inspiration · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Victoria Chavez

“If technology doesn’t work for everyone, it doesn’t work.”

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a sophomore studying Computer Science and Applied Math at Brown. I was born and raised in the West Side of Chicago (shoutout to the Board of Education who recently made Computer Science a high school graduation requirement!) and went to Northside College Prep for high school, where I met the love of my life during freshman year (of course I’m talking about CS!). Fun fact: I may or may not be obsessed with squirrels 🐿(<– is a chipmunk)

What # would define your life journey?
#blessed: I sometimes use this hashtag ironically but I honestly have been so blessed throughout my entire life– I’ve had opportunities I could have never even dreamed of and the amount of support I’ve received has been beautifully overwhelming. (I don’t believe in luck because I like to think that everything happens for a reason.) A few years ago if you would’ve told me I’d be at a university studying computer science and helping as a teaching assistant I would’ve laughed and then started crying at the thought of how impossible that seemed. If you would’ve told me a few weeks ago that I’d be traveling to Switzerland to attend a hackathon and a summit I would’ve laughed and had the typical “when pigs fly” response. I’m so grateful to everyone who’s made my journey possible (and also pretty fun) along the way.

Favorite website / app:
App: I recently downloaded Sleep Cycle and I’m in love with the app! This app monitors your sleep (via sound, aka your breathing/movements) and allows you to see when you enter the different stages of sleep and how long you’re at each stage. It also allows you to set an alarm and it’ll go off within a 30 minute window when your sleep is the lightest so you wake up quickly and without feeling groggy. The functionality, I think, is very useful and it has also helped me try to improve my sleep habits because I can actually quantify the rest I’m getting.

Site (and app too!): Pandora. Music helps my world go round and in the Spotify vs Pandora war, Pandora has my heart. I’ve found so many artists through it and my stations have become so me that whenever I’m feeling down or need to recharge, music will pick me right up.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
There are so many people I look up to! First and foremost, Don Yanek— my mentor who’s been around since my start in tech (and who actually played a huge role in getting me into and keeping me in the field). His passion for CS education and his dedication to creating a more equitable field are what have inspired and motivated me to do a lot of the outreach I do now. Secondly, all the amazing women I’ve had the privilege of meeting and/or talking to. Their stories, passion, dedication, and drive inspire me to do more and remind me that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Thanks to NCWIT and Square’s Code Camp, I have an incredible support system of hundreds of incredible women that are changing the world every day.

Song that makes you want to dance:
Uma Thurman (Fall Out Boy)

Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
Coming into college and having taken computer science all throughout high school, I underestimated the amount of work I’d be doing. Furthermore, all throughout high school I learned about imperative programming and was fairly confident in my abilities but I took the introductory course that was taught in functional programming– which was a completely different beast. The class was very fast paced and I had to restructure my way of thinking about (and solving) problems, which was not only very difficult but also a huge blow to my confidence. Thanks to the support of my friends and the course staff, I was able get my own workflow and successfully complete the course.

Ideal Job:
I’m very passionate about CS education and firmly believe every student should have access to a quality technical education. Computer Science isn’t just about programming– it’s about problem solving and changing the world. It’s about creating tools that have a positive impact in people’s lives and not just those who normally have access to technology, but everyone. One of my favorite quotes is “If technology doesn’t work for everyone, it doesn’t work.” I think it’s very easy to overlook the fact that a lot of the technological advances we’re putting so much effort into don’t affect a large population of the world and this can be due to our own taking for granted of the technology around us. We need to teach problem solving skills to solve the problems of the world and not just to make our every-day tasks easier.

My ideal job would be somewhere within the intersectionality of teaching and creating. I would love to teach computer science to low income and underrepresented communities while at the same time working on creating tools that help increase access to technology worldwide.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Be life’s student. Achieve the impossible. Never stop learning. Every obstacle you face and overcome is only helping you get closer to your goal. If you’re presented with an obstacle it’s because you can and will overcome it but more importantly, you’re going to learn something valuable from your experience.

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