look up to. They will have support systems from women of color guiding them which is something I wish I had. In the future, once I save some money doing what I love I want to start my own non-profit to help young girls interested in technology pursue their dreams.
Thank You Carla For Being A Great STEM Influence!
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