Happy 2021! For blogHer’s second post, we’d like to introduce one of the compileHer board members running the blog: UChicago second year Lily Ehsani! Here’s what she has to say.

“Hi friends! My name is Lily Ehsani, and I am a second year Computer Science major at UChicago. I’m originally from just outside of Philadelphia, PA. I attended public school for most of my life, electing to go to a Quaker school for grades 9–12. I had almost no exposure to computer science before coming to UChicago, which is one reason I love working with compileHer and showing younger girls how wonderful CS can be! I actually came into college thinking I wanted to major in physics or astrophysics. Growing up, I knew that I was talented and passionate about math, but I didn’t like the idea of just playing with numbers for the rest of my life (I now understand that this isn’t exactly what mathematicians do, but my point still stands!). I preferred to apply my knowledge, and I also really enjoyed being creative. I would make art, music, and just random creations that I thought looked cool or did cool things. Because of the combination of all of this, and a lifelong fascination with outer space, I thought that physics or astronomy would be the way to go.

However, I got to college and discovered that I did not actually like upper level physics. I was taking the introductory physics classes, and while they were great courses, I discovered that they just weren’t for me. I was fortunate enough to get off the waitlist for Introduction to Computer Science—a class I requested because it was adjacent to the fields I thought I wanted to study and it just sounded fun. I know that the class was rightfully a struggle for many people, but to me, it was a relief. I had fun solving the problems we were given, whereas I was receiving no satisfaction from solving problems in physics. I relatively rapidly figured out that CS was the field for me, and now here I am.

This past summer, I did a (remote) internship at Fermilab, which I applied for when I thought I still wanted to pursue astrophysics. I was fortunate again in that the scientist I was working with allowed me to choose my own project—so I went with creating a machine learning classifier for a rare astrophysical phenomenon. 90% of the internship was coding; I had an amazing time and learned a lot. Starting last year, I am also employed by CSIL, UChicago’s Computer Science Instructional Laboratory, where I work on web development and systems administration. And, of course, I am on the board of CompileHer, where I have the privilege of sharing my experience with everyone and forming connections with other women in CS.

Overall, I would say I have an atypical journey into the field of computer science, but so does just about everyone. The girls we work with at compileHer absolutely blow me away every time I see what they are working on and what they’ve learned. I like to think that I can be an example for girls who get into coding “later” than others, but I also want girls who are already learning about CS to know that they are exploring an incredible field. Everyone can be successful in computer science if they are passionate about it and put the work in. And the tech industry deserves a more diverse set of creators, which is a goal we are all working towards.”