Women Who Reign: Lizzie Siegle

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
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Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a sophomore CS major at Bryn Mawr College, a small women’s college near Philadelphia. I call Silicon Valley home, but was always a Humanities person–I loved (and still do) reading and writing, and wanted to be a teacher. My twin brother was always the STEM person (he’s Mechanical Engineering at a UC.) I never considered a technical path until the end of high school, when I heard about Girls Teaching Girls to Code, a one-day coding camp at Stanford. I had to miss a big track meet and find a substitute for my library job, but I was curious about what it would be like.

I went in not expecting much. It was very early, I was missing some fun events, and I didn’t think of myself as a CS person. Right away, I was impressed by the mentors. They were all Stanford CS women, they were diverse, they were fun, they were caring. I was so inspired by them, that I left that day wanting to be a CS major. That summer, I taught myself web design. My first semester at Bryn Mawr, I took the Intro to CS course, and attended Y-Hack at Yale. Though I didn’t build anything there, I was inspired by the other student attendees.

Since Y-Hack, I’ve attended eight other hackathons (3 in the Bay Area this summer.) I love the challenge, I love building something, and I love working on a team towards a common goal or idea. I’m an Intro to CS Teaching Assistant now, a remote Tutor for CodeHS, and have a spring-time internship lined up, doing iOS development for Vea Fitness, in Philadelphia. I’m also an Ambassador for She++, a Stanford non-profit that works to educate and inspire girls (and boys) to learn programming. A few days ago, I organized a She++ Code Day in Burlingame, featuring a panel of engineers and college students, and workshops on Android, Python, Ruby, Meteor.JS, and web design, for around 80 students. I tried to emphasize that only two years ago, I was in their place. I was that person who didn’t know programming, who didn’t think she could do it. I wanted to make an event that would inspire them like how I was inspired, and I want to continue to do things like that.

Fun fact: I play tennis at Bryn Mawr, and over summer breaks, I coach tennis to local kids in my neighborhood and ballgirl at the Bank of the West Classic tennis tournament at Stanford.

What # would define your life journey?
#youngscrappyandhungry. I’m obsessed with Hamilton at the moment, but I love the adjective “scrappy”– my softball called me it in third grade, and it means determined and pugnacious. I’m unafraid to speak up for what I believe or put up a non-physical fight in terms of my sticking with something until it’s done.

Favorite website / app:
My favorite website is Buzzfeed–the news and the quizzes are addicting! I also love SpitFire Athlete. As a She++ Ambassador this year (She++ is a Stanford non-profit which encourages and teaches girls about computer science), I organized a code day a few weeks ago, and met one of the founders and developers, Erin Parker there. I love the app’s goal and message. It’s empowering, and I love the community and how they use real women.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
I’m inspired by my mom, who was an Asian woman CPA when it was a predominately male field. Through the She++ Code Day, I also met Gloria Kimbwala. She helps run Square Code Camp, goes around talking to students and engineers, and is doing so much for diversity in tech. She’s an amazing role model and mentor, and an eloquent speaker. She talked about Imposter Syndrome, and that really resonated with me. Gloria and Erin Parker work hard, hustling to get where they are now, but they’re not done yet–they set the bar high, and then raise it each time they reach it. They’re fun, energetic, and I hope to be like them.

Song that makes you want to dance:
It’s been out for a while now, but Shut up and Dance by Walk the Moon never gets old. My Shot or Alexander Hamilton, from Hamilton, of course.

Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I’m working on an iOS goal-setting app now, and have had trouble with sending notifications. I used online documentation, StackOverflow, and so many online resources. It was frustrating, and I was stuck for multiple weeks. I committed what I had, but went back going back almost to the beginning. I had tried so many different things, it got messy and confusing. Basically starting over took time, but I had more knowledge now of how to use notifications, and, after reading a book, the new code I wrote just magically seemed to work. Going back and starting over isn’t a weakness–it actually can be pretty helpful, and saves time in the long run.

In my Principles of Programming Languages course last semester, I enjoyed what we talked about in class, but the labs just killed me sometimes. My professor told us it was alright to get partial credit sometimes, which It was discouraging because I spent so so so much time on the labs, staying in Friday and Saturday nights and turning down social events to work on them. I overcame it by spending a lot of time on them, but also splitting up those long periods of time by running or doing Zumba. I went to lots of TA and office hours, and my professor was very encouraging, but I also grew very close to some classmates. We had our own support group.

Ideal Job:
Developer Evangelist. I want to go around to events and hackathons talking about a product or technology, meeting new people and students. I’ve always liked teaching and working with kids, and I think this is a nice in-between. Like Gloria I’d also like to talk about diversity in tech.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
In order to REIGN their lives, women must take risks and be open to being out of their comfort zones. I attended three hackathons before I really felt comfortable at them. I went to Y-Hack before I was ready. I was the designer of the team, but I asked back-end questions, and looked at back-end code. I wasn’t afraid to talk to engineers at the Palo Alto Caltrain station when our train was delayed for over an hour. To quote Adventure Time, “Sucking at something is the first step towards being sort of good at something.” Put yourself out there. Build things, anything. Recreate something, follow a tutorial, and then branch off and do your own thing. Be inspired, find a problem, and then make a solution. Failure is bound to happen eventually, but I’ve found that failure provides massive inspiration, driving me to work harder in the long run.