Lessons from the Middle Earth: Why I’m Still Here

By Blakeley H. Payne


Often, I get asked, “How did you get into computer science?” As an active advocate for increased diversity in computing, I’m usually asked with the extra subtext of, “How did you get into computer science as a girl?”

But the thing is — the story of how I got into computer science is boring. Yep, boring. Like many other women in computer science I know, I ended up here mostly by chance. Simply put, I was a senior in high school who needed an extra class to take. My choices for second period were AP Computer Science or AP Physics C. It was known that the computer science teacher was exceptional and my feelings towards physics at the time were mostly… bleh. So I signed up for AP CS, liked it, and that was that.

And while the “how I got here” question might be interesting from a statistical perspective, I’ve always felt like it fails to capture the part where I actually do the work to self-identify as a computer scientist. Yes, computing faces a “pipeline problem” when it comes to diversity, but we also know that women leave. Thus, now, with all the qualifications a year-old bachelor’s degree can afford me, I want to address a more interesting question: why have I stayed in computing?

Cue the Shire music, please.

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