#WomeninSTEM · #WomeninTech · inspiration · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Vicki Shan

“Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.” – Hillary Clinton

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I grew up in Plano, Texas, which is a very flat place with a lot of very smart kids. My first experience with Computer Science was in my senior year of high school. We were required to take one computer class to graduate and I had two choices- learn how to make powerpoints or learn computer science.

I chose computer science and absolutely loved it. It was such a fun blend of problem solving and creativity. It didn’t feel like some of my other classes, where everyone was taught the same steps to get to the same solution. What we were really learning was strategies and tools we could use to apply to any situation. After taking that class, I made the decision to major in Computer Science.

I graduated from UT Austin in 2014 with many experiences and a few internships under my belt. I currently work at Square as a software engineer on the Onboarding Experience team in San Francisco. Our goal is to build a seamless and easy onboarding experience for new Square merchants.

A fun fact about me: I’m learning how to hoop dance!

What # would define your life journey?

Happiness is the ultimate metric I guide my life by. I’ve found it’s surprisingly easy to compromise your own happiness while striving to be successful. Often it’s stress from taking on too many responsibilities or working hard at something that isn’t motivating or rewarding. It’s important to check in with yourself once in awhile and ask “Am I happy? If not, why?”

Favorite website / app:
depop for secondhand clothes. I’m challenging myself to avoid sweatshop labor!

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
My high school Computer Science teacher, Cynthia Gallatin, is an inspiration to me. Without her and her class, I would not have discovered this path. If you ask me, “what does a computer scientist look like?” She is still the first person that comes to mind. Having a female engineering role model was so important- I never thought that this was something I couldn’t do, or that it was something that was “just for boys”. She is an amazing teacher and truly made our class so much fun while giving us so much knowledge at the same time. I remember thinking she was supremely cool and smart, and I wanted to be that way too.

Song that makes you want to dance:
Fiona Coyne – Skylar Spence

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I started college in my school’s CS Honors program. We took honors level core CS classes together. On the first day of our first class (Data Structures and Algorithms), our professor started off by asking, “Raise your hand if you think you’ve been coding the longest!” He went through each raised hand, and responses of, “5 years!”, “7 years!”, “10 years!” were called out. I was horrified. I had only taken one class and had less than a year of experience. I was immediately consumed with self-doubt, and naturally all kinds of unhealthy thoughts surfaced in my brain. These thoughts (that still come up in the adult world all too often) include but are not limited to:

“I’m only here because of my gender.”

“I don’t deserve to be here.”

“I’m not good enough.”

I spent the rest of the semester in sheer terror. These classes were designed to be hard. A 70 test score could mean you were doing great or that you were barely hanging on. It wasn’t until the end of the semester that we got our official grades. My grades… were completely fine. I was actually doing well in comparison to the rest of the class. The massive weight of all that doubt was lifted. It was then that I really believed:

“I deserve to be here.”

“I am good enough.”

Over the years I’ve realized that I cannot rely on someone else to tell me that I am good enough, or that I deserve to be where I am. These are beliefs I have to internalize. When those bad thoughts do come up, they are often an indicator of my mental health, not of my ability. When that happens, it’s important to find the real source of the doubt. For me, it’s almost always that I am unhappy or I am stressed.

Ideal Job:
My goal is to keep improving as a software engineer for the next 10 years. I love what I do and I am happy as long as I am at a company that has a positive and impactful mission that I connect with.

After that, I want to teach.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
First and foremost, find yourself and find out what makes you happy. This is absolutely an incremental process. Encourage that discovery process- dedicate time to listen to your own thoughts and feelings. Recognize your strengths and your weaknesses and use that knowledge to navigate the challenges you encounter.

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