#WomeninSTEM · #WomeninTech · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Irene Woo

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
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Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
My name is Irene and I’m a second-year student in Math and Computer Science at McGill University. I grew up in France but I’ve been living in New York for the past 5 years. In high school, I was very interested in AI and machine learning. I came to McGill with no programming experience and I fell in love with computer science. I have posted some of my projects on my website: http://irenewoo.com/. I care a lot about empowering women in STEM. As Vice President Internal of the Computer Science Undergraduate Society, I am working on a campaign to raise funds to send students to the Grace Hopper Celebration. In my free time, I enjoy watching stand-up comedy, travelling, and filmmaking. I love cats and I have two back home. I also have a sweet tooth so I enjoy discovering new bakeries in Montreal and in New York.

Fun fact: I moved to New York a few days before Hurricane Irene hit the area.

What # would define your life journey?
#DreamBig
You are able to accomplish things bigger than yourself if you dare to dream them. There were many times when I told myself some things were not doable. After talking to some friends, I realized I needed to dream bigger and believe that with hard work and dedication, everything is achievable.

Favorite website / app:
Hacker News

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Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
My parents have inspired me throughout my entire life. My father comes from China and moved to France when he was two. He learned French by himself and was in charge of paperwork for his family from a very young age. He attended one of the best schools in France and is now a world-class leader in digital payments and commerce. My father worked incredibly hard all of his life and he is one of my role models.

My mother inspires me to pursue all of my interests. She studied computer science, worked as a software engineer for about ten years, and then became a culinary expert for the French cookware brand Cristel. She’s very passionate about what she does. In addition, she volunteers to feed homeless people in New York City.

Song that makes you want to dance:
September by Earth, Wind & Fire

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
During my second semester at McGill, I took three computer science classes. Even if I did well in my courses, I struggled a lot. I often felt defeated. I believed that if I found the introductory classes to be difficult, maybe I should change my major. Instead of giving up, I wrote an encryption program for fun. I read more about new technologies and attended talks about AI. By the end of the summer, I felt more confident in my software engineering skills. Beginning of my second year, I applied to Microsoft for on-campus interviews. Landing my first technical interview was one of my greatest accomplishments. It showed me that I just needed to persevere and to continue to work hard, and that I was fit for the major.
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Ideal Job:
I see myself working as a software developer. Ideally, my job would be challenging and would have a meaningful impact on society.

I also see myself involved in organizations for women in computer science to inspire the next generation of girls to major in that field.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
First and foremost, cherish the people in your life. They’ll be there for you through the ups and downs of life and they’re what make your life amazing. The more time, energy, and love you give to others, the better.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. What’s important is to own up to them, see what you did wrong, improve, and move on.

Don’t be afraid not to know something. No one can know everything. It’s important to maintain a positive attitude and to always be willing to learn.
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