#WomeninSTEM · #WomeninTech · inspiration

Women Who Reign: Anna Yan

“As a leader, it’s a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behavior you want others to follow.” — Himanshu Bhatia
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Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a senior at NYU studying CS (duh) and hoping to become an excellent programmer. Fun fact: I took a competitive programming class in 6th grade and learned Pascal. I failed miserably because I couldn’t understand what functions are, and for a long time I thought programming is the hardest thing in the world and the last thing I wanted to do was becoming a programmer.

What # would define your life journey?
I would say…#random? At first I thought I’d become a journalist because my first income came by writing for a local newspaper. Then I thought selling things sounds fun, so I opened an online store and sold DIY kits and liked that better. I made some money but also learned I wouldn’t want to  Then in high school I saw a poster about exchange programs, and I thought that sounds interesting so I ended up spending a year in the middle of Michigan. When I came back, my high school told me that the exchange year doesn’t count, and I had to repeat my 11th year. I didn’t want to waste one more year, but I had to if I wanted to go to a college in China, so I started applying for colleges in the US and ended up in NYU. When it was time for college, I couldn’t decide what exactly I want to do with my life, but I’ve always wanted to learn a 3rd language, so I studied Italian and got a minor. I couldn’t see myself make a living with Italian, so I did some math too. Halfway through my math major, I heard math may also need some amount of programming, so I learned Python. I made a tiny program to help myself recite some Italian vocabulary and got a great sense of accomplishment. And more importantly programming isn’t nearly as hard as I remembered it to be. So finally I ditched my math major and lived happily with CS ever since (well it’s actually a bit more bumpy than that).

 

Favorite website / app:
My favorite is Forest (http://www.forestapp.cc/) It lets you grow a tree when you want to stay focus for a while, and the tree would die if you leave it during that time. It’s really effective on me because I love pretty things and dead trees just look sad.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
Both Alan Siegel and Jeremy Huang had repeatedly told me the same thing, although with different approaches. I think it is the exact advice I need right now and I’d like to thank them for it: Getting what you want may not be easy, but you must have faith in yourself and keep trying. Giving up is definitely easier, and it takes courage and sometimes pain to keep going, but just keep going and magic will happen.

Song that makes you want to dance:
Marry You by Bruno Mars, such a joyful song 😀

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:

Technical: I took a graduate level distributed systems class last year and we had to implement things like Paxos and sharded k/v service. Sometimes the tests would fail with a 1/20 rate, so if you changed something and tests passed, you don’t really know whether the bug is fixed or you’re just lucky this time. But it also felt really awarding when you actually finish, so I ended up spending tons and tons of time on these labs and the feeling when the tests pass 50 out of 50 times is almost addictive.

Life: I’m still a bit concerned that I’m not one of those people that have shiny resumes, when I spend too much time on solving something I would wonder maybe I’m not smart enough. Looking back and see how far I’ve come from 2 years or even 1 year ago helps. I guess I just need to make peace with myself and keep trying.

Ideal Job:
I would like to be an awesome Android dev like Jake Wharton.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?

  1. Sometimes things deserve a second chance. I was haunted by the competitive programming class I took as a kid for a really long time without realizing that things that are scary for a 6th grader are probably not so scary anymore for a college student. I’m really glad I tried again.
  2. Keep trying. It’s okay if you fail and/or want to cry, but you gotta keep trying.
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