Alumnae/i Feature

Jazzmine White ’17 Takes the Confidence She Learned at Simmons to Speak Up at Cisco

“I am always confident in my code,” says Jazzmine White ’17. “I learned that confidence at Simmons from the small classes and non-competitive atmosphere. I learned how to take criticism and not let it affect me too much. It helped me improve my work.”

A former computer science major, White is now a full-stack Software Engineer at Cisco, doing front and back end development using Python and JavaScript (programming languages), Java (computer software), and Angular (web framework). She’s taken the initiative to expand her skills, working directly with the MuleSoft software team to find out what they needed for a particular project.

“I built that pipeline myself,” explains White, “using JavaScript and a bit of Python on the backend and Angular on the frontend. I did the entire thing myself and only had help to test it.”

She also supports new hires, particularly Black professionals at Cisco. “I’ve been told that I speak up more than other people my age. I’m good at defending my opinions.” Her manager asks her to encourage the other new members of the staff to share their thoughts. “Everyone says I ask so many questions, but I have a right to ask questions. If I don’t understand, you need to explain it to me. I need to understand a plan well enough to execute it.”

I’ve been told that I speak up more than other people my age. I’m good at defending my opinions.

While at Simmons, White presented at Grace Hopper and did a keynote at the Undergraduate Symposium. She also took advantage of Collaborative Research Experiences for Undergraduates (CREU) while at Simmons. “Professor Veilleux and Professor Stubbs pushed so many research projects at us! They always pushed us to do more and do it well. They want you to push past your limitations.”

The presentation skills she learned are put to good use in her current position. “I learned how to take an idea and execute it. Now, I do that at work. If I have an idea, my manager encourages me to try it and present the results.”
She advises all current students to take advantage of the opportunities Simmons offers. “Go to conferences! Don’t worry about the money — Simmons has money to help students afford the registration fee — all you have to do is ask.”

The Grace Hopper Celebration is her top recommendation for computer science students, as that is where she landed her internship at Goldman Sachs and later her full-time position at Cisco.

“I’ve been able to go back to Grace Hopper and recruit other women for Cisco,” she says. “When you go, don’t spend the entire time trying to get a job — go and have fun and meet people, too. There are so many women in tech!” If you can’t get funding to attend a conference, White suggests volunteering in exchange for free admission.

When it comes to internships, don’t be hesitant to apply. “Look at requirements, but if you miss one or two, still apply,” White advises. “According to the requirements, I was definitely not qualified for an internship at Goldman Sachs, but I was hired! We can get psyched out because we don’t meet or exceed requirements, so we don’t apply. But what’s the worst that could happen? You can get ten rejections and one acceptance — and one is all you need!”

Students should get involved in hackathons and other opportunities to code with other people, as that is likely how they will work in professional positions. “It’s more than learning to code — it’s learning how to code with other people. We used Git [software] in class, but not to the extent that I need it for work. Practicing in a group will help you learn how to operate in a real coding environment.”

Group projects also impact your approach to time management. “You have a goal for each day, and you need to keep up and participate in scrum calls. You can’t just rely on yourself to do it at the last minute,” says White.

Hackathons are a great way to connect with coders across the country, often virtually, and get experience co-coding in a team. Don’t have a hackathon? White suggests starting your own project. “Come up with your own ideas and projects. Start a GitHub account and create apps — connect your schoolwork to your passion to make it fun.”

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Ande Lyons

Lyons understands the struggles of starting a business. An entrepreneur for over 30 years, she has started four of her own businesses in that time. Now she hosts StartUp Life LIVE Show, a weekly live stream show offering business advice to entrepreneurs.

Alumnae/i Feature