Passion, Design, Development

Selena presenting at a conference.
Not everyone loves to speak in front of large audiences, especially if it’s about a topic they’re overtly passionate about.  There’s a lot of risk that comes with that. 
When, the company that Selena Latchman is currently working for on her co-op work term, held an open lighting talk night for women in development she saw it as an opportunity to enrich her public speaking skills and share some ideas that have been on her mind.  Passion led Selena and her tech talk to a larger meetup in Toronto, and finally to the Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing that took place early in November.  And get this: She also won an award for “Best Student Speaker!”
I chatted with Selena about public speaking at different scales of events, and how those experiences have inspired her to participate more in events like these!

Q: What year and program are you in?

Selena: I’m a Computer Science major with a Software Engineering option. I’m currently on co-op, so in Winter 2018 I will start my 3A term! 

Q: Are you part of any clubs or organizations on campus?

S: I often attend and volunteer at Women in Computer Science (WiCS) events! Plus, I love working as a Special Event Residence Ambassador during UWaterloo Open Houses.

Q: I heard you attended and spoke at the Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing and at the Tech Ladies Toronto Meetup!  How did that happen?

S: I always like to say I’m equally as creative as I am logical, so bridging the gap between design and development is something I’ve always been passionate about., where I’m currently working as a software developer, held a Ladies Dev Lightening Talk night where they encouraged people to prepare 15 minute talks on a tech topic they loved. Seeing this as a fun opportunity to practice my public speaking and share my ideas, I created a talk called “Why Design is Essential: A Dev’s POV.”
After a wonderful night and some great feedback from my coworkers, the hiring manager at my company connected me with that of Logojoy. Turns out Tech Ladies was hosting their Toronto Meetup at Logojoy and looking for speakers! I spoke to them about the talk I had recently given at and they invited me to speak. After that, my excitement was so high I decided to submit my talk to the Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing (CAN-CWiC) and a few weeks later I received an email that myself and seven other women from Canadian universities were chosen as the event’s student speakers!

Q: What was the experience like?  How did it feel to attend and speak in two “women in tech” conferences?

Selena with four other student speakers at the Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing S: Life changing! As someone who has spent so long being afraid to get involved in my community and take risks, these experiences taught me that the only guarantee to failure is not trying. The Tech Ladies Toronto Meetup and Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing opened my eyes to how much possibility is out there for people who are willing to try.
The perfect example of this would be the ladies I spoke alongside at CAN-CWiC. They’re ordinary students just like me, yet they’re doing extraordinary things! There’s something so inspiring and motivating to see someone you relate to taking that extra step with their career and making a difference. For me, it was important to realize that if they can do it, I can too.

Q: I also heard you won “Best Student Speaker” at the Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing.  Can you tell me more about the speech that earned you that award? 

S: Winning ”Best Student Speaker” at CAN-CWiC was so humbling. As I mentioned before, I spoke about bridging the gap between design and development. I’m a strong believer that improving the workflow and communication between both roles can revolutionize the products and services we create. This idea stemmed from my own personal experiences as a developer. I’ve participated in several design processes during co-op and I’ve found that the more I learn about design, the better a developer I become. As I said in my talk, a successful product needs to be both loved and optimized — it’s as well-designed as it is well-developed.

Q: What do you think you gained from this experience?

S: Without a doubt, I’ve gained a new type of confidence in my passion and ability. I’m excited to participate in more events like these and I'm no longer as afraid of being rejected, because for every rejection I’m one step closer to an acceptance and another phenomenal experience!
Most importantly though, I think the connections I made at both the Tech Ladies Meetup and CAN-CWiC were the most valuable of all. It is so empowering to be in a room full of passionate, talented people willing to share their ideas. I met women from so many different tech companies who each had a unique perspective to share with me. It left me feeling incredibly honoured to be a part of the tech community.

Q: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to the women in STEM, or those who are considering going into the computing industry?

Candid of Selena starting her presentation S: Make sure you love what you’re doing — if you do, you’re guaranteed success. Now, that doesn't mean you won't make mistakes and face challenges and meet people who bring you down or don’t believe in you. But it does mean that if the dream you’re pursuing comes from your heart, those obstacles will pale in comparison to the amazing things you end up doing for yourself and for others. STEM fields are so exciting! Technology is evolving so quickly, it's both fascinating and terrifying. The more it grows, the more it needs people like us to foster that growth into something beautiful.

For more content on student successes during their co-op term, head on over to the Co-op tag on the Student Success Blog

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