Anjelika, Computer Science & Engineering and Comparative Literature
I emigrated from the Philippines when I was nine. I grew up in Brooklyn and went to school in Manhattan for middle and high school. Then I went to college in Ithaca, New York, at Cornell. I'm the first person in my family to go to college in the United States—my parents went to school in the Philippines.
At High School in New York City, we were required to take computer science. At one point, another student in the class was confused about something, and I explained it. At the end of the class, my teacher pulled me aside and said, “You’re really good at this.” Later, he suggested I continue studying computer science. And that was that.
I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until I was a senior in college. Until then I was trundling along with no accommodations—no official ones, at least. I also have visual processing issues with reading that I didn't know about until I was in a four-thousand-level math class and a four-thousand-level computer science class where the symbols are very esoteric. I got stuck a lot, thinking, “How do I deal with the fact that I can’t read symbols anymore? How did I even do it thus far?”
One thing I’m proud of is that I went on leave from college and then came back. There was a mix of physical and mental health reasons to why I went on leave. Honestly, the fact that I didn’t drop out is a huge accomplishment. Sometimes it was tempting to never go back. And I was really scared about coming back. Then we sorted it out. I ended up with an internship through Oracle; the internship really helped me feel more back on my feet going back to school. I'm proud that I made it this far and kept going even though I wanted to give up so badly.
“The thing I appreciate most about my own thinking is the creativity involved. There’s this web of connection in my brain, and I think that leads to novel ways of putting things together.”
I basically have an entire village of people helping me through. My primary advisor helps me with study skills and executive function. I also have a disability services counselor who manages the official accommodations that I have for classes and helps me process some of the feelings I have. I also have mobility issues, so I meet with the transportation coordinator, and we plan out my rides. I found a therapist that works with me too. Then my friends, many of whom have graduated, support me from a little bit farther away physically.
One of the reasons that I have persisted—and a reason others have given to encourage me—is that having people in tech fields with different perspectives like mine makes it so that technology is made for a wider variety of people. If technology is designed only by a particular demographic, then it is only going to serve a particular demographic, even when there is the best of intentions. It’s important to have a lot of voices in order to give power to the same demographics as the people who will need to use the technology.
The most recent stage of life for me was really hard, and I'm still going. The thing that is most important for me to remember and maybe for other people to take away is: It can be OK. I often emphasize receiving support, but I tend to underemphasize the amount of work that I put in. My story is driven by this lucky confluence of me being able to put in the work and having people support me. That pushes me continually forward.