Episode 4 – Terri Burns

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Computer Science Student & Developer Evangelist
Venmo
Computer Science, New York University

 

What made you decide to work in tech?

I applied to a non-technical summer program at Google because I thought that Google seemed cool. I was very fortunate to have gotten accepted, and ended up seeing a talk by Megan Smith who talked about the power of engineering. I was really inspired and intrigued so I decided to give programming a shot. 

What was an obstacle you faced and how did you overcome that obstacle?

My biggest issue has always been feeling like I’ve started coding too late and that there’s no way I will ever catch up to my counterparts. This can be especially frustrating as a Black woman. I wouldn’t say that this is something I’ve overcome. I do know that it’s a feeling, not a fact. I work to remember that as often as possible. It’s getting better.

What is your experience being a POC in Tech?

I’m always The Only in the room. The only woman. The only person of color. The only person who’s not a gamer in their free time. Etc. Sometimes being The Only can lead to really isolating experiences. I’ve experienced every microaggression in the world. But sometimes, being The Only can lead to learning a lot about others, and providing an experience for others to learn more about you. And that can be really enlightening and empowering.

What was your perception about the tech industry before entering it? What is your perception now? 

I honestly had no idea. I didn’t know anything about programming, anything about startups, anything about building products. Now, I view the tech industry as a really exciting place with a lot of potential. Sadly, the [lack of] diversity of the tech industry is egregious and needs to become a much higher priority.

What are three tips you can give to high school/college students who want to enter tech? 

1. Build products outside of school.

2. Apply! Apply for internships, scholarships, conferences, hackathons. 

3. Stick to it. You might love it, you might hate it. You never know unless you give it a really fair shot.

Ruth Mesfun

Co-Founder and Blogger for POCiT. She is also piloting the first Computer Science curriculum as a teacher at Excellence Girls Middle Academy in Crown Heights. She was selected for the CS Educator Fellowship at the Flatiron School and is also a member of Teach For America-New York's Ambassadors Program.

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