The Movie Hidden Figures About Katherine Johnson: An African American Woman Who Worked For Nasa

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Katherine Johnson once said, ‘I see a picture right now that’s not parallel, so I’m going to straighten it. Things must be in order.’ I can apply this quote when it comes to diversity in the STEM field today. The ratio of women to men is not equal as well as the ratio of minorities to whites. I believe there should be an increase in these ratios and I am determined to play a part in straightening this out as Katherine Johnson did.

According to Google, computer science is the study of the principles and use of computers. Charles Babbage was the first to “originate the concept of a programmable computer” in the 1800’s. Clarence “Skip” Ellis was the first black man to receive a degree in computer science in 1969. In 1982, Marsha R. Williams, an african american woman, received a degree in computer science as well. My reasoning for giving this information is to slightly demonstrate the gap between minorities and others when it comes to computer science. The number of minority participants in computer science has been low but the percentage has began to grow as more minorities begin to show more interest in STEM related fields.

I am a minority myself and computers has always been an interest of mine. Growing up, I was either on the computer, playing with a game or on a phone. Nowadays, people call that unhealthy but my childhood plays a big part on what I decided to major in. Once I got in middle school, I enrolled in other computer lab electives all three years. Finally, in high school I took several computer and design courses there as well. I then realized that I had been contributing to my passion the entire time. There has not been a time where I lost interest in technology. I knew that I wanted to be in the technical design field. In all honesty, I didn’t use the term “computer science” until my senior year and it was time to fill out college applications. My counselor was one to help me make this decision because he also had experience in this field and we bonded off of that. Intro to Computer Science is a course that is offered here at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This class was on my schedule dropping it was an option for me because of the anxiety and confusion I began to experience. There were a few second thoughts and a few worries that I wouldn’t excel in the STEM field but I had to remind myself that not everything will be easy and I have to continue to work hard for this.

When it comes to influences, the movie Hidden Figures played a huge role. I remember going to see it junior year with two of my close friends and one of them compared me to the main character, Katherine Johnson. This comment stuck with me for a long time and it gave me confidence to study in the STEM field. Katherine Johnson is an African American woman who worked for NASA and contributed to putting an astronaut into space. Katherine worked for NASA for over thirty years and she is labeled as one of the “pioneers of space age”. At first she was called a “female computer”. This shows that back then, women got less recognition for their work, especially black women. Eventually her accomplishments were recognized and she was a very important person to NASA. To see how she worked her way up and obtained so many accomplishments, gives me motivation to work hard now so that I can do the same.

In addition to Katherine Johnson, I have connected with local computer scientists as well. Khalia Braswell graduated from NC State with a degree in computer science, she then attended UNC Charlotte and obtained her masters in Information Technology. Khalia is also a black woman and like myself, she was hooked on technology at a young age. She worked for Apple in California and she is also the founder of INTech, an organization located in South and North Carolina. This organization is designed for middle school girls and gives them the opportunity to practice and explore their interest in technology. Seeing all the Khalia has accomplished, being a black woman in the technology industry has definitely motivated me.

When it comes to controversies, it has been voiced by black women that people assume in this field because of the difficulty of the work. That goes to show that not only are we underrepresented but we are underestimated as well. Though the percentage of blacks are still growing today but there is still not enough black women. From experience, some of this may be due to discouragement or even privilege. Privilege is evident when it comes to gender, as well as race. There are many black women who played an important role in technology. The fact that some of them were nicknamed “computers” instead of the computer scientist title shows that their qualities and abilities were downplayed or unnoticed until something big happened. Segregation was still going on when women finally did enter the computer science field. For example, Katherine didn’t necessarily get the recognition that she deserved until she helped come up with the formula to send John Glenn into outer space. And even then, in the beginning they required her to work in a separate setting from the whites. Most times, blacks are underestimated, especially black women. Things are not always negative when it comes to black women in the engineering and mathematics area. We just need to make that change and contribute to the growing percentage of minorities in the computer science field.

The first language that programmers used was FORTRAN and it was created by John Backus. It is said that the name is formed from Formula Translation. Today, the most popular languages are C++, Python, and Java. The things that we use in this age would not work as smoothly as they do without computer science courses and computer scientists. Coding and programming is literally the blueprint to make a lot of things function such as email, cellular apps, programs, and the internet itself. Being that technology is developing everyday and it is said to be our future, computer science is very important and vital to the technological development of things we use today. For example, when our iPhone or our Macbooks mess up, you can directly contact an IT and receive help. It even goes as far as them being able to control your laptop or phone from their office. It is hard to believe that there will not be anymore development of computers, smartphones, mobile apps. This is why the demand for technical jobs is so high, it will only go higher from here.

Computer science is not an easy field. I know some people think, “Why in the world would she want to major in something so boring?”. Many people may assume that all you do is stay behind a computer all day everyday and that will be your only position as a computer scientist. Computer science is mainly about problem solving and this goes along with my personality. Some also seem to think that their interest in video games is a reason that they should study computer science. Concentration and patience is also a trait you would want to possess to be successful in this field. Communication skills are also very important because you will be working alongside other computer scientists. Google, Apple, Microsoft and many other big companies hire computer scientists so it is very rare that you will be working alone or completing a task or project alone. As stated earlier, there will almost always be a job in the technical field.

By any means, I am not saying that this is the only growing field but it is a very important one. And it is present in almost every location across the nation. It is also said that many computer science majors are offered jobs before they even receive their degree. Computer science majors receive very high salaries because technology is simply our future. Some people may draw away from because of the challenging courses that come with it or the lack of interest. In my case, direct computer science courses were not offered at my high school but in certain classes we did touch on certain subjects that affected my interest into the computer science field. Due to research, not many schools offer computer science courses and many students just sweep it under the rug. There isn’t a rule saying that you need prior knowledge to study computer science. In fact, there are even mobile apps and websites when you want to practice coding or do other tasks such as solving algorithms.

In addition to computer science, information systems and management is another path that I have thought about. The difference between the two is that computer science focuses more on creating and solving, while information systems is more based on the data. Information systems focuses on the business side of technology. With a degree in CIS (Computer Information Systems), you can get a job as a database administrator, information systems manager, or even an IT consultant. There are many other lists of jobs that you can get with this degree that you may also see in the list of computer science jobs. It is likely that CIS students will also work with the business side of companies as well as the management. Their job is to also know how and why certain programs or softwares are acting the way that they do. Information systems does not require as much math and coding as computer science but more than likely the basic knowledge of the two will be necessary.

Information technology is offered as a minor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.You can also come back and get your masters in Information Technology. According to Google, IT (Information Technology), is the study and use of computer systems. With this degree you can receive a job as a mobile app developer, web developer, or an IT specialist. Many of these jobs are all related, they just focus on different areas of the technology. The requirements to minor in Information Technology fall under the same courses as Information Systems. The difference between these two is that Information Systems focuses on the business and management, and Information Technology is more focused on the processes and the design.

The opportunity to obtain an internship in computer science is at a very high rate. Interning is a great way to determine if a certain career path is really for you before it is too late. The list of types of internships goes on and on. You can be a data scientist intern, an engineering intern, and even a mobile engineering intern. Even if you do not get into an internship where everything is hands on, you still get the opportunity to watch other professionals in a field that you are interested in. Also, you may feel afraid to take on such an important title but becoming an intern can help you get over that fear. Applying for an internship is the first step to getting over that fear. You have to have confidence and believe in yourself, believe that you can reach those high positions in the technology field. Another reason I think internship is important is because you get a feel of working with a team. It is likely you will be working next to others no matter what your position is. You also get the opportunity to travel and get jobs in other countries. So as a benefit you get a feel of a new living environment as well. Getting that experience early is very essential before officially declaring a major, it is important to know if it is what you really want to do.

A student here at UNCG once told me, “Don’t be afraid to take a chance and always trust your intuition.” I believe that my meaningful work is to use my skills in technology to influence minorities so that they will realize they have the talent and ability to increase representation in the STEM field. When it comes to your career you have to be bold and do what is best for you. For me, my intuition is telling me to be a leader for other younger minorities and give them the courage to take that chance as well.

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