July 17, 2018

SaaSha Pina, Software Engineer

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

My name is SaaSha Pina; I’m a full-stack software engineer. I’m a second-generation American. My mother is from the beautiful island of Bermuda, and my father is from the beautiful West African island of Cabo Verde. I was born and raised in Boston, MA. I’ve always been a tough, determined cookie that tried to break the stereotypes that my appearance emits. I’m a mixed martial artist, a lover of Xtreme flipping and parkour, and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I enjoy anything that allows me to be free and express my creativity. I’m currently finishing my last weeks at a Full-Stack Software Engineering Academy; Lambda School and mostly do a lot of my work project to project with contract jobs working with a MERN technology stack (JavaScript, MongoDB, Express, React/Redux, Node) and Python/Django.

How and why did you get involved in tech?

When I started my college career, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I went to the University of Massachusetts Boston. All I knew was that I loved math, calculus, algorithms and was desperately obsessed with that feeling of triumph after cracking a tough problem. I also knew I hated English classes. So I went to college and majored in Mathematics in hopes to avoid as many English classes as physically possible. A couple of years of college went by, and that big question kept coming up “What do you want to do with your Career?” I still didn’t know. I got a college certificate in Entrepreneurship, and I knew I wanted to do something that was of my own.

I moved to Miami, FL on my own. I decided I needed a change. In search of learning new things, I took a HarvardX CS50 course online with edx. It introduced me to Computer Science and programming. And that was it. I was hooked. It was exciting, innovating. I solved the problems. And I had found an all-new way to express myself through technology. This was what I wanted to do. I switched my major to Computer Science, and I never looked back.
Shortly after I found myself enrolled in a rigorous full-time Software Engineering Boot Camp Academy at Lambda School. I had to make a lot of sacrifices financially and in my life to fit this Monday to Friday 11am-8pm boot camp in. But this is what I wanted.

I started building projects, applications, websites, mini-games. I became obsessed with learning new technologies. Often became overwhelmed by the soo many things to learn but I wanted and still want to learn them all. But that’s how it started. I soon found animation Javascript tools like Babylon.js and three.js, started playing with Photoshop/blender and also created some pretty awesome pure CSS imagery. Finding a new love in design and using technology to create and move images was like magic for me. I started finding more and more ways to express myself with technology and I still do every day. I would say its almost addicting.

I’m so thankful to have found the love I have for technology.

What is your experience being a POC in Tech?

Being a Person of Color in Tech is TRULY interesting. I grew up in the predominantly black urban city of Dorchester in the heart of Boston. I went to a high school and college that was a hub of diversity. After moving around, going to different colleges, I quickly learned the rest of the world (at least the U.S.) was not like this. In my tech classes 85% percent of the time, I was the only black/ person-of-color in the class. 90% of the time I was the only woman in the class. And 99% of the time I was the only black woman in the class. This continued to be the same in the tech world working on teams with actual projects.

I always worked in a group of all guys, I never minded it and made tons of awesome friends, but it always stayed a thought in the back of my head of whether or not I belonged here.

One thing that troubled me as a POC in Tech though was a lot of times, especially in the online tech world, I would be praised for being black and a woman in tech. I never felt like I did anything special to get this type of praise so at times I would feel my accomplishments and acknowledgments were reduced to my race and gender. I often struggled with distinguishing praises between “being a black woman in tech is extraordinary” and “I’m in tech, and my work is extraordinary because it is.”

I’m just a person in tech that likes to code.

What advice would you give to a young person who wanted to enter tech?

Don’t get intimidated by the word tech. Tech is for everyone. If you love it to do it. It is the most rewarding, continually improving career I can think of in my opinion. Tech is such a broad field, and you can do whatever you want with it. Grow in whatever way you want to grow with it and express yourself however you feel with it. Be creative, don’t believe in limits and conquer the world.

Where can we find you?

You can find me on Linkedin
On my website saashapina.com
Or on twitter @saashapina

Michael Berhane

Co-founder and CEO of peopleofcolorintech.com & pocitjobs.com. Also the co-host of the #Techish podcast! Full Stack JavaScript developer by trade.

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