Hello again! It's the beginning of a new month which is an opportunity to make new changes, receive new blessings, and enjoy the changes in weather. It's also a new installment of our Macademics series! This month, I decided to interview my friend Victoria Gray who studied Computer and Electrical Engineering at Duke and is current enrolled in master's program in Electrical Engineering at UCLA. Here's what she had to say:
What is Electrical Engineering?
Electrical Engineering is a discipline that focuses on the study of electricity through systems of varying sizes and functionalities.
Did you always want to be an electrical engineer? What led you to this decision to becoming an engineer?
Initially growing up I wanted to be either an Olympic swimmer or a Supreme Court judge. It wasn't until about 8th grade when I learned about engineering for the first time and due to my performance in math and science subjects. I then applied for placement in a science and technology program for high school and the rest was history. Before majoring in Engineering in College, I attended several summer programs at local universities in Maryland. At University of Maryland College Park I completed a Java Course and had the opportunity to stay overnight for a week for a Women in Engineering summer program that let me explore a myriad of engineering disciplines which led me to decide on electrical engineering as the one for me.
What were some of your favorite classes in school? Why?
Some of my favorite classes included Microelectronics because of the laboratory assignments which allowed me the opportunity to create my own silicon wafer with my initials engraved onto it. I also enjoyed my programming course in which my teacher gave us assignments each week that were allowed me to develop games like hangman. Lastly I had a performance in technology class where I integrated technology with theatrical arts.
How do you manage going to work and school full time?
Since I'm in an online master's program, it allows the courses to be pretty flexible and manageable. I balance by only taking one class per quarter and additionally my managers are pretty understanding and value me obtaining a higher level of education so I work with them when need be to flex my schedule to complete homework or prepare fore exams.
What other things do you do outside of work? Why did you decide to do them?
Within my company, I am on a social working group committee for my sector of system engineers where we plan events quarterly like laser tag or escape the room. I am also the secretary for my company's AATG (African American Task Group). I am also NSBE's Region 6 Professional Telecommunications and Public Relations Chair. In addition I volunteer with NSBE Jr activities bi monthly, Black Girls Code, and other organizations. I like to give back to the community as much as I can and inspire youth to advance their education and possibly pursue degrees in engineering by being an example letting them know it is possible and they will have help if they choose to follow that career choice. Outside of work and volunteering, I like hanging out with friends, going to the beach or attending the myriad of music festivals we have in California.
Did you endure any adversity pursuing your degree? How did you overcome it?
Definitely. Between exam scores not being what I wanted them to and the lack of diversity in classes hindering me to be able to make connections with some of my peers. Sometimes I would feel that a classmate judged me before even getting to know me on if I would be a worthy lab partner or someone to collaborate and study with to complete assignments. If it wasn't for NSBE, I don't think I would of been able to make it through engineering at Duke. I had such a strong support system with members from other institutions that let me know I was not alone in my journey to overcome the obstacles that were present with minorities in STEM fields.
Do you have any advice for our readers wanting to pursue a degree in electrical engineering or engineering in general?
Obtaining degree related: Try to gather a core group of people you can depend on to study and do homework with in all of your classes. Do not procrastinate on your assignments. Professors LOVE to see that you're making an effort so even if you don't think you need to attend office hours. You may need their letter of recommendation for graduate school or other opportunities later down the line. And don't forget to make time for yourself to relax and do enjoyable things.
Not degree related: My advice would be to take advantage of every networking opportunity you get. As the saying goes, it's not always what you know but who you know and most importantly also who knows you. My GPA was not the best, I didn't graduate with honors, but I had the technological skills needed in addition to communication skills that allowed me to land great internships that helped get me fast tracked into an amazing full time position that I am in now.
Thank you Victoria for sharing your story about your journey through engineering. Can't wait to see all that you achieve. Victoria is a designer and creator of a Black Engineers Matter shirt (pictured above) and other pro-melanin apparel that are available in her online shop melanized.threadless.com; You can follow @shopmelanized on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for information on new designs and sales.
You can check out my other Macademics posts here: