ACM-W NA Profiles: Laura Jiang
Lauren Jiang is a student at Oregon State university.
How did you come to computing? What was the “spark” that got you interested?
Honestly, I chose computer science as a major on a whim when it came time to finally decide on my major prior to first-time class registration. I was really nervous and honestly, I didn’t think that I would stick with it. Over the course of my first year, however, I grew to love how challenging the field was and I was enthralled with how much there was to learn. It was exciting to start building things that I could start using and sharing with other people; although most of my work is not the most glamorous code, I’ve had amazing opportunities to learn about best practices and industry-level expectations through internships. I also definitely would not be here without the amazing support of the first computer science professor (Dr. Jennifer Parham-Mocello) and the wonderful TAs that she hired to support students’ learning!
What’s your biggest obstacle right now?
Hmm… This is a tough question. I don’t know if there is one single obstacle that I can name right now – I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason so I try to take most things in stride. I would say that my biggest obstacle right now is myself! I’ve held a lot of doubts against myself which I think has prevented me from performing as well as I know I’m able to. I’m working on taking more risks, being less afraid, and battling my imposter syndrome!
You were the program manager for GHC scholarships and led workshops to prepare students for the conference. Why is Grace Hopper useful for students?
I’ll preface my answer by saying that conference experience in general is something that many students don’t have the opportunity to experience, so definitely jump at any opportunity to attend if it is within your means to do so!
I think the Grace Hopper Conference is in a unique position as the largest conference supporting women in technology. I’m sure that many women (like myself!) have grown up thinking or being told that technology isn’t a field for them or find that their campus has poor gender diversity in engineering.
The immense amount of women or allies supporting women in technology is truly overwhelming in the best way possible; it helps remind me that I’m truly not alone and that there are tons of thousands of other people out there who are also working to empower women in this field. There are tons of speakers, companies, and presentations and the conference aspect of Grace Hopper is also a great way to make connections in the field and educate yourself.
This summer you were an intern at Microsoft, CDK Global before that, and now you’re interning with JusticeText. Why are internships important?
A: Internships are a great way to learn about what you’re interested in and in general, gaining more experience. You’ll often hear that the skills that make a great engineer or industry professional are different from the skills that make you a great student, and I think that’s absolutely true. Some people will find that industry is not for them and want to go into academia and vice versa, but you’ll never know without some hands-on experience either way. Through my internships, I’ve also been able to garner valuable career advice, mentors, and connections that I know I can reach out to in the future. All of my experiences have challenged me to work harder and learn a lot which have been amazing add-ons to my educational experience.
What do you want to do with your career?
I want to help people feel that anything they want to do is possible. Although that’s a bit of a broad statement, I know that technology is such a huge platform to help empower people and their goals. With a focus on product management and customer empathy, I want my career to move into positions that grant me high customer interaction and build technology that makes our customers lives easier. I don’t know if I have any target or dream companies at the moment, although of course there are a few incredible companies whose products I use daily and have developed an immense appreciation for!
What’s something you learned that you’d like to pass along?
Rejection and failure are not bad things and it’s so important that everyone knows that. I’ve experienced tons and tons of rejection and also failed many times too – each of those rejections and failures is just an opportunity for you to learn from or just simply move on. Some rejections are by matter of circumstance (you applied to a job too late) or skill (your skills don’t quite match what they’re looking for, your online assessment didn’t score too highly) but either way, you can always just re-apply in the future and build up your own skill set in the meantime.
Nothing is ever a closed door unless you want it to be. Be confident and authentic – that’s the best thing about you and the key distinguisher of you from every other candidate out there!