Finding My Passions Through Coding - Sonia Camacho

It was my mother who sat me down and encouraged me to an “intro to engineering” course rather than a pottery class. Although I was hesitant, this is where it all began for me. It’s as if she knew somehow that I would like technical and challenging courses. I am currently a third-year computer science systems student at Oregon State University. Prior to college I spent two years coding at my high school. Eventually I took all the other engineering courses offered, but realized that Computer Science (CS) was my favorite. I enrolled in computer science 1, computer science 2, and AP computer science courses. My most memorable days involved robotics competitions. Coding felt like a puzzle to me, and there were multiple ways to approach and solve problems. I loved all the math behind it and I loved having to use my critical thinking skills. I always felt a sense of pride when I was able to figure something out. Solving the hardest problems felt the most rewarding. Programming requires developing an idea and testing that idea to reach a particular desired function or solution. The goal is to program a process, debug, or troubleshoot through a problem. I was learning new languages, which I found interesting.

I decided on going to Oregon State University (OSU) because of their amazing engineering program and close proximity to home. Before coming to college, I did not know what to expect. What is a regular school day like? Is attendance mandatory like it was in high school? What do I do if I am struggling with a class? Do other students feel the way I do? I can’t be the only person feeling this way, right? I wasn’t sure how I could express my heart and mind. Because of this, I decided to start my own YouTube channel where I could showcase what it's like being a Women of color (WOC) in STEM. My goal is to support and encourage other WOC because diversity and representation are needed for new perspectives, progress, and innovation! There is a significant gap of WOC in the coding industry. For example, Latinas hold less than 3% of the programming jobs in the industry. Coding is an important skill that is beneficial now, but most definitely in the future, especially with the way the world is evolving with technology. Coding already exists everywhere and the projected growth is immense. New collaborations and industries are coming. Coding will provide new opportunities to mix passions, which means loving your career and everyday experiences as professional.

Through my YouTube channel I have been able to connect with women all over the country and have become a mentor for students at OSU. I am passionate about using my social media presence to encourage more underrepresented students to explore STEM. I try to promote student involvement and participation in extracurricular activities and leadership positions. Such involvement promotes growth and opportunities to network with other like-minded individuals who are passionate about contributing to the coding industry. I am an active member of the Association for Computing Machinery - Women’s chapter (ACM-W) which is a club on campus that holds bi-weekly meetings that consist of resume workshops, cookie decorating, and talking about interview tips. I feel that it is so important to encourage younger students to find campus clubs and student organizations where they can feel comfortable and know they are not alone. College can feel isolating, but having others that are going through similar struggles and victories can really help. Through networking I was able to attend the Grace Hopper Conference (GHC) which is the largest women’s computing conference in the world. As a result of GHC I was accepted to my first Software Engineer internship. My goal is to work in the tech side of the fashion and beauty industry. Although some people may question or laugh when I say this, I know that this is an achievable goal.

I keep in mind that computer science is behind all industries. For this reason, opportunities in this field are never-ending. We can dream big and work toward our passions. Think about where computers exist. They exist everywhere! Computer science is behind online shopping, and all communication methods that make machines work. Someone has to code, program and monitor transactions. I am personally looking forward to being a part of the fashion and beauty industry. It is integrating with technology more and more every day and I want to be a part of this transition! I want to document my journey to show other younger students that you can be a Latina in STEM ¡Somos Poderosas! I encourage more of us to share our stories to hopefully inspire another generation of coders.

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