Ave-Maria Nlandou-Nkounkou, a computer science student at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College, has been busy in recent days, networking with representatives from technology companies at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Fla. The four-day, international conference for women in technology has been incredible, the computer science student said.
“I had my first job interview (in Orlando), and it was both nerve-wracking and exciting — all at once,” she said.
Nlandou-Nkounkou received an all-expenses-paid scholarship to the Oct. 1-4 conference after writing an essay about the need for more women of color in technology professions.
“I wrote about my love of computer science and how, when I look around in my (computer) classes, there are not a lot of women and not a lot of women of color,” she said. “I wrote about the importance of diversity in the profession.”
Now a coding whiz and active in Clarkston Campus’s Women in STEM experience (WiSe) club and CLACEC, the Clarkston Campus computing and engineering club, Nlandou-Nkounkou said she wasn’t confident at first about a career in computer science.
“I didn’t think I liked math, she said. “A relative pushed me and said, ‘you don’t know if you don’t try,’” she said.
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nlandou-Nkounkou came to the United States as a refugee with her family when she was 7 years old, settling in the Stone Mountain area. She started at Perimeter College in 2017 in communications.
“I realized I couldn’t see myself in a career in communications,” she said.
So, she took a semester off, then came back to college, changing her pathway to computer science after passing the algebra placement test. She finished her class with an A, taught herself how to code and is working on creating her own website.
Attending the conference has reinforced her desire to work in the profession, she said.
“It’s been a great learning experience for me,” she said. “I have had the opportunity to attend workshops and attend networking events with different companies so that I can get a feel for the company culture. The conference itself had students, academics and industry professionals from all parts of the world. It is refreshing to know how big of a community the tech industry has.”
Nlandou-Nkounkou has spent the bulk of her time at the conference speaking to prospective companies about a possible summer internship program and asking industry professionals about the ins and outs of working in technology.
“If there is anything that I can take back from it, is that I can only put my best foot forward and grow from the experience,” she said.
Nlandou-Nkounkou plans to graduate with her associate degree from Perimeter College in December and transition to the Atlanta Campus to study computer science.
Story by Rebecca Rakoczy
Photo by Bill Roa