Hello, readers – I’m back with tips and tricks!

Today, I have the pleasure of sharing insights from my friend Christina Kao, who graciously spent some time to write about her experiences in the tech field. I met her at Stanford when we were undergrads. Christina was in my freshman dorm.

Below, she shares how she first got interested/involved in tech, how she confronted her insecurities and imposter syndrome, and her advice on how she get started!

I hope her interview is helpful for any of you who are looking to enter tech/Silicon Valley and/or are simply curious about it.


1. What are you currently up to?

I just finished my masters in Computer Science, and am about to start at Splunk as a software engineer.

2. How/When did you first get interested in tech?

When I first got to Stanford, I planned to major in biology. But the popularity of CS [computer science] at Stanford, and also the abundant and amazing resources that the department provide are impossible to overlook. I took my first CS introductory class at Stanford (CS 106A) with Professor Mehran Sahami during fall of my sophomore year, the passion he has for the subject and his excellent teaching opened a whole new world for me, and allowed me to get a glimpse of the power and beauty of CS. Thereafter, I decided to change my major to Symbolic Systems.

Aya’s extra tip: You can all actually access the CS 106A course lectures on YouTube! Stanford (and other universities) offer some great lecture series online for FREE 😀 (I’m pretty sure you can still access the course materials too. CS 106A was built around the Java programming language, but I think they’re currently updating to an easier-to-learn language).

3. Silicon Valley and tech fields currently don’t have a ton of women. What’s been your experience so far as a woman in tech? If there’ve been challenges, how’d you deal with them?

Personally I feel that I don’t yet have enough exposure in the tech field to speak about the issue (only one summer internship). But based on the little that I’ve seen and heard, it’s aligned with the general understanding in terms of the large gender imbalance. Luckily, I haven’t yet encountered a lot of the challenges that many women face in the field.

For me, the biggest challenge has always been having enough confidence in my own abilities. Talking to friends who have been through it or are in similar situations help a lot, but usually what works best is just to put forth my best effort and not think about it too much.

4. What advice do you have for budding tech hopefuls? Suggestions for finding a job in Silicon Valley/tech, how to “succeed” (whatever that means to you), etc.

Start learning or continue learning right now, and never give up. Things are constantly changing in this field, but the good thing is there is also a lot of quality resources out there, whether it be Coursera or OpenCourseWare or the numerous books, online communities and blog posts. In terms of job search, what I did was to reach out to as many people as I could (friends or alumni) for advice or referrals, and just keep practicing and trying, making sure that I learn and improve from every experience.

5. What do you enjoy on the weekends/outside of your job?

I love traveling, often taking some short road trips up to Napa or down to LA; going on hikes with friends or play basketball, or practice Chinese calligraphy, which has been a long time interest of mine.