As a teenager, Governess Simpson wanted to be a singer.
“Sixteen year old me was thinking pop music,” she says. But her advanced placement chemistry instructor at Stillwater Area High School saw her as something else.
“He thought I had what it took to be a chemical engineer,” she says.
The University of Minnesota’s reputation in the field led her to the College of Science and Engineering, where she is majoring in industrial systems engineering, with a minor in computer science. Simpson, who will graduate in 2022 and is a 3M Diversity Scholar, is working toward a career in software engineering.
“I love coding and programming and hope to work for a tech organization where I can build something that makes a difference,” she says.
While she had always been interested in software, Simpson switched majors a number of times.
“I struggled with the coursework [and] I had a feeling of self-doubt, that I don’t belong in this field. I had never coded before college, and I wasn’t really a ‘science kid,’ so taking STEM classes was challenging,” she says.
It wasn’t until she began getting internships and working in tech that Simpson started to gain confidence and realize that she was capable.
Part of that increased confidence came from her acceptance into a research experience for undergraduates that was hosted by the National Science Foundation. It was a 10- to 12-week program for students to study and do research with a professor.
“It was my first professional research experience in computer science. I got to code and build tangible products and see how my work applied to what my professor was researching at the time, which was virtual reality and how it applies to architecture and interior design,” says Simpson.
“I was one of the first authors on a paper that got published. My professor told me it would help me as I applied to internships. That whole experience kick-started my career.”
Simpson continues to forge ahead, interning this past summer as a program manager at Microsoft, where she learned how to build mockups of a product and figure out how it will perform in the market, and also to engage with people and ask the right questions.
She says that perhaps her most rewarding time at the U of M has been the community she has found here.
“I’m in an engineering fraternity and am really close friends with everyone there. I’m in a venture capital firm based in the Carlson School, which is crazy because I never foresaw myself in that type of environment. I’m on a powerlifting team, and I’m part of the Minnesota Student Association. The possibilities have been endless.”
This story appeared in original form at Legacy, a publication of the University of Minnesota Foundation.