Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

From Academic Probation to Fortune 500 Career

From kindergarten until 12th grade I mastered school. From being in a magnet program in middle school to taking AP classes all throughout high school, I knew I was good at school.

That is until college.

My first year of college was one of the most fun yet stressful times of my life. The freedom of college overwhelmed me, and to soak it all up I began leaving school behind. When I realized during first semester finals week that I was borderline failing three classes, I was frozen. I used to get almost all As in grade school, and now the only “A” I had was in a one-credit participation based class.

I tried to study, but because of how deep of a hole I dug myself into, it was almost impossible to absorb all that information. At the end of finals week, all I could do was pray that I would pass all my classes. When grades came out, I was shocked to see that I managed to pass 2/3 of the classes I was worried about. But as I looked down to my computer science grade, my heart sank when I saw that letter D staring back at me.

My heart sank even more when I saw my GPA.

1.8.

I graduated high school with an unweighted GPA of 3.57, and the lowest I’ve gone was around a 3.2. So getting below a 2.0 was practically a slap in the face.

I knew I was going to have to retake my computer science class in the spring but what I didn’t know was that I was now on Academic Probation. I got the email from the University telling me if I don’t bring my GPA over a 2.0 by the end of the year, then I would be kicked out.

I cried a lot of that winter break. Every time I closed my eyes the number 1.8 and the words academic probation would flash in front of me. As beat up as I was, I pretended to everyone around me that I was ok. No one knew that the spring semester had the potential to be my last.

Finally, I worked up the nerve to tell my parents because they were paying for my education, so they deserved to know the truth. I was surprised by how well they took it. My parents didn’t get to experience college, so I guess they felt they couldn’t tell me how well I should be doing.

Going back for the spring was hard. I didn’t tell any of my friends about my probation and to this day I don’t think anyone but my parents and boyfriend know.

While part of me was overwhelmed with anxiety, I continued to act normal around my friends and didn’t show that anything was wrong. It was hard to remove myself from the fun moments with my friends to make sure I finished my assignments, but I knew I had to. I could not disappoint myself or my family again.

The spring semester turned out to be my best college semester and caused my GPA to go up to a 2.9. As I left for the summer, a huge weight lifted off of me as I knew I would be coming back for the fall.

After my freshmen spring semester, I thought I finally got my groove back and would go back to getting the grades I was used to. Wrong!

Even though I made sure to spend time working on assignments and studying, I still wasn’t doing as well as I thought. I began doubting myself as a computer scientist when I got C after C in many classes. By the end of my junior year, I began thinking I wasn’t good enough to be a software engineer and started focusing more on my business minor.

But by the grace of God and filling out countless application, I managed to get an amazing internship at a software company for the first time. I was super nervous the first day at that internship as not only was I the only girl, the other guys also had way more internship experience than me. Again that anxiety swelled up in me as I prepared to fail at this internship just as I had my first semester. Again, I was wrong.

I got to work on many unique projects that summer and began learning more than I ever had in my classes at school. We even had a hackathon where my team won first prize for our prototype app.

After the internship ended, I was lucky enough to be brought on during the school year to a new job for the company that allowed me to work with people at NASA.

Yeah, maybe I can do this software engineering thing after all.

I went into my senior year with more confidence than ever. I began tearing through job applications, filling out 5–10 a week in the first month of school. I went up to a bunch of booths at the career fair and passed out my resumes to a bunch of recruiters. Shortly after the fair, a friend of mine messaged me about applying to the company where he worked. I was skeptical at first because it was a more prominent company and I was still not sure if I would fit in at those big companies, but I applied anyway. A couple of weeks later I was invited to interview with them. I knew this interview was going to have a technical component which I had never done before so the night before I studied different coding questions so I could be prepared.

The day of the interview I went through two other interviewers before getting to the technical part. Up until this point I felt pretty confident in how I was answering all the questions, but I knew the technical portion would be different. As the interviewer gave me the first question, I froze. I knew I had seen a similar problem while studying but I could not for the life of me remember how to solve it. I awkwardly wrote things down that half solved the problem but weren’t completely correct. I hoped that the interviewer would realize that I knew what to do and that I was just nervous. As I left the interview, I didn’t expect to hear back from them and continued to apply for other jobs when I got home.

The following week I get a phone call from them saying that although I didn’t get the job I applied for, I would be perfect for a new training program they are starting that would funnel into the position I initially applied for.

I was ecstatic and accepted shortly after. It wasn’t even Halloween, yet I had already secured a post-graduate job at a Fortune 500 company. The rest of my senior year went better than expected as I finally began getting good grades in my computer science classes. During my last semester, I even finally managed to get an A in a computer science class and that A finally affirmed to me that I was meant to be a software engineer.

After fighting my way through college and doubting myself, I finally feel like I am qualified to be doing what I love to do. Even though I still have those moments of doubt, I look back and see all that I have accomplished since being on probation and reaffirm to myself that I can do this.

Now whenever I think about that first semester of college, I smile in pride of how far I’ve come and how I’ve proven that a 1.8 will never define me.