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    Engineers of Color Lead Panel at Washington Middle School
    Posted on 12/08/2018
    Four engineers talk to students in the classroom

    Engineers of Color Lead Panel at Washington Middle School

    Four software engineers from the Seattle area visited June Park’s class at Washington Middle School to meet with students and share their stories and experience as professionals working in the technology industry. The students eagerly raised their hands to ask questions when the panel opened the floor for question and answer session.

    “How do you overcome barriers of being a person of color in your job?” asked a student to a panel of four engineers sitting in front of the classroom. Noah Addy, one of the engineers spoke up. He grew up in Ghana and wanted to pursue medicine before changing his major to study computer science.

    Addy recognized that being a person of color has its challenges in the technology field, but he encouraged students to think about their strengths and their unique capabilities. “Focus on what makes you stand out,” he said. “You’re unique. Make it about that.” He also encouraged students to work hard and to be kind to everyone they meet and to form their professional network. “You never know how you can be connected to a job through the person you meet.”

    Vanessa Naff, a developer at Glymse, a startup in Seattle talked about her experience as a Mexican-American woman emerging into her career and the importance of networking with others. “I met Noah one day, and we were catching up on our lives. He asked me if I had a job, and when I said I was looking, he picked up his phone and made some calls.”

    Naff discussed her childhood growing up in a home where technology wasn’t widely available. She went on to study mathematics in college but came to realize how interconnected mathematical concepts were to coding. As someone who enjoyed solving problems, she decided to use her mathematical background to solve problems through computer engineering. “I love my job now,” she said. She encouraged students to investigate engineering as a career if they want to help others through problem solving.

    “How do I get into that job?” asked another student. Ansel Santosa is a senior software engineer at Pioneer Square Labs and explained that students can begin dabbling in coding now. When Santosa was a child, he made a website for his father’s friend. That experience led him to his current career. He encouraged students to take advantage of the resources available to them through school and coding websites to learn the basics.

    Valerie Horvath, a community advocate who is currently pursuing studies at the Ada Developers Academy, spoke about her transition into the computer engineering field. Ada Developers Academy is an intensive software development training program for women and gender diverse people in Seattle. She graduated from University of Washington with a business degree but realized that the technology field offered competitive salaries and wanted to provide a better life for her family.

    Closing out the panel, Addy invited the students to reach out to him with questions. “Let me know. Come visit me and my office. Ask me questions, and I can help.”