#WomeninSTEM · #WomeninTech · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Gabrielle Gasser

“I know my worth. I embrace my power. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story, I will.” -Amy Schumer

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a senior at the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk!) studying Computer Science. Before undergrad, I had never touched programming before. I actually had no idea my school offered CS courses, I was enveloped in the world of Constitutional Law competitions, Newspaper, Theatre, and varsity bowling. But when I took my first CS class in college I fell in love with the process of programming. The concept of breaking a problem down to its most simple aspect to build it back up into a program. I also fell in love with the freedom CS offered. I could work anywhere in the world, and almost every industry I could think of needed a programmer.

And taking that philosophy to heart, I’ve tried to vary my experiences in CS. My first internship was working at Garmin in their Automotive OEM section, programming and designing a feature for the 2017 Mercedes S class in car GPS. I’m still waiting for my Mercedes to show up on my driveway that has my code in it. I’ll keep you posted. This past summer I had the immense opportunity to work in Tel Aviv and explore the startup and tech community in Israel. I was able to experience working for a tech company in Tel Aviv, visit different start ups, talk to Venture Capitalists, and visit large tech firms within Israel. Going from working for a large company in the states to an office with about 7 other people on the other side of the world was just awesome. It really gave me a clearer image of what I want to see out of my future in CS. Finally, this past October, I attended my very first Grace Hopper. To be honest, this has to be the pinnacle of my time in CS. To be able to see so many women excited about tech made me excited to graduate and get out there and get going.

Where I’ve really found my passion in CS though is the intersection of design and engineering. Taking my technical background to innovate and design products for people is what I have fallen in love with. Creating products to make people’s lives better, easier, and more enjoyable is what I want to do. I realized this when I got to work with the Center for Design Research at KU and design, develop, and pitch products to various industry professionals. The first time through I got to design a game called Vim (NOT the text editor) for Sphero and pitch the idea to their CEO and two founders. The second time through, I designed a personalized safety device for women and children in refugee camps through the help of Intel and Sprint and ended up pitching that idea to the Head of Innovation at Sprint and the head of Education for the North Americas at Intel. All in all, some of the coolest work I’ve done at school.

Aside from school and work, I have a very healthy obsession with comedy, makeup, books, and food. If it’s a stand up special on Netflix, I’ve probably seen it. At least 5 times. And I’ve already accomplished one of my life goals to see Amy Schumer live! Now like 30 more comedians, a taping of SNL, a Late Show taping, a Second City show, and can you tell I am a bonafide comedy geek yet? But when I’m not planning my debut as the next big stand up comic, I’m probably making food or eating it. Cooking has become my way to destress from the seemingly never ending mountain of work that is engineering school. My proudest moment was making a juicy, butterfried turkey for Friendsgiving with a homemade turkey stock gravy. It may have actually been better than graduating from high school. The verdict is still out.

A fun fact about me is that I do special effects makeup in my free time and can rap the entirety of “Gold Digger” by Kanye West.
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What # would define your life journey?

Favorite website / app:
nbc.com/saturday-night-live, every. skit. ever. I’ve spent entire evenings dedicated to this deep pit of comedic gold.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
So corny, but my dad inspires me. He’s an entrepreneur, amateur photographer, and always seems to have an opinion when I need it, even when I don’t ask for it. He’s always been there to push me to be the best version of myself I can be and he has never been afraid to follow his passions. Whether I need a good laugh, some advice, or a new way to look at something, he’s always there.

Song that makes you want to dance:
“Stolen Dance” by Milky Chance
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Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
My biggest technical/life challenge has been making room for myself at the metaphoric table that is software engineering. Coming into university, I had barely programmed before. Barely meaning I used WordPress to manage my school’s news website as the web editor in chief.

Coming into computer science with little to no experience, I swore everyone around me had years of experience and were essentially the coalescence of Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg with a dash of Silicon Valley for good measure where I was the sorority girl pretending. My biggest challenge has truly been learning to overcome my imposter syndrome and recognize, “hey, I belong here, this is my space too.”

I had this fear that someone would push me out and realize I don’t know as much as everyone else. All though my first internship, I felt as though I was one day from getting fired because man, I don’t know half the things these people who have been in the industry for years know. After 2 semesters in CS, I was terrified they would find out how ignorant I was about Algorithms and Data Structures (a class taken at the junior/senior level). In class, I was concerned my professors would know I don’t sit at a computer all day after class creating the next Google-Facebook-Twitter-Yelp. Instead, I was gaining leadership skills in my sorority and trying to “catch up” on the knowledge between my peers and myself.

Realizing I wasn’t as behind as I thought, and getting feedback from my internship and going to Grace Hopper have all helped me become more confident in my place here. I belong and I want to belong and I don’t have to sacrifice who I am to belong. Realizing I can be true to myself and also be a kick butt female programmer has been a long road including a few more existential crises than I like to admit but, I am here. And I’m ready to rock the world.
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Ideal Job:
Well, since my passport expires in 10 years, I really expect every page to be filled with stamps. First off. Second, I want to be in a job I feel passionate about. I’m not sure what that is jus yet, but whatever that job entails, I want to feel joy as I get up every morning to go there. Each day should be a new adventure and even the bad days aren’t awful because I love what I do.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Do what you love and don’t be afraid to take risks. The best opportunity of your life could be waiting for you on the other side. And even if it isn’t be glad for the experience it gave you because failure is just as important as success. You really cannot succeed without having first failed because it wouldn’t be as great.

Also, never take life too seriously. It’s absurd and ridiculous and needs to be laughed at.
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