inspiration · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Laura Barreto

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” -Thomas Edison
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Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a Computer Science junior at Vassar College. Last year as a sophomore, I founded CommunityHack at Vassar College. Before CommunityHack, Vassar lacked spaces where people were free to learn how to code and work on projects. In February, we hosted the second-annual CommunityHack and had an excellent turnout of novice-coders! I have been working towards making sure the tech community at my school is more inclusive and diverse. I just founded the Women in Tech group on campus that meets occasionally to read articles, watch TED talks or movies, discuss current events, and get to know women across campus who are interested in pursuing technology. I hope the group is able to inspire people to be empowered by their identities as opposed to oppressed or marginalized. In my free time, I also volunteer as Community Manager for Latinas in Computing. I run their social media, help manage email requests, and make posters for meet ups! I also recently started volunteering with Wogrammer which is incredibly exciting since they’re an organization that is striving to change the dialogue surrounding women in STEM using social media as their platform. Outside of the tech world, I am in two choirs, voice and piano lessons, and an a cappella group called The Vassar Devils. I spend roughly 20 hours a week rehearsing and practicing for choirs, lessons, and Vassar Devils. On top of that, my acappella group occasionally goes on weekend trips to various gigs. This past year we sang for the President and First Lady, went on a tour in California, and recorded a full-length professional album!

What # would define your life journey?
#motivated

Favorite website / app:
http://www.drawastickman.com/
It is incredibly creative and adorable.

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Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
Jennifer Walter, my first computer science professor, is my biggest inspiration. She is so selfless and dedicated to getting more women in the Computer Science department. She was the first person who encouraged me to be brave with my decisions. She’s also taught me that it’s OK to make mistakes because it means you are still learning. A lot of times, I sadly see people bring others down in order to get ahead, yet Jenny Walter is the complete opposite, constantly encouraging people to keep working towards their goals and finding ways to support others by finding internship opportunities, giving course advice, and helping students get support for attending conferences.

Song that makes you want to dance:
I highly recommend listening to “Let Down” by Mariachi Flor de Toloache. Mariachi Flor de Toloache is an all-woman Mariachi band formed in NYC. They are incredibly talented and just got nominated for a Latin Grammy.

Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
My greatest challenge has been far from technical. It’s been convincing myself that I belong in tech. After completely bombing my first few technical interviews, I found myself questioning my place in tech. Every time I scheduled an interview, I scheduled it with dread, fear, and an immense amount of nerves. I continuously felt burdened with each interview, convincing myself that I would completely mess it up before even picking up the phone. I kept letting my success in interviews define my ability as a software engineer. It got to the point where I considered not majoring in CS anymore. Yet around this time last year, I realized that my success is a choice I’m supposed to make on a daily basis – everyday choosing to challenge myself and be comfortable within my mistakes. A lot of times I get asked why I like Computer Science – my answer is always that even though it’s incredibly powerful and creative, it also has helped me become a better person. It has taught me to love myself through my failures, disappointments, rejections, broken code, and mistakes.

Ideal Job:
In a few years I hope to be working as a Software Engineer! I also want to be a mentor for younger girls and Latinas interested in learning how to code and pursuing CS as well as taking an active role in advocating for more accessible Computer Science programs for young women. Instead of being frustrated with the current statistics for Women and for Latinas in technology, I want to change the industry by actively pursuing diversity and inclusion in all the communities and workspaces I’ll be a member of.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
You are always enough to revolutionize the industry and make the tech world a more diverse space; your perspective is unique and valuable because you are the only one who sees the world through your eyes. Also, don’t forget to love yourself and let yourself be involved in hobbies! Often times I feel guilty for the amount of time I spend in my music activities yet forget that the music I make gives me peace and joy.
laura

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