inspiration · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Shai Wilson

“Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.” ― Hayao Miyazaki

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I majored in art history and minored in computer science and design at the University of San Francisco. I took a year off to research tech and the arts in Dakar, Senegal and then to work as a web developer for an art gallery in France. Computer Science wasn’t something I discovered until halfway through undergrad. There was a lot of uncertainty around whether or not I could start an engineering career after following a path toward design for so long; but, after my first class in computer science I realised I could do this.

FACT: I need to own a shiba inu and name her Rumi. (If you’re reading this and you love/have a shiba inu, let’s be friends)

What # would define your life journey?

I recently completed a 3 month software engineering fellowship with 35 other women at an all women’s engineering bootcamp called Hackbright Academy. For the majority of the program, we built our own apps and used the experience to grow together as entry level software engineers. There are certainties of the program: you will become a part of a strong, and accomplished network of alumnae thriving in the industry. You will learn skills that you will rely on everyday, and, you will be busy – really busy. The unexpected outcome is that something will take hold of you and you will devote yourself entirely and be perfectly happy to do it.
Favorite website / app:

Photoshop and are both excellent.
mobile apps: Sleep Cycle and Calm

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
In Senegal, I met a group of women who would pool their extra earnings together at the end of each month and each person would share her idea of how they could spend the money. Sometimes, the idea would benefit the entire group and other times it would fill a need for an individual person. Each month, they would vote and invest their earnings together in that one idea.

These women had to fight for what they wanted, taking care of others but also of themselves. They were caring, generous, and understanding. I was in awe of them, they were truly dignified.

Song that makes you want to dance:

Controlla – Drake ft. Popcaan

Working For It – Zhu (!!!)

Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
It was challenging to start my first internship using Ruby last summer. It was also my first time working with an extensive code base, and I spent a lot of time reading source code because I felt like I had to know a majority of the source code to survive. My mentors taught me that there are certain things you learn as you go, and to be better organised and more methodical when choosing the pieces of the code base I decide to teach myself. I was taught that you work out most of your insecurities about contributing to a large code base by overcoming the initial challenge to try and consume it all.

Ideal Job:
I would be a happy person if I did something everyday that I couldn’t wait to get up and work on. I hope my work can be useful for people and if someone somewhere just like me is having an easier time managing their day because of something I created then that’s all I wish to accomplish. I’m also toying with the idea of working remotely since I find myself extremely inspired by learning about other cultures.

Aside from necessities, what could you not go a day without?
Tropical hi-chews (mango, banana, strawberry)
St.Ives facial cleanser

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Even today, at 22, I have to remind myself how young I am but that it is time to start pursuing everything I hope to accomplish for myself. When I took a year off, I realised that I can have the agency to go slow or fast in my career while I do the things that make me a stronger, better person. It’s hard wanting to do so many different things at a time but is super important to me that I have time to work on experimenting with things that I’ve always imagined myself doing.

Not until this last year have I actually accepted, validated and acknowledged myself as an software engineer. My reasoning for this is that it was really challenging to get my footing and feel less self-conscious about my mistakes. The thing that has made me a stronger programmer is knowing that only you can determine what you want for yourself. I would say it is not so much about having the perfect job at the perfect company because that will eventually fall into place, but doing things like submitting to open source projects, writing programs for yourself, or starting a company with your friends will always be compelling. If it is a way to make you grow, do it. There’s no way to know in advance all that you will find useful to your work. Some things that you will learn are utterly useless, but they’re in your head and every once in a while you need one of them.

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