Naomi Thomas, a trail blazer by her own right, has brought a vessel for creativity, innovation, and technology for children to Greensboro. She is the current Google Student Ambassador for UNCG, has placed in many competitions nationwide, and is the President of STARS Computing Corps. Naomi is one of my personal mentors and continues to amaze me with her passion, dedication, and enthusiasm for STEM. She has set an wonderful example for all women in technology and encourages minorities and women in their pursuits of becoming successful IT professionals.
Thomas is a Computer Science and Business Administration double major and has successfully set-up a workshop series called, MyTechLife, for children K-12 to teach them about technology and its different applications. I had the opportunity to sit down with her and talk about MyTechLife, her goals, and the obstacles she faces
To see what else she is up to check out her website www.naomithomas.com
What was your inspiration to start the MyTechLife series?
“My passion for getting younger people interested in pursuing technical careers motivated me to start the MyTechLife series. As a child, attending engineering and computer science camps had an impact on my life, once I realized that it was actually exciting to solve interesting and challenging problems. I visioned a workshop series that incorporated the latest educational technology products to provide students with a more fun and interactive experience of gaining technical skills”.
What impact did you hope to make on the kids, in terms of their view on technology?
“I hoped to inspire the students to want to learn more about the opportunities in the technical fields, and to not be blindsided by the stereotypes associated with computing related occupations. STEM related subjects are often described by students as “nerdy”, “boring” or “hard.” There is also the assumption by many that these subjects are “only for boys.” Our organization aimed to eliminate these stereotypes and provide students with hands-on STEM activities that are fun and educational.
Our overall goal was to increase the size and diversity in this country’s technical career fields.We also strived to increase the general technology competency of our young people even if they don’t pursue a STEM related career. It is important to be able to navigate in this ever changing society. I look at my grandmother’s world which has actually shrunk in size over the years as she can no longer get her “Sears catalog” or pay her bills easily has everything has “gone green” or “paperless” .
After attending the events, I hope that the kids are motivated to become leaders in their communities and spread the word about their experiences. I also hope that an exposure to STEM concepts using fun and interactive activities will take the monotony and mystery out of learning those subjects, particularly in computer science. With state-of-the-art technology and enthusiastic college students combined, we strived to cultivate increased interest in STEM related subjects among attendees. I feel that it is important that they see role models that they can relate and talk to as they form their lifelong career goals. Even if the participants were not sure about computer science as a career, we hoped that MyTechLife enabled them to think “out of the box”.”
What is the future of MyTechLife or what are your hopes for the future?
“I have hopes that in the future, the MyTechLife events can spread to other colleges and students in surrounding areas, giving students and teachers the opportunity to learn about new educational technology products.”
As a woman in computer science, what challenges do you tend to face and how do you overcome them?
“I am often one of the few or the only woman at technology workshops, seminars, classes and clubs. I’ve often found myself feeling unwanted in group projects/assignments in the computer science courses. Despite this experience, I have learned to be leader on my own and join communities that support women and minorities in the technical fields.”
What advice would you give to young girls that want to pursue a career in computer science?
“I encourage any young girl that is interested in a technical related career to attend as many computer science related camps, events, and join local organizations that support women in the field. It is also important to find a mentor to help guide you through obstacles, and to network with successful women in that profession.”
Who is your number one supporter and how have they supported your goals?
“My absolutely number one supporter is my mom. She has been my source of motivation and support through my school and extracurricular activities. Without her, I would not have been able to accomplish so much”
What’s a quote you live by?
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I believe that by personally setting an example and being the person you’d want others to be, it will have a positive and contagious effect on those you cross paths with in life.”
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