“Don’t fear change. You may lose something good, but you may also gain something great.”
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a sophomore majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Business Studies at New York University, but I was born and raised in the Philippines! I’m on the executive board of two amazing organizations at NYU: Tech@NYU and Women in Computing. I currently work as a Google Student Ambassador and I’m also a TA for a Python class. This summer, I’m going to be interning at Adobe Behance as a Software Engineer. I also interned at a startup called BeautyBooked. I also frequently attend hackathons because they’re a great space to learn new things! In fact, I’m planning an all-ladies hackathon called Flawless Hacks!
Fun fact: My mom named me after Dana Scully from X-Files! I have two first names (that’s a naming convention in the Philippines), and my second name, “Gilliann” is from the actress who played Dana Scully, Gillian Anderson. My mom used to watch X-Files every night during her pregnancy so you could say she was a big fan, haha!
What # would define your life journey?
I feel really lucky that I have the opportunity to get an education and do what I love. Not a lot of people are given the opportunity to pursue their passions so I want to make the most of what I have.
Favorite website / app:
Ahhh, this is such a difficult question! I really love Facebook, Spotify, and Foursquare. Facebook because it’s a great way to stay in touch with family and friends. I like knowing what my sister or what my best friend from home are up to. I love Spotify because it’s an affordable way to get music. Also, Discover Weekly is such a great feature since it makes finding new music easier. I use Foursquare a lot because I love trying new places to eat. I get a weekly email from them of all the new trending restaurants in New York. I usually bookmark them and see if I can go to them with some friends.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
Another difficult question! There are so many people who I look up to, but if I had to condense it: My mom, Terri Burns, Freia Lobo, ladies of WinC, and some of the professors in the NYU Computer Science department.
My mom practically raised me and taught me so much while I was growing up. She always motivates me to do my best in the things I care about. She helped me learn how to understand people and supported me whenever I struggled. Whenever I have problems, I always talk to her, and she has never failed to cheer me on and believe in me. She is still my go-to person whenever I need some support. I’m biased when I say this, but I think she is the best mom in the world.
Terri and Freia are Tech@NYU’s President and Vice-President, respectively. I consider the both of them my mentors and I admire everything they do for Tech@NYU. They have shown me the qualities of a great leader, and the skills necessary for running Tech@NYU.
The ladies of Women in Computing are some of the most incredible and inspiring women I have ever met. They always encourage me to push myself in my academics. Many of them excel in their classes and knowing this always motivates me to do the same.
The professors in the Computer Science department are wonderful people. The Women in Computing Officers have an office next to a couple of the professors. Since I (practically) live in that office, I see a few of them on a regular basis. I get to ask them questions about Computer Science, career, interviews, and scholarships outside of the classroom. I admire them because they are so patient, and they’re always willing to help their students.
Song that makes you want to dance:
7/11 – Beyonce
Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
My Fall 2015 was the most stressful time of my life. I was doing way too many extracurriculars, balancing two jobs, hustling for a job for Summer 2016, and dealing with some challenging subjects (aka Discrete Math). I ended up quitting one of my two jobs because I realized that I couldn’t handle it. I remember crying after failing my Discrete Math midterm, crying before the final exam, and crying after the final exam. I also felt incompetent since I had a difficult time during my technical interviews (I had yet to take Data Structures). The semester was rough.
Luckily, I had my friends, my family, and coffee. At the time, I was on two teams at Tech@NYU, Infrastructure and leading the Freshman Circuit. I told the Infrastructure team that I couldn’t do much work because I was doing too much. I’m really grateful that they were very understanding. I also talked to my friends about my struggles with technical interviews. They too understood the struggle and told me that I was doing really well considering I did not take Data Structures. One of my friends also offered to teach me Data Structures and another friend offered to do interview prep with me. I’m also very fortunate that many of my Discrete Math classmates were kind enough to help me understand the material. One of my professors also assured me that I can pass the class. I also frequently called my mom to try de-stress.
At the end of the semester, I managed to pass all my classes and do better than I expected in Discrete Math. I also landed an internship at Adobe on the Behance team! Towards the start of the Spring semester, I also finished refactoring Tech@NYU’s DemoDay site. I overcame my challenging semester because I gave my best effort and received the support of my friends and family (and coffee!).
CEO of Google. I want to run the world! (Or the Internet rather)
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
I believe it is important to surround yourself with people who care about you. There are times when you feel down and don’t quite think that you can do it. That’s why it’s important to have your friends and/or family backing you up! The people you surround yourself with should help you believe in yourself, and of course you should believe in them too! It’s important to spread the love and believe in everyone!
Another important thing to remember is that it’s okay to ask questions and look silly! I definitely believe that there is no such thing as a stupid question, maybe an irrelevant question, but definitely not stupid one. To be honest, it’s still something I also struggle with in the classroom. I always tell myself that although it’s scary to look like the idiot in the room, it’s okay because at least I’ll learn something new! If someone judges me then they’re the idiot because no one walks into class knowing everything. We’re here to learn after all.
Lastly, it’s important to trust yourself because you can receive the support of everyone around you, but ultimately it’s up to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you are capable of achieving your dreams and chasing after your goals. At the end of the day, the person who believes in you the most should be you. If you’re reading this, YOU’RE AMAZING!