Nicolette Yadegar '14, computer science
After Nicolette Yadegar earned a computer science degree from Cal Poly Pomona in 2014, she knew her work was just beginning. She was part of a small group of women who majored in computer science, and she wanted to see that number grow.
“As a female in a male-dominated industry, it’s easy to feel like an outsider,” Yadegar says. “Most of the time, it’s not a problem. When it is, I tell myself that I have two choices: I can be upset that I have to work twice as hard just to prove myself, or I can work twice as hard and move forward in the hopes that the people who follow in my footsteps will have an easier time.”
A software engineer at Microsoft, Yadegar hopes to blaze a trail for other females wanting to pursue computer science. Yadegar says she appreciates companies like Microsoft that work to address unconscious bias.
Yadegar has found that the traits of successful individuals she has worked with are their ability to be resilient and patient, combined with a desire to see others succeed. She has patterned her career around these attributes, and Microsoft has noticed.
“I am on the rapid prototyping team working with the latest Microsoft technology to develop IoT (Internet of Things) projects that enhance employee productivity,” Yadegar says. “I’m currently working with embedded systems, sensors and Azure Machine Learning. My main focus is on designing and building resilient, extensible, fault-tolerant services.”
Yadegar lives in Seattle, just outside of Microsoft’s corporate headquarters in suburban Redmond. Away from work, she volunteers teaching computer science at an all-girl’s high school in Seattle under the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools program.
What advice does she have for those who want to pursue a career in the high-tech industry?
“I think everyone who decides to pursue this career should be ready and willing to be a lifelong learner,” Yadegar says. “It is an incredibly fast-paced industry, with standards and practices changing every few years.”
Yadegar cites the ever-changing job environment as an exciting aspect that has helped prevent career stagnation. She also appreciates consistently learning something new and building on that knowledge.
Looking back, she credits Cal Poly Pomona for laying a successful foundation. The skills and theory she learned as a computer science student prepared her for the workplace.
“I was very lucky that during my time at Cal Poly Pomona I always felt I had the support, friendship, and respect of my classmates and everyone in the computer science community and department,” Yadegar says. “The support and advice of advisers, professors and Dr. Robert Kerbs, (interim associate dean of the College of Science and former computer science chair) gave me the confidence that I belonged. I carried that with me into my career.”
She was the first female president of one of the largest student clubs in the College of Science, the Computer Science Society (CSS).
“She not only had the skills to be an exceptional software engineer, she had the rare combination of leadership and community-building skills,” Kerbs says. “Her guidance opened up doors to more females not only becoming computer science majors, but taking on more leadership roles in the major.”
Yadegar also appreciated what she learned beyond the classroom. She was inspired by the interaction she had with people who worked together to help one another learn and grow. This made her college experience, and the value of her education at Cal Poly Pomona, priceless, she says.
“I have never heard of a student body, especially that of a computer science department, that is so diverse,” Yadegar says. “I also admire that they are always trying to do more to improve, and continuously ask for and listen to student feedback.”
Yadegar has set the bar for the next generation of female computer science majors. She recently returned to the campus to share her industry knowledge with Cal Poly Pomona’s first all-female computer science club, Girl’s Night of Code.
"She is a great role model to me as a woman in computer science,” said Emily Le. “Seeing her as president of the CSS club inspired me to start the club Girl’s Night of Code and helped build my confidence."