You have to be true to who you are and you can’t change yourself for other people. I wear make up to work. That might be something that’s not super typical for women in the tech industry, but that’s an aspect of myself that I’m proud of and I wouldn’t want to change that for someone else.

Who is Faith Chikwekwe?

I spent the last 13 years or so living in the Atlanta area. That is where most of my family lives. I went to Georgia State University and studied Spanish and international business. After that I went into sales and worked as a sales team lead for a small company.

Educational Background

Studied Applied Computer Science at Make School

How did you choose to pursue this field?

I’ve always been very analytical and discovery oriented. I wanted to join a field where I would be pushed to always been learning and always be updating my knowledge. Tech fit that mold for me. It was also something that I could start doing at home to try it out and see if I liked it.

Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you to this field?

I would say that my mother inspired me to a certain extent. She studied computer science when she was younger. She did face some of the stigma of being different within the field and ultimately decided to go to healthcare instead. I think that motivated me a lot to try and be successful as an engineer.

Did you always have the desire to work in this field? If not, what was your intended field? Why did you change careers?

I was always more interested in working in field where I would be able to be more analytical and more on the side of discovery. For a long time, I wanted to go to medical school and I even took courses and studied for the MCAT to that end. I decided to give computer science a try by learning to code a little bit on my own in Python, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. I was able to learn somewhat, but was held back by the fact that I was still working full-time. I could see that I was very interested in this different field and I really wanted to give myself the chance to pursue it full-time.

What do you love most about your job?

Coding is like a puzzle! Everything that I do is a new discovery, at least at this point in my career. I always excited to come across the task that I haven’t done before, or to have a chance to revisit something I have done to make it better.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?

The transition from a career in sales to a career in technology has been amazing for me. I love new adventures and opportunities, and engineering so far has been a series of awesome discoveries. Going to Make School provided me with the opportunity to meet people and visit companies that I wouldn’t have had access to back where I was living before.

What things would you change about your job?

I’ll let you know when I start. I will be starting my first official software engineering role within the next few weeks. My team works on a querying tool that other engineers and tech professionals can use on databases. I hope to develop and optimize algorithms that make this querying tool function.

What has been the most difficult or disappointing aspect of your job?

In general with programming, there are times when writing the same type of code over and over again can be a little monotonous. I try to avoid that by using it as a chance to increase my efficiency and make the code that I’m writing better.

How have you combated the stigma of being a “woman of color” in STEM?

The biggest stigma of being a woman of color came from when I was doing research into going into computer science. When I reached out to the CS department at my old school, I always felt like I was kind of an outsider. I never found anyone who looked like me or would relate to my personal experiences. It made it very difficult for me to decide to go on a limb and change to CS. That’s why I’m glad I found a more nontraditional program that while still granting a Bachelor’s degree provides a place for different types of people to fit in.

What tips would you offer for anyone thinking about entering into your profession?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Programming is about writing something that is broken, doesn’t work or isn’t perfect, and then fixing it in order to make it better. You can’t be afraid to mess up, because it will happen all the time.

What advice would you give your younger self about your career journey as a “woman of color” working in a predominantly white, male-dominated field?

You have to be true to who you are and you can’t change yourself for other people. I wear make up to work. That might be something that’s not super typical for women in the tech industry, but that’s an aspect of myself that I’m proud of and I wouldn’t want to change that for someone else.

Can you provide some words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice?

Don’t think that because the majority of this field looks different from you that you won’t be able to be successful. The secret to success is just hard work. You have the ability to be a programmer as long as you continue to work hard and push yourself. If you love to code and you can work hard, then you’ll get there.

What is your favorite Quote? How do you apply this to your life?

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” This is true when it comes to programming as well. Most of the knowledge-based aspects are things that you can always look up. You won’t have to memorize that many things. Half of being a good programmer is being able to use online resources to look up ways to solve your problem. But the other half is being able to think outside the box and come up with interesting solutions. That’s where the imagination comes in.

What are your future goals related to your career?

I have also held a lot of leadership roles before and I would love to combine engineering with leadership. I see that as being an engineering manager or a CTO at a midsize start up at some point in the future.

How has your family influenced your journey and provide support?

My older sister works in cyber security and my mother studied computer science when she was younger. They have both shown me to a certain extent that I am capable of being successful in this field. And of course my entire family shows me love, and lets me know that they are proud of me.

Contact Faith Chikwekwe for any further questions:

Website: https://www.faithchikwekwe.dev/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FaithChikwekwe

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faithchikwekwe

Github (for my code): https://github.com/fchikwekwe

Medium (tech articles): https://medium.com/@faith.chikwekwe

We hope you enjoyed learning about our latest “STEMsation”, please comment about how her experiences have inspired you, how your experiences can inspire others and nominate our next “STEMsation to spotlight their amazing accomplishments.

 

 

 

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