“If this is something that you really want to do, if you believe in it … simply keep forging forward because success will come.” — Cassandra Sanford
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
Usually when I read stories in the news about someone successful in the tech industry, they are portrayed as a genius that started coding at age 4, hacked into NASA when they were 8, and interned at Facebook and Google before they finished high school. That’s not quite how my story goes.
I started dance when I was young as a way to get out of my shell and quickly got more and more involved. I spent a summer training at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, and another at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York. I performed at Disneyland in Los Angeles, the Jimmy Slyde Institute in Barcelona, and 5-6-7-8 Showtime’s Dance World Cup. When I started looking into universities and thinking about my life after high school, I started to realize I didn’t want to pursue dance. After changing my major, I started studying Cognitive Science at Simon Fraser University.
Prior to my first introduction to computer science course, my only experience with anything remotely related to computer science was modifying some HTML on my Neopets page. The steep learning curve of that first course made me consider dropping out – even though I really enjoyed it – because I did not want my grades to suffer. I remember learning about loops and listening to the boys around me laugh about how easy the course was as I struggled. Reality hit when the first midterm results came back and the average was <50%. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one struggling. I stuck it through and towards the end of the term everything started to “click”, and I was excited to take more computer science courses.
I got involved as an undergraduate research assistant after my first semester, as I was interested in neuroscience and wanted to see if academia was right for me. During my time at the lab, I noticed I was less interested in running experiments and writing papers and more drawn towards the Matlab scripts used to analyze data. I decided to switch my major to Computer Science and I haven’t looked back. I started spending a lot of my spare time programming, which led to developing a neural network to detect breast cancer and a Twitter bot that takes a photo of a face as input and tweets based on that emotion. I also managed to luck out and get the opportunity to do freelance web development this summer. Every experience expanding my knowledge and exploring the breadth of this field has made me fall more in love with computer science.
Fun fact: I travelled to South Africa by myself where I went skydiving and rode an Ostrich!
Favorite website / app:
Naturally my favourite app would have to be my own, an iOS productivity app to track where your time is spent (the cool name with missing vowels is still pending). I’m not sure if I love it because I designed it with myself in mind, or if I’m just getting Stockholm Syndrome as I move into month 5 of development. It’s not yet available in the App Store but I am working on some final stage bug fixes and user interface modifications, and I’m hoping to ship it before the end of the year.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
I’m a big fan of Steve Jobs. One of his quotes that really speaks to me is “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” When an opportunity doesn’t work out, you have to keep faith and believe that better things are coming.
Song that makes you want to dance:
Right now it would be Closer by The Chainsmokers!
I’d love to own my own company in 10 years, as I love the flexibility and freedom to do what I’m passionate about. If that’s not in the cards, I’m happy at a software development job that has interesting technical challenges and allows the ability to work remotely. I’d love to travel the world so being able to work remotely for at least a few weeks of the year would be amazing.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Do things before you’re ready and be kind to yourself. I have high expectations for myself so being vulnerable and asking for help is challenging, but it is so important to embrace it. It’s important to actively seek out opportunities above your experience level in order to grow, and be kind to yourself when things don’t work out the way you wanted them to. Constantly expecting perfection of yourself is a great way to miss out on learning opportunities.