“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” – Diane Mariechild
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
Hi! My name is Elena Escalas and I am a second year Computer Science and Engineering major at UCLA. Along with being an engineer, I am also a varsity student-athlete on UCLA’s swim team. As one of only 1.8% of the student-athlete population at UCLA who pursue studies in the school of engineering, many people ask my why I decided to take such a difficult major. The answer comes from something my teammates emphasize on my team: passion. My team is passionate about achieving their goals in and out of the pool, and when I learned that I could create some of the technology I loved so much, I had to seize the opportunity. As a Hispanic female engineer, I hope to be a role model for younger girls who wish to pursue careers in technology.
One fun fact about myself is that I am a dual citizen with the United States and Spain, and compete at the Spanish national swimming championships each summer.
What # would define your life journey?
My swim team greatly emphasizes gratitude, because when there are big races you can’t be nervous if you are grateful. I think gratitude motivates the effort I put into everything I do. When I enter a class, for example, I pretend that class is for my major, because I am so grateful to have the opportunity to learn, that I believe the professor deserves my full attention and complete focus for the course. Since I am so thankful for the opportunities given to me, I believe the best thing I can give in return is my full effort. Whether it’s pushing myself in the pool, sacrificing trips to Disneyland for CS work, or even decorating my room, I put forth effort; and of course the double Es in my name along with the hashtag make it rather catchy.
Favorite website / app:
At the moment, my favorite app is Phillip’s Hue on my phone. I have three lights and my favorite “orb” (Hue Go) in my dorm room at the moment, and I love showing my friends all the cool things you can program with the Phillips Hue. For example, I have the lights gradually turn on to wake me up for practice, as well as blink pink if I have an Instagram notification, or blue for a Facebook message. I also like the app Hue Disco, because, when paired with my Chromecast audio in my room, it can change the colors of the lights to the music.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
I would have to say my father inspires me most, because he taught me how to value hard work. As a former UCLA student-athlete engineer, he helps me believe every day that what I am doing is possible.
Song that makes you want to dance:
This is throwing it way back, but as a kid me and my cousin would dance to this song called Maquillate by Mecano, a Spanish band from the 80s.
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I believe I have been thoroughly blessed by not having substantial hardships in my life so far. That is part of the reason I believe it is important for me to challenge myself and reach my full potential, because there are people with real challenges in life who don’t get the opportunities I get to, so I believe it would be unfair to them for me to take shortcuts in my studies and sport. Mentally, I would say almost every day is a challenge. I wake up before the sun comes up around 5:30 every morning for weight lifting and swim practice, swim for about 5 hours a day, and then have to compete with other computer science students who have spent all the time I’ve been in the pool getting ahead and studying. There has been many-a-time I have doubted myself and others have doubted me because what I am doing is so hard, but if I can do it, I can inspire others to push themselves because I can be an example that proves it can be done.
In ten years I see myself designing and creating products that improve lives and motivating other women and athletes to enter the field of Computer Science. I see myself taking the time management skills and work ethic I learned from my sport to rise in the ranks of a larger company: once again to be a role model so younger women believe. Ideally, I would be working with artificial intelligence to make computer interactions more personable. At some point later on I would also like to do some form of community outreach where I can show young women that with hard work and perseverance, you can do anything you set your mind to.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
I would like to let young women know that the only person who needs to believe in you is you. Of course I have a very motivating group of friends, family, and teammates who believe in me, but throughout my first year at UCLA, I found many people doubting my choice to pursue an Engineering degree. From the “we’ll see how long that lasts” to even the occasional Uber driver asking “why would you want to do that?” I have a lot of people who doubt I can succeed. Many times when I’m frustrated I question my ultimate goals: do I really want to code for the rest of my life? but then when I get into projects I love the challenge and logic that goes into coding, and I know that if I quit it wouldn’t be because I didn’t love to program, it would be that I didn’t love the highly-competitive culture I was getting myself into. Ultimately, computer science has some frustrating times, especially when debugging, but I will not let a couple of hard projects and surprised faces when I walk into the room keep me from pursuing my goals and REIGNing my life, and neither should you.