UC San Diego undergraduate computer science student Charlotte Kim is one of the inaugural recipients of the ServiceNow Scholarship. In this Q&A, she shares what excites her about computer science, and what she hopes to do in the future. Learn more about the inaugural cohort of ServiceNow Scholars here.
1) Why did you decide to study computer science?
My first experience with computer science was when I did Lego Robotics as an elementary school student. I was only one of three girls in the class. It was fascinating how I could type code to make my hand-built Logo robots do what I wanted them to do. It was empowering. However, it was also the first time I witnessed the lack of females in this field. I remember feeling extremely out of place because everywhere I looked, all I could see were teachers and students who were, in a way, different from me. I often found myself questioning whether I belonged. When I was accepted as one of the 5 girls from my junior high into Tech Trek (a STEM camp for girls), my uncertainty instantly dissolved. Being a part of a community filled with successful female professionals passionate about STEM-based work and making a positive impact in the world through computer science gave me hope.
At Tech Trek, one of the speakers said that only 30% of the STEM field is made up of females. At that time, I knew I had to be the change I desired to see. Many of the instructors that I had grown to look up to transparently told us about their experiences as women in such a male-dominated industry, but they told us that they were there to cheer us on as the next generation of women in this realm.
Soon after, I took steps to make a difference in my immediate community by founding ICSTEM (my high school STEM club), with the sole purpose of encouraging girls to pursue the STEM field by exposing them to different careers. Every week, I spent hours after school reaching out to and inviting female professionals from different STEM fields to speak to the members about their career journeys. ICSTEM was a place where girls could discover their interest in STEM without judgment or the feeling of being out of place. Every time I hear that a female peer is pursuing the STEM field in college after joining my club, I became their biggest cheerleader and made sure to make ICSTEM a safe space for them. I also served as the very first female team member of the Coding Olympiad Team at my high school then served as an officer for the rest of my high school career, being the president of the club my senior year. By the time I served as the president, more than a quarter of my team was made up of female students. I loved helping the novice group and just loved exploring different coding problems with my team while we were preparing for coding competition. With Computer Science I can do just that. I also loved serving as a coding volunteer instructor at a local elementary school through Code for Kids. Seeing the kids’ eyes light up when they master a coding concept filled my heart with joy and made me want to continue to encourage others to learn computer science without the barrier or the stereotype that it’s only for a certain group. It also motivated me to continue to close this chasm beyond high school. I now dream of a future where little girls don’t have to question any of their interests.
Coding gets me excited. We all want to do what we love to do and hope that we can help others while we are doing so. With coding I get to do that!
2) Have you been involved in any groups/orgs on campus that have been particularly meaningful or beneficial to you?
I’m an IDEA Scholar. The IDEA Scholar program comes with an amazing opportunity to start 2 Computer Science and Engineering courses over the summer, seminars connecting us with resources on research, internship, academic resources, and simply connecting the Jacobs School of Engineering students. It also gives me the tools to prepare for when I have to apply for internships, job positions, and graduate school, such as which part of the resume is the most focused on and the expectations for graduate school applications. As a freshman Computer Science major at UCSD, the Summer Engineering Institute really helped me start the school year on the right foot. The Idea scholar meetings have been continuing through this quarter. I love the IDEA Scholar mixers, seminars on research and internship.
3) Any idea what you'd like to do with your CS degree in the future?
I loved the glimpse of cybersecurity through my district’s Cyber Security program for 2 years and a summer camp in Washington DC. However, there’s so much to learn at UCSD’s Computer Science and Engineering, and I am looking forward to learning more about Computer Science for the next 4 years. As I mentioned earlier, I hope to utilize my coding skills to better others lives, and UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering has so many varieties of CSE classes and I look forward to learning from those classes and through internships. For now, I’m a freshman ready to explore the world of Computer Science.
4) Any advice to students interested in studying CS?
Computer Science is simply rewarding. It’s like a conditional friendship. The more time you invest in this field, the more you get to know and love the world of Computer Science. The potential of integration of Computer Science is truly unlimited. If you like to solve problems, and have broad interests and a good work ethic, this is the field for you.
5) How does it feel to be named a ServiceNow Scholar?
It is a huge honor and means so much to me. It’s the outreach and heart of leaders in this field that make the difference in the future of computer science. I hope to pay this forward myself to nurture and support the next generation as generous companies such as ServiceNow have.