Inspiring the Next Generation of Females in Computer Science
- Major: Computer Science
- Class Of: 2014
“ “As a female in a male-dominated industry, it's easy to feel like an outsider, Most of the time, it's not a problem. When it is, I tell myself that I have two choices - I can be upset that I have to work twice as hard just to prove myself, or I can work twice as hard and move forward in the hopes that the people who follow in my footsteps will have an easier time.” ”
After Nicolette Yadegar received a computer science degree from Cal Poly Pomona in 2014, she knew her journey was just beginning. She was one of a small group of women who majored in computer science, and she wanted to see that number grow.
“As a female in a male-dominated industry, it’s easy to feel like an outsider,” comments Yadegar. “Most of the time, it’s not a problem. When it is, I tell myself that I have two choices – I can be upset that I have to work twice as hard just to prove myself, or I can work twice as hard and move forward in the hopes that the people who follow in my footsteps will have an easier time.”
A Software Engineer at Microsoft, Yadegar hopes her strong work ethic creates an easier path for other females wanting to pursue computer science. Yadegar appreciates companies, like Microsoft, who work to address unconscious bias in the industry.
Yadegar believes the winning formula of successful individuals she has worked with are their ability to be resilient and patient, combined with a desire to see others succeed. She has modeled her career after these key attributes and Microsoft has taken notice.
“At Microsoft I am on the rapid prototyping team working with the latest Microsoft technology to develop IoT (which stands for ‘Internet of Things’) projects that enhance employee productivity,” adds Yadegar.
“I’m currently working with embedded systems, sensors, and Azure Machine Learning,” says Yadegar. “My main focus is on designing and building resilient, extensible, fault tolerant services.”
What advice does she have for anybody wanting to pursue a career in the high-tech industry?
“I think everyone who decides to pursue this career should be ready and willing to be a lifelong learner,” says Yadegar. “It is an incredibly fast-paced industry, with standards and practices changing every few years.”
Yadegar credits the ever-changing environment of her job as an exciting aspect for her, and this helps her prevent career stagnation. She appreciates that she is consistently learning something new and building on what she knows.
She credits Cal Poly Pomona, for laying the successful foundation for her career. The necessary skills and theory she learned as a computer science student prepared her when she joined the workforce.
“I was very lucky that during my time at Cal Poly Pomona I always felt I had the support, friendship, and respect of my classmates and everyone in the computer science community and department,” adds Yadegar. “The support and advice of advisers, professors, and Dr. Robert Kerbs, (Interim Associate Dean of the College of Science and former Computer Science Chair) gave me the confidence that I belonged; I carried that with me into my career.”
During her time at Cal Poly Pomona, Yadegar was the first female president of one the largest student clubs in the College of Science, the Computer Science Society (CSS).
“Yadegar not only had the skills to be an exceptional software engineer, she had the rare combination of leadership and community building skills,” adds Dr. Kerbs. “Her guidance opened up doors to more females not only becoming computer science majors, but taking on more leadership roles in the major.”
Yadegar also appreciated what she learned beyond the classroom. She was humbled and inspired by the everyday interaction she had with an intelligent, thoughtful group of people who worked together to help one another learn and grow. This made her college experience, and the value of her education at Cal Poly Pomona immeasurable.
“I have never heard of a student body, especially that of a computer science department, that is so diverse,” adds Yadegar. “I also admire that they are always trying to do more to improve, and continuously ask for and listen to student feedback.”
Yadegar continues to inspire the next generation of female computer science majors. She recently visited Cal Poly Pomona to share her industry knowledge with Cal Poly Pomona’s first all-female computer science club, Girl’s Night of Code.
“Yadegar is a great role model to me (and I’m sure many others) as a woman in computer science,” said Emily Le. “Seeing her as president of the CSS club inspired me to start the club ‘Girl’s Night of Code’ and helped build my confidence.”
Yadegar currently lives in Seattle, Washington, just outside of Microsoft’s corporate headquarters in Redmond. Outside of work, she volunteers teaching Advanced Topics and Projects in computer science at an all-girl’s high school in Seattle with the TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program.