inspiration · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Courtney Thurston

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We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” –
J.K. Rowling
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cThurston-NCWIT National award
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I started learning how to program when I was ten or eleven because I started editing Wikipedia: every article needs to be properly formatted to meet Wikipedia’s Manual of Style requirements, and I befriended an awesome group of scientists & engineers who’ve become a second family to me. My journey in computer science has been more of a slow and steady thing — I took a couple detours into mechanical engineering along the way — but I recently decided to declare computer engineering because I’ve always found myself writing code to solve practical problems on the job, at school, and just generally in life (even though debugging makes me angry more often than not). I’ve worked for Carnegie Mellon on projects for NASA Langley, the Office of Naval Research, and Aurora Flight Sciences; for Northrop Grumman on block 40 Global Hawk aircraft; and at Falcon 9 on SpaceX Landing Legs and Crew Dragon structural certification. I’ll be a Microsoft Explorer intern this upcoming summer 🙂
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What # would define your life journey?
9
cThurston - Qualcomm Womens Collegiate Conference

Favorite website / app:
Uber! It’s my favorite UI by far, and it’s so useful. My phone broke recently, and I haven’t gotten it repaired yet because I can’t live without Uber.
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Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
My mom; she came from a family of five children and had to work her way through undergrad — she worked three jobs and still graduated summa cum laude. Then she put herself through law school, at night, while pregnant, while working a full-time job, because she wanted us to have a better life (single parent). She graduated magna cum laude and passed the bar exam on the first try. She doesn’t know how amazing she is — but I do.
cThurston-IEEEConference

Song that makes you want to dance:
Broken Flowers by Danny L Harle
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Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
For a very long time, I thought I wasn’t good at math — and I was vocal about this. Tech culture tends to put women down by default, and even more so when women lack confidence in their abilities. But I didn’t know better; I didn’t have that confidence until last semester when I started college, and both my calculus and physics professors believed in me more than I believed in myself. They repeatedly insisted in their office hours that I was good enough — more than good enough — and fully capable of being a very successful engineer. I finished last semester with a 4.0 in classes a majority of the freshman engineering class failed.
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I feel very lucky that that encouragement didn’t come too late for me — it comes too late for many others, especially minority, underprivileged, or first generation students. As technologists, we need to be more aware of the huge difference encouragement makes; I’m privileged to have had the resources to tune out the voice in my head that’s told me that I’m not good enough. Otherwise I never would’ve declared — or stayed in — an engineering major.
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Ideal Job:
Happy [on the West Coast].
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What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
What you think of you matters the most. If you have to feign self-confidence to work through your imposter syndrome, then feign self-confidence; eventually, in the face of overwhelming evidence that you are awesome and capable, that negative voice will fade. I promise. Surround yourself with people who love and believe in you, and ignore the people who don’t. You *do* belong in STEM, and you have a right to be here.
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