San Francisco, CA, May 31, 2016 — On October 21, Toptal launched Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women, a program designed to empower and support the next generation of female computer scientists, software engineers, and developers through a combination of financial support and mentorship.
Today, we are thrilled to announce the sixth winner of the scholarship, Yasett Gisela Acurana Flores, a Bolivian software developer who is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Information Technology at Universidad de Chile with the goal of becoming a Professor of Computer Science.
An active community member of Systers (a forum dedicated to women in tech created by Anita Borg in 1987) and a volunteer at the first ever Latinity, a conference put together by Latinas in Computing, Yasett takes every chance she can to improve her engineering skills while mentoring other aspiring female engineers at the same time.
This summer, Yasett is collaborating with the Universidad de San Simon in Bolivia to put on the second edition of the Summer School of Languages and Applications, a program that offers workshops and panels to students interested in tech. Yasett will lead a course on object-oriented analysis and design and host panels that encourage more students to contribute to open source and come up with concrete solutions for closing the gender gap in tech.
Yasett’s Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women application
“With Yasett, the decision to award her the scholarship was easy,” said Toptal Director of Engineering Anna-Chiara Bellini, who leads the committee of judges. “We were all amazed by every detail of her application, from the care taken in her application letter, which was extensive and well-written, to her immensely positive attitude on the phone interview. Being so young and yet so accomplished, Yasett is just incredible. She has already contributed to several projects, and she shows great skills paired with a strong determination and drive.”
For the open source part of her application, Yasett contributed to the Eclipse Foundation Code Recommenders project. While she had never before contributed to open source, her choice was simple: “I’m always looking to give back, and since I used the Eclipse IDE software every day, I immediately knew I wanted to help with that community first.”
Yasett’s project, and the way she was able to articulate her challenges and work process, greatly impressed the panel of judges. “The project that she chose to contribute to is definitely non-trivial. She managed to make meaningful and significant contributions, even when dealing with a large codebase that is a couple of decades old,” said Bellini. “She was also incredibly detailed, thoughtful, and clear in her explanation of the project, which is evidence of her clarity of mind, and an indication that she’ll excel as both a mentor and a teacher. She’s definitely on the right path, and we are looking forward to supporting her.”
As a scholarship winner, Yasett will receive $5,000 to use to further her educational and professional development goals, as well as a year of weekly one-on-one dedicated mentorship with a senior software engineer from the Toptal network.
The scholarship will help Yasett organize the Summer School this year. She will use the funds to recruit other outstanding women in tech to participate in the program and make it possible for other aspiring engineers to take part for free. In turn, leading her own course and being part of the organizing committee will allow Yasett to strengthen her own teaching skills and reach a broader audience.
“The mentorship part of the scholarship will help with my professional development, both as an engineer and as a teacher,” Yasett said. “I want to learn how to best transmit knowledge to someone else, because being a great engineer is only half the battle when it comes to becoming an amazing Professor of Computer Science.”
Yasett’s mother is a literature teacher and her father an accountant, so she learned to be a self-starter when it comes to programming at a very young age. “Since I was a kid,” she said, “I always tried to figure out how things worked. When I was 5, I was really curious about how cars moved, so I built one with paper. That’s what set me down the science and engineering path.”
In 2014, a group of professors, in collaboration with the Universidad de San Simon, traveled to Cochabamba, Bolivia as part of the first Summer School, where they gave a series of presentations about the dearth of scientific research in Bolivia. Yasett signed up to be a volunteer for the Summer School in order to learn from them and better understand the state of technological innovation and research in her home country.
She learned that “Bolivia is more of a consumer than a creator of technology, and that the situation would only change if these professors –and more– collaborated, pulling together their knowledge regardless of university or the company they worked for in order to make Bolivia a leader in scientific research.” It was during that summer school program that Yasett knew she wanted to become a professor, and to return to Bolivia to bring more and more women into computer science.
“The hardest part of deciding to get my Master’s Degree was having to leave my country,” Yasett said, choosing the Universidad de Chile because it was the best option closest to home. “I had never lived without my parents and the cultural challenges were many, but I knew I had to go further my studies so I could strengthen my programming skills and give back more to my community.”
Yasett believes “being a programmer is like being a magician because you can bring things to life that only exist in your imagination.” With the scholarship, Yasett will be able to further her goals both as a software engineer and as a teacher.
Please join us in congratulating software developer Yasett Giselle on becoming the sixth winner of the Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women program!
About Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women
Toptal STEM Scholarships for women are a series of 12 scholarships for women that are awarded monthly over a year, with Rachell being the fifth scholarship winner. Women from across the world of any education level are eligible to apply to win $5,000 and a year of weekly one-on-one technical training and mentorship from a Toptal senior technologist to help them pursue their goals as future professional software engineers.
To apply to Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers and for more information about the program, visit https://www.toptal.com/scholarships.
Founded in 2010, Toptal is one the fastest-growing and most innovative companies to emerge from Silicon Valley. With backing from Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley’s famed venture capital firm, Adam D’Angelo, founder of Quora, Ryan Rockefeller, and other investors, Toptal today connects thousands of elite freelance software engineers and designers from around the world to over 2,000 blue chips such as J.P. Morgan and Pfizer, tech companies such as Airbnb and Zendesk, and numerous startups to provide world-class solutions that meet the most complex and challenging requirements. Toptal’s rapid growth is testimony to exploding client demand and the unmatched quality and reliability of the company’s services.
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