women who reign

Women Who Reign: Isabelle Ingato

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou
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Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a New Jersey native and a senior studying CS at Princeton.  I’ve been a projects and a corporate outreach chair with Princeton Women in Computer Science (PWiCS).  My favorite experience with PWiCS was going to the Grace Hopper Conference last year and doing a lot of crazy coding challenges and seeing Chelsea Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg speak and also partaking in all the amazing free food and swag together!  I definitely recommend attending the conference if you can in the future.  I’ve done software engineering internships in San Francisco, the Midwest, and right here in NJ, and I’ve enjoyed them all and learned very interesting things from each one, both technical and nontechnical.  Fun fact about me: One of my goals this past summer was to ride this giant upside down roller coaster which I had been very afraid of for years and I finally did it!

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What # would define your life journey?
#imagination++

Favorite website / app:
YouTube
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Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
Dr. Sandra Batista (Princeton CS Department) — To paraphrase: Office hours are for you, not your professor.  Don’t worry about trying to go in there and impress your professor, no matter how crazy amazingly intimidatingly successful that professor may be.  Get in there and use the time to your advantage because you have every right to do so.  Be aware that your professor KNOWS you’re human and imperfect and that they probably think that is actually great because it means there’s room for you to learn and grow which is the point of your relationship with your professor in the first place!  So don’t be shy and ask your questions. [This applies to office hours and a lot of life in general I think.]

Song that makes you want to dance:
Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim
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Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I’ve been coding for 4 years (since senior year of high school) and that can often feel like a lot less time than my peers, many of whom it can feel like have been coding their whole lives.  In fact, when I came to Princeton, I was not only relatively new to CS but also even to the idea of pursuing science for my career at all — I had planned to be an English major!  Often being new to a field can mean not yet having formed strong opinions about best practices in that field or not understanding the lingo of the field or having different (outsider) views about something in the field as compared to more experienced peers or in general to the people one works with.  These are challenges I have dealt with constantly and continue to deal with quite frequently, and they have often led me to feeling like an imposter and fearing I should just give up since “the learning curve may be too steep after all”.  Even as I’ve worked very hard to meet and surpass the bar at jobs and in classes, I’ve dealt with feelings of shame that I might be bringing down the quality of a project or conversation just because I’m me or because didn’t have the privilege to learn about some of the things my peers had learned about earlier in their lives.  I sometimes feared everyone else was judging me for my lack of knowledge or experience about some framework or algorithm I had never heard of.  The truth, I’ve come to realize, was that I was often projecting, and I was judging myself (at least for the most part in those cases).  Now, I’ve been working on learning not to be ashamed of what I don’t know and to focus instead on what I have the opportunity to learn and to see the potential and determination for growth as something to be proud of.

Ideal Job:
10 years from now: Still in software engineering or involved in CS education in some way and writing in my spare time

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
I consider it quite an honor to be a person (and particularly a woman) in science and engineering today.  You and I get the privilege and the responsibility to really better lives and create advancements and innovate, and this is something not everyone gets the opportunity to do in his or her lifetime.  So my feeling is — be proud of the opportunity you have to be creative and imaginative and innovative and take ownership of that power.
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