Category Archives: Tech Equity

Graduate Success Stories in Tech for Hispanic Heritage Month

Emily Reyna, a NOVA grad, recently worked as a STEM Support Specialist for NOVA SySTEMic before moving on to her dream job as a Tester at Bethesda Softworks, a AAA game studio. As part of her farewell she gave us some insights about her experience as a Latina pursuing an in-demand tech career.

How did you first learn about NOVA?

Growing up NOVA was a topic at all our family gatherings. My grandmother and grandfather worked here, close to their retiring my mom began working here, and now both my sister and I work here. In addition to work, I had the opportunity to see so much success come from our students as I grew up so I knew I would go to NOVA before finishing my degree at another institution.

How were you first inspired in STEM?

My teacher at Battlefield High School, Mr. Bishop, encouraged me to go into the STEM field by taking me through the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program and encouraging me to participate and assist in the SeaPerch robotics initiative. Towards the end of my high school experience, I had a meeting to discuss my future with Mr. Bishop and he encouraged me to go the computer science and graphic design route because I had an interest in becoming a video game designer.

You worked alongside the NOVA SySTEMic team. Describe your experience:

I have obtained a better grasp on all that goes into 3D modeling, laser cutting, and the importance of visualizing your subjects. In video games and out, visualizing what the object is you are working with and then being able to create it in 3D adds even more meaning to what you have made.

Having the opportunity to be amazed by the fabrication equipment, assist in the planning of curriculum for students, and seeing that curriculum put into action has been an extremely rewarding experience.

How has NOVA and NOVA SySTEMic equipped you in your career path?

NOVA and NOVA SySTEMic have opened my eyes to all the possibilities of the STEM world. From Disney using 3D modeling and fabrication to visualize their characters, to Marvel using Unity, a video game creation software, to add in backgrounds and special effects to their movies, it is amazing what technology can do. The STEM field is ever expanding and NOVA and NOVA SySTEMic have done an amazing job connecting their students to the STEM workforce and all that STEM can do for them.

How have you balanced work needs will pursuing your education?

Working at NOVA has been a significant help. The one saying I have heard over and over in every department, even those I have not worked closely with, is education comes first. If I need a day to focus on my schoolwork, NOVA is always able to accommodate and ensure I can get my work done.

What excites you about the gaming industry?

With the innovations in technology, I am extremely excited to see what comes next. In my research for my degree, I have found that doctors are using virtual reality tech to train and perform surgeries. It adds an additional layer of health safety by not requiring someone to be directly in the room and allows for even more accuracy than before. Robots, technology, and specifically video games are the future. While video games have a stigma of being dangerous, what the technology that goes into video games can do is astonishing and even life saving for some!

You recently secured a new job at Bethesda Softworks – Congratulations! How were you were able to secure the opportunity?

I have always said since I was in high school was, I am going to work for Bethesda Softworks, a AAA game studio. When searching for full-time positions, I saw they were looking for entry-level game testers and thought while I do not have the exact experience they want, I enjoy their games and the video game community so I would give it a shot. When they called back and were giving me the opportunity to work for them, I could not say no!

What are your ultimate career goals?

My ultimate career goal would be to get into a AAA company, Bethesda Softworks or otherwise, and become a game developer. What is nice about being a tester is I get to work with all the departments to share my findings on issues that could arise for other players. Hearing and seeing the experiences of those in the game field currently, game development suits what I see for myself in the future.

Are there any professors or mentors who you want to recognize along your journey?

Mr. Bishop encouraged me to get into the STEM field. While I had an interest in game design, I do not think I would have gone further into pursuing that field had I not taken his engineering classes and learning all that computer science and computer engineering has to offer.

I also want to recognize and thank Carolee Cawthon, the NOVA Manassas IT Manager, for sharing her knowledge, time, and care over the years while working for the college. I was always willing to learn, and she was willing to teach, and I appreciate my time with her and the NOVA IT team.

How does your life in the professional world differ from life as a NOVA student? What are the expectations?

One of the most rewarding parts about life in the professional setting is the ability to collaborate with industry professionals and learn from their experiences. In an educational setting you have a disconnect from your peers and have temporary teams with little emotional connection towards assisting each other’s goals. In the professional setting you are all working towards a common goal but also collaborate to assist in each other’s personal goals and always strive for the best for one another.

What is your experience as a woman/Latina in the tech fields? What further steps for equality would you like to see in general in technology fields?

The Latino community in the STEM field is very small and comes with many hurdles to finishing your degree. To start there is a strong language barrier between professor and student. While a professor intends to teach, often they do not take into a student’s background, upbringing, and how they were previously taught. Latino communities are very hands on, constant high-fives, hugs, words of encouragement, and even using food to encourage and collaborate amongst peers. Whether being homeschooled or in a public setting, many teachers supported their students by performing this action, but in a university setting, many professors are hands off, often providing a textbook definition.

Additionally, since a STEM degree is a very tough but financially worthwhile degree, much of the Latino community struggles to get by daily, let alone pay for schooling. Latino families send their children to school to get these IT and computer related degrees in hopes of them making a lot of money one day but soon realize it is near impossible to financially support their children’s dreams. The Latino community still has the mindset of keeping the women home or working in jobs that primarily focus on “womanly duties” as one might call them.

Being a Latina woman in STEM, I want to encourage and be an example for the Latino community. There are many programs and scholarships that encourage the Latina community. If there is something you set out for and dream about, NOVA and our NOVA SySTEMic team are always willing to help, much like they have done for me during my years of schooling and after.

What would you say to current NOVA IET students who would like to follow your example? What should they do and what should they expect?

Computer science is a difficult field to fully grasp and get in to. While some go into computer science with the intention of getting a lot of money, make sure you enjoy what you are doing, have fun along the way, and really grasp the information. Understanding is always the first step so ask for clarification as needed but look at some topics like a puzzle to solve.

 

STEM Camp Student to Instructor Spotlight: LisBeth Valladares Hernandez

STEM Camp Student to STEM Camp Instructor

Lisbeth G. Valladares Hernandez has been around NOVA and STEM for a long time. She was a STEM Camp student and now excels as a STEM Camp instructor. We asked her a few questions about her experience.

1. How were you first inspired in STEM? 

My journey in STEM began in 8th grade, when I decided to participate in The Micron Challenge: Rube Goldberg Machine. At the time I was the only student in my middle school that showed any interest, after listening to the announcement over the schools intercom. Thankfully I had two teachers that were willing to stay after school with me, my wood technology teacher and my science teacher. As I learned the many ways simple machine can be used in day-to-day challenges. It all became a game of intentionality and purpose. 

2. What did it take for you to get where you are? 

Once I started high school I knew I wanted to continue exploring more of what STEM consisted of. I once again convinced two teachers to help me out and bring SeaPerch Underwater ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) to my high school and for them to be my robotics club sponsor. I went out scouting my high school and personally invited people from diverse groups of friends to join underwater robotics with me. 

3. Describe your experience as a minority woman in STEM.

Being in STEM as a minority women has not been easy, specially because a lot of this is unknown territory for my parents. They have simply trusted in me, that my passions are rooted in knowledge seeking and educational growth. As a first generation student I have had to go out and find resources and financial assistance to be able to participate in STEM activities. My parents have supported me through it all, they have sacrificed so much for me.

Being a women in STEM has been hard because I have been in positions where my voice is the only female voice in the room at times. It takes a special kind of courage to pave the way, and I am proud of myself for having done so for other Latinas that follow. 

I also have to thank Zuzana Steen from Micron and Aleksander Marthinussen from NOVA SySTEMic. Although I only saw them in the judges chair, they always affirmed me to continue my academic career in STEM.

Without people like them or my teacher my STEM journey would not have lasted this long. 

4. What you want to pass on as an instructor and where you want to go in your career?

The reason I was inspired to become an educator is because of all of those teachers along my STEM journey that sacrificed their time after school to sit with me and even if they didn’t fully understand what I was doing. I want to be that teacher for others and pay back my community. 

5. How has NOVA and NOVA SySTEMic equipped you in your career path?

Having been a dual enrolled student with NOVA lead me to NOVA SySTEMic, after working on the engineering challenge during the semester, I was handed a poster and guided to check out the summer camp and apply for the internship positions. 

Since then I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate as an assistant instructor in summer camp, assist in Expo events, create STEM in-class curriculum, develop and present teacher professional development, and lead as Head Coach for the NOVA VEX IQ Community Teams, winning 2nd place at the VEX Robotics State Championship and qualifying for the World Championship this year! 

I am excited to see what my STEM Journey has in store for me. All of this would not be possible without NOVA SySTEMic and its amazing opportunities for someone like me. 

Student To Workforce Spotlight: Fandrea Tinsley

Fandrea Tinsley is a NOVA graduate who has been hired by Wal-Mart Cyber at a recruitment event after completing a NOVA IET resume and interview prep session. We thought we’d ask her a few questions and get some insights about her new career and how NOVA helped along the way.

1) Why is Cybersecurity important?

In the technology age that we live within, cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important because so many things connect to the internet (almost everything). Any device that connects to the internet can potentially be hacked! Since so many people use the internet daily the threat landscape is vast. This being the case, cybersecurity is not only important in our society but necessary.

2) What got you into Cybersecurity?

My husband, Farod! He is a NOVA alumnus and completed the same cybersecurity program in 2018. After which, he transferred to George Washington University (GWU) to complete his bachelor’s degree. I was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after conceiving our second son in 2019. While going through chemotherapy treatment, following our son’s birth, Farod recommended that I switch to cyber from the nursing program in which I’d previously been enrolled at Germanna Community College. I took a while to think about it but ultimately decided to take the leap due to me being at high risk during the height of Covid-19. Looking back, I can say that it has turned out to be one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made… thanks Farod!

3) What was your general experience at NOVA?

My general experience at NOVA was great! I’d taken some classes at NOVA when I was younger, directly after high school, but did not finish a degree program. As a returning student, I feel that I was better able to fully understand the importance of what NOVA has to offer and take advantage of this time around.

4) What did you enjoy most about your time at NOVA?

Everything! I enjoyed every class, every lab, every Saturday meeting with the AllCyber club, and forming relationships with classmates. All my professors were exceptional, and I appreciate EVERYTHING that they did to prepare me for the cybersecurity industry. They mentored and advised me until the very end and are one of the main reasons why I received this opportunity with Walmart Infosec.

5) How did NOVA IET help you get started along your career path?

NOVA IET provided me with all the knowledge, tools, and guidance to be successful in the cybersecurity industry. I continuously review everything that I have learned, in my mind, and apply this knowledge to every professional situation that I encounter. I feel that NOVA IET has really prepared me well and positioned me on the path to have a successful career.

6) What was your experience with the NOVA IET team, particularly with Dean Paula Ford?

My experience with the NOVA IET team was one of consistency and support. Throughout my entire experience, I received the same level of follow up, support, mentorship, and career counseling. Dean Paula Ford was an instrumental part of my NOVA IET team through her avocation for me and thoughtful leadership. Professor Kwabena Konodu followed up with me on a weekly basis to provide counseling and to ensure that my plan remained on track. A major part of my success so far is due to my NOVA IET team, and I really appreciate all of them.

7) What skills did you pick up from the mock interview, and how did it prepare you effectively for the real thing with Wal-Mart?

The mock interview helped to prepare me for the real thing by allowing me to “practice before the game”. I’ve been in other interviews over the years, but this was my first time preparing for a cybersecurity interview. The mock interview reinforced my confidence, bearing, and taught me how to structure my answers appropriately. This practice helped me a great deal to be prepared for the real thing, and I know that I would not have felt as confident as I did during my interview with Walmart Infosec, if I hadn’t participated in the mock interview.

8) Describe your confidence going into the interview, your mindset.

I would describe myself as a naturally confident person, and due to me having participated in the mock interview and all the preparation and support that I received from my NOVA IET team, I felt extra confident. I visualized myself already having the job before I even sat down for the interview.

9) Describe the full interview process with Wal-mart. What went well in the interview and what might you do differently?

As much as I tried not to look nervous during my interview, I am sure that I did. However, I’ve been told that I did well. Part of my interview consisted of my interviewer asking about me, my background, my skill set(s) and ambitions. I pride myself on my soft skills and communication, so I think that this part of the interview went very well. The other part of the interview was technical. Prepared as I was, I knew that I didn’t answer every question correctly. However, anything that I wasn’t totally familiar with, or unsure of, I confidently responded that I knew where to find the information and that I am always willing to learn more. I really think that the interviewer liked that.

10) How did your resume help you? Why was it effective? How did your employer refer to it to ask you questions?

My resume was effective in that it helped to get me in the door. My interviewer referenced my resume when asking me questions, for which I was prepared, and questions that weren’t related to my resume as well. Overall, I consider the process a valuable learning experience.

11) What do you do at Wal-mart on a day-to-day basis (that you can comfortably share) and what do you enjoy most about it?

Well, since I just recently began my Walmart Infosec journey, I am still in the research/study phase. My Walmart Infosec team has shown me a warm welcome and I am so excited to be a part of this organization. I look forward to getting to know my teammates better as we work closely alongside each other.

12) How did NOVA prepare you to meet the technical demands of your job?

The cybersecurity program at NOVA is top of the line. Through classroom lectures and work that covers every domain within IT and cybersecurity, rigorous and realistic lab assignments, the AllCyber professional cybersecurity organization, and continuous career coaching and mentorship I feel very prepared to meet professional technical demands. Regarding my job, I have a foundational understanding of all the information that I have been presented with so far, which is an advantage to me.

13) How do soft skills and interpersonal communication play into the interview process and in your job from day to day?

Soft skills and communication skills play a huge part during an interview and on the job. To truly be a team player these skills should be almost second nature. Honestly, I believe that I’ve made it this far relying largely on my soft skills and communication. As I continue to increase my technical prowess, my interpersonal skills enable me to continuously communicate with others, identify needs, and remain an asset.

14) How does your life in the professional world differ from life as a NOVA student? What are the expectations?

Well, prior to entering tech I’d accumulated years of professional work experience in the healthcare industry. Having such experience over the years has fine tuned my work ethic and drive. So, I applied that same work ethic and drive to my studies, and I continue to do so in the professional tech world in hopes that it will continue to serve me well. One difference that I have noticed however, is the level and types of expectation. In school it is understood that assignments must be completed, quizzes and tests must be taken, and regular attendance is expected. In the professional world, some of that stuff doesn’t exist and a lot of expectation is placed on results. I’ve welcomed the challenges from both environments.

15) What are your ultimate career goals?

Well, I’ve already achieved one of my goals having been offered this great opportunity with Walmart Infosec. I think, as of now, I will just continue to focus, buckle down, and see where this journey takes me. I feel that my journey will be more exciting that way! Plus, this exploratory way of thinking about the future of my career seems unrestricting and totally freeing. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

16) What is your experience as a woman in the tech fields? What further steps for equality would you like to see in general in technology fields?

Since my start in tech, I have noticed a strong movement of women entering technology spaces. While I realize the tech industry is still predominantly male occupied, it is exciting to see and know females like me that go out there and pursue their dreams regardless of what others may think or traditional gender roles. If this movement continues to progress, I definitely see the future of tech being very bright for everyone, regardless of gender.

17) What would you say to current NOVA IET students who would like to follow your example? What should they do and what should they expect?

Network, network, network! I personally attended every hiring event available and pursued every opportunity offered to me. Additionally, ensure that you are prepared for these opportunities so as to present the best in you while taking advantage of them. You never know what’s waiting for you behind that next door.

18) And a fun one: Do you watch any TV shows about Cyber (Mr. Robot for example)? What does entertainment get right and wrong when they portray Cyber agents and hackers?

I don’t typically watch a lot of TV, but I have seen cyber related television programs and movies. Prior to entering cybersecurity, the explanation of actors/actresses portraying cyber roles seemed extremely technical and difficult to grasp. But now, if I don’t know exactly what one of these characters is saying, I can at least piece together what they are referring to. Being able to do that is so awesome and makes me feel like I am part of a special club, lol. However, I feel that these roles may sometimes take it a little overboard and not portray the human side of cyber players.

19) Anything important to add that we might have missed?

No, I think that you generally covered everything across the board. I just want to reiterate how appreciative I am for this opportunity, and I encourage everyone striving for a career in cybersecurity to keep pursuing their goals and “stay the course”! If I can do this, you can too!

IET Speaker Series featuring Mayuko Inoue

IET Speaker Series featuring Mayuko Inoue

Sept 23: 6-7:30 PM EST

Registration opens on September 1st at iet.novastem.us/Register

After working in Silicon Valley tech companies like Intuit, Patreon, and Netflix for six years as an iOS Engineer, Mayuko became a full-time creator in 2020. With over 400,000 YouTube subscribers, Mayuko uses her platform to help people find their way through the tech industry by sharing her own experiences navigating this world through technology, as well as sharing career advice and lifestyle videos. She is passionate about discussions around mental health, cultural identity, and creating technology with empathy and compassion. Join us on Thursday, September 23, 2021, 6 PM EST to be inspired, learn more about computer science and software engineering, and dive into how to follow your passions and create technology with care.

*This event is open to the public

#WeDoSTEM

NOVA Awarded 3-Year “Makers By Design” Grant

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded NOVA a three-year grant, set to begin in September 2021, to establish a Professional Learning program in design thinking pedagogy for secondary and postsecondary educators. Makers By Design (MBD) as we call it, is officially titledSupporting Instructors to Embed Design Thinking in Digital Fabrication Courses.

Makers By Design Overview:

> Manufacturing and engineering technologies industries are facing a looming skills gap.

> Employers identify increasing need for soft skills (critical and design thinking, problem solving and communication) as manufacturing transitions to high-tech.

> There is a need to align engineering and engineering technology with industry defined technical and soft skills.

> MBD is a professional learning (PL) program for secondary and postsecondary educators focused on developing design thinking pedagogy through digital fabrication (e.g. 3D printing, laser engraving, CNC) techniques.

> Aligned with NSF includes broadening participation in STEM for underrepresented minorities.

> MBD will foster a community of practice between teachers, faculty, makerspace educators and industry.

The Grant

The curriculum will focus on design thinking projects that involve digital fabrication techniques, including 3D printing, laser engraving, and Computer Numerical Control milling. The Professional Learning program is expected to improve the educator’ teaching practices and enable them to update existing curricula and lesson plans to better align with industry relevant skills and techniques. The project also intends to create a community of practice around design thinking in digital fabrication that will build a beneficial network among secondary teachers, community college faculty, makerspace educators, and regional employers. It is expected that the project will support 36 secondary and postsecondary educators who will teach more than 3,000 K-12 and undergraduate students in the northern Virginia region. These students will have greater interest in and be better prepared for technical careers in manufacturing and engineering.

The overarching goal of the project is to use Professional Learning to move digital fabrication instruction beyond the reproduction of simple objects. Instead, the project will train educators to use pedagogy and cognitive strategies to embed design thinking into their digital fabrication lessons and courses. As a result, students will learn to use design thinking to build complex, useful objects.

The project’s specific aims include to: (1) create a professional learning institute; (2) host digital fabrication summer camps at NOVA and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington; (3) host a semiannual design and digital fabrication challenge; and (4) establish an online resource library of projects and lesson plans created and refined by educators in the community of practice. The project is expected to advance: understanding of the pedagogies that help to develop student interest in manufacturing and engineering; the capacity for Professional Learning to facilitate integration of design thinking into classrooms and makerspaces; and the extent to which a capstone design challenge may foster sustainable change in instructional practices. This project is funded by the Advanced Technological Education program that focuses on the education of technicians for the advanced-technology fields that drive the nation’s economy.

The NOVA Fab Lab has a Makerspace utilized by many NOVA programs and the community as well as a new Makers Program for college students coming up this fall

Check out the NOVA Fab Lab Page

#WeDoSTEM

IET Convocation Fall 2021

 

The Fall 2021 IET Convocation was held in-person on August 18 at the NOVA Pender 3 Administrative Building. Even behind masks, everyone was happy to see one another after almost a year-and-a-half of remote learning! There were a lot of pressing and relevant items to cover that will move IET forward in preparing students equitably to build regional STEM talent.

Dean Paula Ford began the event with Faculty & Staff self- introductions.  Everybody was able to meet IET’s new Associate Dean Christianne Nieuwsma for the first time in person, as well as the new IET Advising Specialists, Allison McElfresh and Sara Ali. New Faculty introduced were Laura Kelley (AN – IT), Shirley Cash (MA – IT), Mohammad Iftikhar (WO – IT), Xue “Peter” Bai (LO – IT), Ronnie Dasgupta (IT/Engineering Technologies) and Amir Mehmood (LO– Engineering Technologies).  With introductions came a few departures.  It was announced that both Kurk Lew (MA) and Kevin Reed (AL) have retired; and, Tierney Pitzer (LO) and Zahra Ogun (IET Staff) have recently resigned.

VP of IET & College Computing, Chad Knights spoke about IET’s promising enrollment and G3 funding. The subjects of mask mandates, CSC guidance and vaccines brought several questions.  Dr. Knights also spoke of DCTP (Data Close To Practice) for this Fall, and presented a common read for the division, “Equity Talk to Equity Walk” by Estela Mara Bensimon, Lindsey E. Malcom-Piqueux, and NOVA College Wide Convocation speaker Tia Brown McNair. All were asked to read this book for ongoing discussions by September 30th (NOVA libraries have options for obtaining the book for Staff & Faculty).

NOVA Systemic Director Josh Labrie spoke about grants that we have been awarded and new grants we will be applying for.  Jack Bidlack, IET Director of Strategic Initiatives, spoke specifically about our partnership with the United States Naval Community College (USNCC) and the speakers series that Brittany Hollis, IET Career Coach, is putting together this fall and spring for IET students. The morning session concluded and participants broke for lunch. Following lunch, breakout sessions regarding news on curriculum, and students filled the remainder of the afternoon. It was a successful start to our fall semester!

For more on NOVA IET programs, including Cloud Computing, Data Canter Operations and Information Technology go to https://www.nvcc.edu/iet

Follow us in Twitter @NOVAIET 

#WeDoSTEM