I moved from Cochabamba, Bolivia to Los Angeles, California about 2 years ago. In case you don’t know, Bolivia is a third world country, and moving to one of the most beautiful cities in the world (at least from my perspective) was a huge change.
Why did I choose Engineering?
In Bolivia, I received a B.S. in Telecommunications Engineering. I chose that career because I always had a passion for technology. I still remember when we got our first computer at home, it was an IBM ThinkPad 770 (Pentium I, 32MB RAM and Windows 95) in 1998. It was a laptop WOW!! You have no idea what that meant. It was the most luxurious thing you could own at that moment. And I was ecstatic about the little black square and all the amazing things I could do with it. At that age, the amazing things were, being able to play games and also print my creations! I even started to write my diary on the IBM, print it in nice letters and glued it to my real diary (that maybe one of the reasons I didn’t get better at handwriting oops!). And also that’s when I started writing poetry and found this beautiful passion for writing and expressing my thoughts. Everything in Spanish my native language, I just started feeling a little bit more comfortable with English. Anyway, I was doing things that many kids these times don’t; I was being creative and enjoying my childhood.
So, my passion for technology is what drove me to look the most “technological” career at that time. Considering that in Bolivia, we are so far back in technology, Telecommunications Engineering and what they had to offer sounded really appealing. I was excited to start my new career in a completely new field since most of my family members were accountants or lawyers, no engineers yet.
But then I realized women were not considered good enough.
When I started, we were almost 100 in the class, but only 12 made it till the end. I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t know that engineering was a field mostly for guys, I didn’t know that women were not considered good enough for physics, programming, electronic circuits or science.
Until one day when I scored low in calculus exam. I was bummed about it; I double checked and see that I got some questions right. So, I approach to the professor who was everyone’s favorite teacher, and I asked him if we can review my test one more time, he said “Ok, we’ll discuss it by the end of the class.” After class, everyone left except my best friend and I. I showed him the questions I thought I got right and he looks at me and smiling he said “But, it’s already done, I already passed the scores”, and I said “but that’s not fair because I deserve a better score” and then he looks at me, smiled with a sick face and touched my shoulder saying “there are other ways for you to get a better score”. At that moment I took my exam and said “that’s fine, just forget about it” and left. My friend was nervous; she was unaware of what was going on.
What did I do about it…
I was so pissed that I couldn’t leave it like that. So, I went to my uncle, who is a lawyer, and told him the story and we went back after a couple of days telling my story to the principal. And the principal said “hhmm ok, but nothing happened, right?” and I said, “No, nothing happened, but I certainly don’t want to deal with teachers who are going to give me bad grades just because they want something else.” The principal was very difficult, and he kept saying that they will issue him a warning. My uncle asked me if that was okay and I said NO, I don’t want to see him again. I felt disgusted about him, and I was not going to be able to concentrate in the same way. So, my uncle had to threaten them saying that if they don’t fire him, he would make it public in the newspaper and television.
What were the consequences?
On that basis, he was sacked, and when I went back to class next week, we had another teacher. When everyone in the class found out that the “favorite professor” was fired because of me, they hated me and called me names, saying that I was overreacting. While some of them said that I didn’t even deserve the grades, others were saying that I should’ve just gave him a kiss like it was a big deal.
That was the beginning of my life in tech, it was a point when I realized that women are underrated and used in different situations. Sexual harassment and harassment in general happens on a daily basis, especially to children and women. It is everywhere; we just decided not to see it and pretend like it’s something normal because we got used to it, or because in old times, no one said anything and women were just taken as objects. If you’re going through an uncomfortable situation, speak up, do not feel embarrassed. The worst doesn’t have to happen for you to speak up and in doing so, you can help avoid it from happening to other people.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, go ahead, hit that👏 (you can clap more than once)! You can also share it somewhere online so others can read it too. It might be helpful and/or informative for someone else.