Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Guest Post - Katrina K.

Gatekeepers Pigeonholed My Dreams

Katrina K.
Feb 11
Naysayers claimed I would not be well-suited to pursue a role in STEM — look at me now!
I have always loved computers, video games, and messing with technology, both new and old. A lot of my closest friends throughout the years have been the geekiest of the bunch. I remember holding conversations about Linux distros, Haskell programming, and learning how to build your own desktop computer from scratch. So why didn’t I pursue a degree in computer science during my undergraduate career?
I’ll be honest with you; I am terrible at math despite the stereotype perpetuating the myth that Asians solve differential equations in their sleep. I was never the worst during math class — but far from an ‘A’ student. I remember wanting to take a new JavaScript course during highschool but was denied the chance because according to my counselor, my math grades were low and my GPA was far from a 3.8+ so it would “not be a wise idea”. My high school GPA was a 3.3 and I was involved in a minority girls club where only those who met the required academic criteria were invited.
Remember those geeky friends I mentioned earlier? Despite some interesting conversations, they were never supportive of me; they doubted my abilities and made snide remarks disguised as jokes. I let other people’s opinions pigeonhole myself from pursuing what I have always been curious and passionate about. As a result, I never felt ‘smart enough’ to pursue a career in technology and internalized those inhibiting ideas, limiting my own abilities in the process.

Little did I know that the end of 2018 would eventually change my life for the better. A drastic incident during my previous career endeavor was the source of a severe low point. As painful as it was, I saw an opportunity through the silver lining to shoot for the stars, I propelled myself into graduate school to pursue a dual master’s in Cybersecurity and Information Technology. The normal response to an acceptance letter is absolute, instantaneous happiness. When I received mine, I immediately emailed the academic adviser to clarify if there was a mistake due to the lack of prior related experience within those fields — it was not, happiness ensued!
I am absolutely in LOVE with the program as well as all of the supportive people I’ve had the pleasure to cross paths with. There is a tendency to fall into routine and forget to reflect on our accomplishments, the following are mine: I ended the first semester of grad school with a 4.0, managed to network at a major tech conference while collecting laptop stickers as personal badges of honor, and professionals have reached out to provide mentorship. I am always taking initiative to learn additional content outside of university coursework, I‘ve drawn security conscious networking diagrams on my own accord, I am an active member of the DeadPixelSec community, and recently I’ve been offered a flexible coding gig with room to grow. Above all I am incredibly happy to be where I am today! What a bizarre journey this has been and yet I still have quite a ways to go.
Not gonna lie, there are moments where I desire to go back and alter my past, but at the same time I appreciate those hardships for sculpting a well-rounded and humbling persona. If there is anything I do regret, it’s that I should have never let ignorant people have a say on any of my future prospects.
Important Takeaways: Do not give other people the power to decide your future, chase after your own passions and stay curious! Take a moment to appreciate your accomplishments and how far you’ve come every now and then.
Katrina K.
WRITTEN BY
Cybersecurity & Information Technology MS student. Endlessly curious for all the right (and wrong) reasons! #Code & #Coffee pls! 💙☕🐍

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