RoadTrip Nation
Natalie Melo entered college as a chemical engineering major—but all it took was one computer science class to get her hooked on coding. Realizing it was the perfect outlet for her curiosity and problem-solving skills, she quickly found herself changing majors. When she applied to Roadtrip Nation and Microsoft’s “Code Trip,” she was a sophomore well on her way to becoming a computer scientist—but she was facing doubts. As a Latina entering a male-dominated field, she often wondered whether she had what it took to survive the world of tech. Her dream was (and is) to honor her parents, who immigrated to the United States to give her a better life, but she sometimes felt that she lacked role models that she could relate to. Her biggest hope for the road trip was that it would introduce her to females who’d been in her shoes so she could gain the inspiration needed to forge ahead. Indeed, she found one such role model in Laura I. Gómez—founder and CEO of recruiting company Atipica, as well as a first-generation immigrant—who immediately connected to Natalie’s story. She also drew inspiration from a visit to robotics company Sphero, which motivated her to enroll in more hardware-specific engineering classes when she returned from the road trip. Currently in her senior year at the University of Pennsylvania, Natalie continues to carry the torch for future generations of minority computer science students: she spent the past summer dividing her time between working as a computer science teaching assistant, and acting as a residential advisor for an MIT program for underrepresented high school students called Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES).