“What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over…The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious… We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.” -Marina Keegan
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
Hi! My name is Constantina, but you can call me Connie for short. I graduated from Rutgers University in May 2017 with a double major in computer science and theater arts. Many people are surprised that I decided to double major in two very different fields, but I can go on for hours on how similar theater and computer science are and how they actually complement each other. During my time at Rutgers, I was the marketing director for HackHERS 2017 and co-marketing director for HackRU XI and XII. I also served on the executive boards for Rutgers Women in Computer Science and Cabaret Theatre, one of the theater companies on campus. During college, I interned at Viacom as a web development intern, and at iCIMS as a test engineering intern. Now I work full time as a software engineer at Cisco.
My fun fact is that I just started taking aerial dancing classes about two months ago, and that has been a lot of fun!
What # would define your life journey?
Favorite website / app:
Right now I’m really loving Duolingo. I’ve been trying to teach myself French and Korean, and the exercises that the app makes you do really helps with retaining stuff.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
Wow–there are so many people I met at Rutgers that inspire me, I really don’t know where to begin. They all inspire me with the way they live their lives and pursue their respective passions. In their own respective ways, they have all showed me how to live life with less fear and to embrace who I am.
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
For most of my life, I viewed the world through a fixed mindset. If I didn’t understand something on the spot, or if I tried something and didn’t get it in the first shot, I wasn’t meant for it. If I wasn’t getting A’s in a class, then I wasn’t meant for that field of study. When I took Introduction to Computer Science during my sophomore year of college, I not only really enjoyed the class, but I also did really well. In my mind, I thought I finally found the thing I was meant to do.
Then the classes got harder, and soon I found myself putting in hours of work and study in the hopes I could get a C and pass. I ended up failing a few classes along the way, which left me in a really bad place mentally and emotionally. One semester, I came back home for vacation and my parents sat me down after learning that I got another C in my CS class. They told me that because I wasn’t even getting B’s, this field was just not for me and that I will not make it if I stayed in this major and didn’t get good grades. Part of me believed that, but another part of me couldn’t accept that because my grades didn’t reflect how much I enjoyed learning about computer science. I loved programming! I loved how it satisfied this creative need I had within. It was hard to reconcile enjoying the material yet now doing well in the classes.
Shortly after that, HackHERS started at Rutgers, and I decided to go. There, a friend and I ended up building a silly website where you got to play as Left Shark in Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance. When we demoed the project, the audience started to burst out in laughter. They all thought it was really cute and funny, and we ended up winning “Funniest Hack.” But there was just something about seeing the audience react to our project like that that really made me happy. Fast forward a few months, the same friend and I went to HackRU XIII and we built a Pebble app that helped people going through anxiety attacks. A lot of people really liked our hack, and we did actually win “Best Wearable App” and got Pebble Classic watches as our prize. When I came back to my apartment that day, I told my roommate (who knew about my struggles in CS) what happened and that we won smartwatches. She told me how proud she was of me and that every time I feel like I was not meant for computer science, I need to look at my Pebble and remember not just winning the category, but the joy that came from just building the app and the feeling of accomplishment of bringing the app to life. She explained that the Pebble was evidence that I belonged in computer science, even if I wasn’t getting A’s and B’s in the classroom.
My ideal job would allow me to make/build things, whether it is through code or any other medium. I want to work with a group of people who care about one another in addition to caring about the product and process and recognize that there is constant learning everyday. I know it is a pretty vague and generic description, but these three things are very important to me when I think about my job and career. I am at my happiest when I am making something with my hands, when I am among good company with good energy, and when I am always learning something new.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Don’t ever make a decision based on a “you can’t” statement if you have never tried whatever it is you say “you can’t” do. When you do that, you are denying yourself the chance to explore something that might be a new passion or calling. If you try something and decide that you don’t like it and you want nothing to do with it, that is a completely different story. But you are doing a huge disservice to yourself if you don’t try.