By: Leeba Erlbaum, Senior Web Design Intern at CSforALL
Working at CSforALL over the past year has been an experience for which I am immensely grateful. As we close women’s history month, I reflect upon all the people who came before me and all the things that had to happen for me to get here.
When I was twelve, I got my first computer. It was an Acer notebook and I used it until it died, mostly to “do my homework”…..but also to binge TV. By the time I got to high school, I was able to buy myself a first generation Surface notebook with money I saved up from my summer job. My computer almost became an extension of me. It was in my hand in the van to school and in the halls in between class and somehow I managed to convince most of my teachers to allow me to use it for note-taking. My love for my computer quickly turned into a love for not only binge-watching movies and tv shows but also fixing computers and figuring out how to use them beyond their basic functions. In doing so, I became the tech editor of my high school’s newsletter, taught myself basic HTML and learned how to troubleshoot the school’s desktops and SMARTboards.
As it turns out, all of my binge watching wasn’t in vain; throughout high school, I had watched enough cyber-related TV and did enough research to determine that I wanted to go into cybersecurity. This became more of a reality at the end of high school when I was awarded the opportunity to do a month-long work study at a digital forensics firm — the first tech-related internship in my career. I can’t stress enough how important internships are for gaining experience and applied tech skills before and during college!
The summer after I graduated high school, I did an internship through my college on insider threats which lead to a teaching assistant job in my sophomore year. During the summer after my freshman year, I interned at a startup called Acculis that consisted of the company’s four founders and two other interns.
By that time, I had already had the idea to start a “women in tech club” because there wasn’t a community of women at John Jay. All of my teachers, most of my classmates, and the general computer science leadership were predominantly male, but learning what I did from that internship motivated me to move forward and now three years later John Jay Women in Tech is still going strong and will likely live on long after I’m gone.
As a freshman, I also joined Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in NY (WiTNY), one of the best decisions of my nascent tech career. WiTNY:
- Helped me get the internship at the startup through Grand Central Tech,
- Helped me prepare for my career with the Career Access Program,
- Got me a “Winternship” at Haven Life, and
- Provided a women’s hackathon accessible to beginners in tech.
Maybe most importantly, WiTNY has supported me, my club, and my fellow executives as we plan events that bring together students around women in tech.
I was connected with my CSforALL family when I reached out to WiTNY about non-summer internship positions during the school year and the rest is history! While here, I’ve learned so much about the importance of computer science education and educating the next generation. It’s made me passionate about finding ways to help future engineers and technologists discover their tech niche and improve their technology literacy.
Being in the CSforALL environment, an environment that encourages personal and technological growth, has allowed me to hone my skills and act on my interests and better the world around me. I hope that I’ve been able and will continue to be able to give back to the tech community and pay it forward to future women in tech.