Catherine spoke to us about her experience as a mixed-race woman in STEM, her studies in tech with a female-fronted team and the groups and initiatives that inspire her to fight for bettering the workspace for minorities in STEM.
1. Hi, Catherine! It’s lovely to speak with you about your experience in the STEM field, especially as a mixed race woman. In contacting us, you’d mentioned, “..it’s important to be resilient and be aware of all the intersections within the minority spaces and experiences [within] STEM.” What kinds of intersections should people be aware of? Why is being aware of these important to improving workspaces and experiences for minorities who pursue STEM careers?
Good Question! So, referring to being aware of all the intersections within the STEM Space, you must first be aware that it is mostly men in these spaces anyways, that’s just the facts that we have to deal with. But also, there are a lot of minorities at a disadvantage trying to break into these fields such as black women, single mothers, (financially) poor people, and even some people on the disabled spectrum, among many other populations. These are all worthy groups that should be uplifted and pushed TO these fields.
2. Tell us about your studies in cyber-security at Trill Project and Anita Borg’s apprenticeship program. How did you find out about these initiatives and can you explain what cyber-security is?
I found out about Trill Project through Rewriting the Code in their Facebook group. I believe my boss Georgia Messinger posted it and it’s been such a blessing working with a female fronted team. I plan on working with them for as long as I can. Regarding Anita Borg, It started this semester, (Spring 2020,) and it’s meant to uplift BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and other minorities in the tech space that need/want to learn valuable skills. I am also an IT Intern at SCSC Foundation, remotely, as it is based on New Jersey. They are also a very nice team to work with and also female founded and led.
3. Why is advocating for minorities one of your main focuses whilst working? What are small but significant steps that people can take to advocate for minorities in their own communities?
As I have said, I am a mixed race woman who actually saw and experienced racism first hand, and yet I still recognize all the privileges I have myself. It is such an interesting tightrope to walk. But it is important to recognize that you are deserving of love, a job, full benefits, and all the things life has to offer. Just because you are of another race does not mean you’re gross or whatever like racists out there believe. That is so old hat. Regarding advocating in your community… promote your friends’ businesses! Include your friends in everything you can. But do it with good, genuine intention and NOT because they’re different.
4. What organizations, pages, or activists inspire you to fight for minorities in STEM?
MiTS Discord Server ran by Security Queens, Girls Who Code (I am a Discord mod for their server!), Kode with Klossy, Trill Project (shameless plug,) are just some of MANY examples exemplifying what I feel is the BARE minimum of fighting and being activists in the STEM/Tech space. These groups inspire me so much to continue what I do, and make it so easy for me to continue.
5. If comfortable sharing, have you had any peculiar or negative experiences whilst working to be a security professional?
There is one big experience, aside from just seeing majority-male students in my classes. Which, I think, will be a thing for quite some time still. I was a moderator for a big Discord server that now has partnership status. They are a STEM based server for mainly Computer Science and Engineering students. I was concerned about one of the mods I had recruited, not knowing he was going to act inappropriately in the future. I contacted one of the higher ups to consult about his sexism, racism, and other questionable behavior and see if we could demote him or give him consequences, I ended up getting permanently disbanded/demoted partly out of my will to as well as them not wanting me to come back. Very interesting to me as before all of this happened, they were quite patient with me when I had a life threatening surgery just months beforehand. There are better opportunities ahead, though.
6. What have been your biggest accomplishments, either in activism or regular STEM work?
One of my biggest accomplishments is making the big leap from Psychology to Security, and learning things at lightning speed within a year or so! And through my podcasts and Social Media presence I have reached a few thousand people this year alone.
7. Who is your support system?
Myself, of course. Also, my family, and all the wonderful friends I have. I’d like to do a special shoutout to Xoke, JA Simmons V and Wendy Roush for helping me out. I really couldn’t have done it without you three.
8. Lastly, I’d love to thank you for reaching out to our organization. Your insight is so appreciated. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you so much for having me interviewed for you all! I hope this can help inspire others. I would just like to say never give up, try to find something that makes you interested in this, and find people to surround yourself with that are caring and positive. There is no room nor time to have terrible people in your life.