The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Empowering women in tech: Insights from Harvard WECode attendees

Giana Aguilar-Valencia
Attendees mill about the WECode conference on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Boston. WECode is the world’s largest student-run tech conference.

Students from universities across the country, including DePaul, attended the WECode conference, a celebration of women in technology at Harvard University in Boston. 

The diverse group of attendees included Brianna Yanqui, a sophomore computer science major from the University of Florida, who was among those who found the experience transformative.  

“I had never attended a conference before and wanted WECode to be my first experience,” Yanqui said.

Yanqui expressed excitement for the “Just Machine Learning” talk, led by Tina Eliassi-Rad, a computer scientist and professor at Northeastern University.

Eliassi-Rad detailed on complex systems and how studying these systems and their processes gives us insights into the potential risks and harms of using machine learning.

“Attending ‘Just Machine Learning’ really brought out my interest in AI and machine learning, so I am now hoping to get some research experience within those realms!” Yanqui said.

 Paloma Santos, a DePaul junior who is majoring in computer science with a minor in UX design, said the conference provided valuable challenges. 

“WECode will contribute to my personal growth by putting me outside my comfort zone and pushing me to interact and meet new people,” Santos said.

Santos said the conference was also a chance to connect with other female and nonbinary attendees in an often male-dominated field. 

“It can be very challenging to persist in a field that makes me feel isolated and question my self-worth daily,” Santos said. “I thought that it would be life-changing for me to learn that I am not alone in my journey.”

Cynthia Luna, a DePaul sophomore and information technology major, said she was eager to attend WECode, to hear some of the speakers. WECode has been a student-led conference since 2014.

Luna said she enjoyed hearing from keynote speaker Elizabeth Mynatt, dean of Khoury College of Computer Sciences, and Kristin Austin, vice president of Inclusion, Diversity, Ideas and Access at Rewriting the Code, an organization committed to empowering women in tech.

“Harvard WECode helped contribute to my personal growth by inspiring me to aim higher,” Luna said. “It has also helped me with my professional growth as I made connections with some wonderful, intelligent women and learned new things at sessions.”  

Luna’s will highlights the significant impact of organizations such as Harvard WECode, showcasing their role as drivers for individual growth and career advancement, echoing the transformative abilities of determination and strength.

“It was truly inspiring to see such accomplished women in the tech field sharing their expertise,” Santos added.

Santos’s contemplation highlights the importance of diversity within the technology sector, demonstrating how various backgrounds and career paths enhance the overall learning environment at Harvard WECode.

I believe that attending Harvard WECode 2024 has made all the difference in my trajectory as a Latina international student in the US,” Santos said.

Interested in technology since childhood, Luna taught small workshops about STEM over the years. She hopes to witness continued inclusivity in the tech space and said that diversity and inclusion are her primary passions in the industry.

“I think it’s incredibly important to have a diverse tech community,” Luna said. “I really loved to see Harvard WECode host a space and sessions for inclusivity in tech.”

 Harvard WECode also offers opportunities for further advancement. 

“I learned about the Harvard WECode Fellowship, a three-month program where fellows help promote the conference,” Luna said. “Rewriting the Code also offers scholarships.”

 Looking ahead, Luna is eager to deepen her involvement in tech-related organizations and secure her first tech-related internship. 

“After attending Harvard WECode, I hope to become more involved in tech-related organizations and hopefully score my first tech-related internship sometime soon,” Luna said.

As a first-time attendee at Harvard WECode, Luna found value in connecting with fellow conference-goers through platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram. 

“My advice for someone attending Harvard WECode for the first time is to relax, have fun and know that this is a safe and inclusive space,” Luna said. “Please don’t feel intimidated by anything, you belong in tech.

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