The Think IT scholarship program is designed to holistically support students: in the classroom, financially, and through career exploration and mentorship. As Think IT scholars, the four 2019 winners will receive personalized professional support and guidance, receive access to college-to-career programs, and get the opportunity to connect with technology and business professionals.

Each of these students has a story worth telling. So, we decided to sit down with each of these esteemed winners to hear – in their own words – how they got to where they are today and where they hope to go next.

In the final Think IT scholarship feature, we are excited to spotlight Yingyi Zhou, a rising sophomore at St. Olaf College. Ying came to the United States in 2014 and plans to major in Computer Science. She’s involved in numerous tech and diversity initiatives on campus including a TRIO talent research mentorship and Linux Ladies, in addition to being a technology consulting assistant. This summer, she will be an intern at Microsoft Headquarters in Washington where she will learn software development and product management skills. Speaking to Ying’s ability to set a goal and achieve it, Genesys Works College Success Specialist Britney Hayes said, “Ying’s goal is to become a Data Scientist. After her first year of college, she has been offered an Internship with Microsoft. She will be leaving to Seattle this summer, and would love to experience how technology varies nationally and internationally.”

She’s pretty awesome, so let’s hear it from her:

Question: What is your favorite memory from Genesys Works summer training?
Yingyi Zhou: My favorite memory is being challenged to talk to a stranger and introduce myself professionally to them. I was an introverted person so I was not confident to do so. But this challenge made me more confident to talk to others, which led me to finish four informational interviews at my Genesys Works internship position and be a panelist at YWCA Conference in 2019.

Q: Have you had any breakthrough moments since leaving GW? In college, in career exploration, in professional internships?
YZ: Yes, I have had so many actually! At the beginning of my freshman year, I applied to be president of my residence hall. I successfully got the position through two competitive elections and won 11% over the runners up. As an introverted person in high school, I was very surprised to get so much support from other college fellows.
One of the other moments was from GW Talent Development Pipeline! I was a panelist at the YWCA conference, where I represented as a Genesys Works participant, and talked confidently to professionals on stage. When I just came to the United States, I was barely able to talk in English and I was almost crying on my first elevator pitch at Genesys Works Training. I was not expecting to being able to speak my thoughts confidently.

Q: Do you have a mentor or a particular person who has helped you along the way to receiving this scholarship?
YZ: Michelle Anderson from my college career center helped me prepare for my final interview. I was a bit lost on how to prepare for the interview since the focus was different. Michelle worked with College Possible in the past, so she understood the most important thing that I needed to do was to present myself. In our meeting, she praised all the amazing work that I have done, which helped me gain my confidence. She also did a mock interview with me, where she asked me why do I want the scholarship, why is this important to me, and so on. All these prepared me to present the best of myself at the real interview.

Q: What was the biggest challenge of your transition to college?
YZ: My biggest challenge of your transition is getting to know new friends. Because it is a whole new environment and some students fit into a group really fast. Therefore, it is a huge challenge for me to find a group to fit in. However, I have a nice friendly group called Beansprouts!

Q: What advice would you give to students as they finish up their GW internships and look towards college and postsecondary plans?
YZ: I would say do some research on your school and your career in the summer. There are a lot of opportunities out there and it is always nice if you can start early. For example, look into a college club that interests you and find internship opportunities that target first and second-year students.

Q: What do you hope to be doing in 5 years?
YZ: I hope to be a data scientist/software engineer in a company that cares about the community because I want to use the power of IT to support minorities. I think IT is the future of our world. For example, I would like to use the data to find what is the area that communities need help with. If I decided to be a software engineer, I could create an app to support minorities in finding housing and give support to communities in need.

Q: What are you passionate about?
YZ: The community and IT! I love technology, which grows fast and has unlimited power to help our society develop positively. I am always so glad for the support I got from the community, so I want to give back to it. As described above, I want to use technology to help underrepresented groups get support from the community based on their needs.

That’s a wrap for the 2019 Think IT spotlight series. Check out the features on Brandon Ngo, Latifa Said, and Omar Ceesay! The Think IT Scholarship is presented by York Solutions, in partnership with Genesys Works Twin Cities, the Think IT Association, and Wallin Education Partners.

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