#WomeninSTEM · #WomeninTech · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Karen Kauffman

“We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.” – Marie Curie

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a second year undergraduate at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo studying computer science. I grew up in Mountain View, CA with my brother (who is also a Cal Poly alum!) and my parents. I had the fortune of interning at Adobe this past summer, which was an incredible experience. I suppose between my involvement in the software industry and love for bay area sports teams, it becomes pretty clear I’m a Silicon Valley product. A fun fact? When I was in 8th grade, I played football at lunch every day with all my male friends. I never let gender norms get in the way of my love for sports!

What # would define your life journey?
#BeYourself. I’ve never been overly concerned with trying to “fit in” with what “the crowd” is doing. I try to be true to my own interests and values, and that has allowed me to connect with people I genuinely relate to rather than attempting to keep up with an image that wouldn’t really be who I am. It’s a tough philosophy to stick to during certain years of adolescence, but I think having a sense of individualism has served me well.

Favorite website / app:
Probably Reddit, but Facebook is nice for more personal connections.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
My mom is my biggest inspiration. The knowledge she has imparted is far greater than anything I can list here, but I appreciate how extensively she has supported me in pursuing all my interests. Her ability to provide me with that unwavering support in all aspects of life while pursuing her own business interests is incredible, and there’s nothing better than knowing she will have my back through thick and thin.

Song that makes you want to dance:
Slave to the Rhythm by Michael Jackson.

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I can’t say I have entirely overcome it, but impostor syndrome continues to be a mental state I try to beat. Anytime I accomplish something, I tend to credit someone else or consider it good fortune rather than focusing on the hard work and preparation it took to reach that point. It seems that a lot of people, women in particular, fight impostor syndrome – I think sharing your experiences with people in a similar position helps combat the issue.

Ideal Job:
Data science is an emerging industry, and the cross disciplinary nature of it really appeals to me. It’s a little disturbing that everyone’s online activity is getting tracked extensively, but really interesting conclusions about human nature can be made from assessing such a massive pool of data. Up until now, most psychological “tests” come from self-reported feedback, which obviously can be highly flawed. Online behavior is a much more truthful way of uncovering people’s true personality and ideals, and I think the research in this realm can be pretty groundbreaking. The lack of privacy in this modern era is not something to be thrilled about, but the combination of computing, statistics, and psychology produces a powerful tool for producing fascinating insights about people. If analytics is still relevant 10 years from now, that’s where I hope to be.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Don’t be afraid to pursue something new and different. At the beginning of high school, I had the stereotypical impression of computer science and software development – that it was a field that was not intellectually stimulating, not particularly important in terms of initiating social change, etc. At the time, I was a highly competitive basketball player and thrived off the intensity and public nature of being in those games. My high school sports experience ended up being very poor and I ultimately needed to find a new interest. Through some key people and organizations, I got a lot more exposure to the world of computer science and realized it was so much more fascinating than I could’ve guessed. To change your identity in high school from an athlete to a coding nut seems almost unthinkable, but I’m still grateful every day that I made that transition as soon as possible. You never know how much you might like something if you don’t try it out.

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