Extraordinary Women in Computing Stand to Transform the Future of Tech

Grace Hopper Contest winners collage

The Windows Insider Program is thrilled to send ten women to the Grace Hopper Celebration, the largest gathering of women technologists in the world. Ten extraordinary women were named winners of our Women in Computing Award and will also travel to Microsoft’s headquarters for mentoring. We asked them to share their goals and a few words of wisdom for women and girls interested in STEM.

As majors in computer science and related fields, the winners all have big plans for the future — for their careers and for transforming the technology industry. Chineye Emeghara wants to take special effects in the motion picture industry to the next level. Daniela Alves Ridel is working with AI to improve pedestrian and autonomous vehicle safety. And Veronica Lewis sees a huge potential for making technology more accessible for people of all abilities.

The winners described an intense fascination with programming and problem solving. Whether they had a mind-blowing experience at an early age or whether they stumbled onto coding later in college, all of the women geeked out when it came to discuss their love of computer science.

“Using code, you can bring certain problems to light, educate others through data analysis, and refine inaccurate statements,” Elizabeth Lin said. “Code can be a mechanism to educate communities and spread transparent information. It can also be used to solve problems in daily life, like powering a self-driving car or transferring patient data in hospitals.”

“Coding is like a superpower,” Mónica Ceisel mused.

Many of the winners emphasized their desire to make a positive impact and help others. Diana Carolina Torres Viasus said, “I would like to help and inspire many people to live a dignified life and fulfill their dreams, and to be able to contribute to achieving specific research and innovation projects that benefit the whole world.”

Pooja Nagpal sees technology as an equalizing force with the power to tackle poverty. Rebecca Houston said, “My dream job would be working with individuals who have a traumatic brain injury or a neurodegenerative disease.” She hopes to create affordable technologies that help people with ALS better access tools that can help them communicate.

Shannon Bravo-Brown also wants to transform the field of medicine with the power of tech. “I look forward to creating quantum algorithms that will have a profound impact on healthcare,” she said. “I want to use the power of quantum computing to find cures to diseases that modern computers have not been able to discover.”

The winners all recounted confronting adversity — including being told that they should give up on their dreams, being a first generation college student, and extremely challenging coursework.

“Studying computer science has presented me with hurdles that I never thought I would face,” Mónica Ceisel reflected. “The academics are challenging, and the culture is competitive, so a lot of hostility can be generated…For myself, the best way to overcome these obstacles has been to surround myself with individuals who I admire, who support my goals, and who have an abundance of experience. When I’m surrounded by people I admire, I’m more motivated to work and utilize my grit. When I’m surrounded by people who support my goals, my happiness, positivity, and productivity increase. When I’m surrounded by mentors who have an abundance of experience, I can learn from their mistakes and take inspiration from their successes.”

Several noted that as women, they have often felt pressure to excel above and beyond and to never make mistakes in order to be taken seriously by peers. To aspiring women technologists, Cassandra Oduola shared the following advice: “Even experienced people make mistakes. Have a support group, and ask questions, especially when you’re on the job. It’s not weakness. It’s smart, and it’s how you learn.”

Elizabeth Lin added, “No matter what adversity and challenges you have to confront, never suppress your ability to shine. Put in the extra effort to let people know about the work you have done…Be confident about yourself and never discount your work, because you are valuable, and YOU CAN DO IT.”

Editor’s Note: The Windows Insider Program would like to thank the hundreds of extraordinary women who applied for this year’s Women in Computing Award. We were thoroughly impressed by the caliber of the applicants and are grateful for their participation.