In Absence, One Student Finds Inspiration
When Constanza Cabrera first began taking computer science and engineering courses, the dearth of female students really bothered her. “In my first class, I was one of only four women in a class of 34 students,” she says. At the time, she was a biomedical engineering major taking the computer science course at the suggestion of one of her professors. “That ratio really impacted me. I did not like it.”
But over time, her feeling about the low numbers of women evolved from anathema, to inspiration. “I got motivated,” she said. “I thought, ‘I need to be a part of the female wave that goes into computer science.’ And as time went on I became interested in cybersecurity.”
That interest led to an extremely coveted internship with one of the most well-known and respected computer companies in the world: IBM. The details and specific projects Cabrera worked on as part of their cybersecurity team are confidential, but she is effusive about how amazing it was as an experience.
“Right away we were absorbed into the company and were working as a team,” she says. “The learning curve was huge.” One of the things she needed to get used to was the tight security. “In my first week I had printed out something that we were supposed to study, and someone at the office saw me with the papers, and said, ‘You have to shred that by the end of the day.’ I thought he was joking, until he made it clear he meant it!”
Cabrera adjusted quickly to the confidential nature of her work. “We were learning what it takes to be a professional in a very secure environment, and it was new for me,” she says. “But the immediate immersion was effective. It’s something I would not know today otherwise.”
As a first generation American, Latinx female, Cabrera takes her education and career very seriously. “I want to show the people in my background that it is very possible to become one of the top dogs,” she says. “All it takes is a little bit of hard work and a LOT of dedication. STEM careers are sadly not always common amongst Latinx females. I want to be part of the revolution that involves other people like me in the field.”
Cabrera is well on her way to making an impact. After feeling underrepresented in her computer science and engineering classes, she has moved into the professional world and is feeling encouraged. “After seeing how a largely female group (my own nuclear group within IBM) could have such a profound impact on the company, I am more motivated than ever before.”