ACM-W NA Profiles: Erica Smith

Erica Smith is a student from Richmond, Virginia. She is a rising Sophomore at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science. She is the ACM-W president for the NCAT chapter the 2020-2021 school year and a 2020 Google STEP intern.

How did you come to computing? What was the “spark” that made you know you wanted to be involved in computing?

I was first exposed to computing through Hour of Code in the eighth grade. This inspired me to sign up for an HTML/CSS course for the following school year. I remember, on the first day of class, we had an in-depth discussion about what a computer was and how they work. I found this conversation enthralling and I knew that I wanted to learn as much as possible about this field.

What is the biggest obstacle you face right now? 

The biggest obstacle I face right now, is the current pandemic. Like many other people, I had to leave college early to come home, and since then, I haven’t been out much.

Doing school and work at home has been a constant battle of maintaining motivation and staying positive. I like to keep my spaces very separate, at school for learning, workplace for working, and home for relaxing. Now that they’ve been blurred, shifting headspaces for tasks has been difficult.

To maintain positivity, I just try to see the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing, that one day, things will get back to normal. 

What things is your university or is your ACM-W chapter doing to address COVID-19 and keep interaction going? 

Like most colleges, my school shut down their campus in March and sent everyone home. Since then, they’ve been regulating communicating to students about developments within the state and likeliness of campus opening for the upcoming fall semester.

Our ACM and ACM-W chapter has been keeping in contact with members of our organization through Slack, giving regular updates and sharing remote opportunities for this summer.

What are you most excited about right now in what you are doing or in computing?

Right now, I’m most excited about my internship at Google. I just started May 18th and I’ve already learned so much. It’s not the experience I thought I would be getting because of COVID-19. I’m making the most of the situation and I know I’m in for a very informative and compelling summer.

What’s something you learned that you’d like to pass along?

Always ask questions.

When it comes to school, jobs, and regular life, there will always be someone around that is willing to help and answer any question you may have.

There is no such thing as a stupid question. I had to learn this in quite a frustrating way. This past fall semester, I was stuck trying implementing a feature of a major programming project for three hours. I decided that I would go ask my teacher about it the next day. After asking my question, I was able to wrap up the entire project in about an hour. Since then, I have asked my teachers, mentors, or peers whenever I get stuck so I never have to repeat that experience.

What advice would you give to a young student in computing to be successful? 

Never doubt yourself and your abilities.

I’ve done plenty of that myself and it harms more than it helps. If computing is truly a field you’re interested in, pursue it. Never think that you don’t belong in this field, because you do.