Chelsea West is a sophomore in Information Communication Technology at the University of Kentucky. Originally from a small town on the Kentucky/WV border, she spent her childhood years on her mother’s work PC playing around with live HTML editors due to a lack of stable internet access at home. She quickly became proficient enough to build basic websites and has since carried her passion for development all the way to adulthood. Chelsea is primarily interested in UX design and is always looking for better ways to understand user experience – ideally, she says her research will focus on enhancing human-product interaction.
She knows all too well the effects of impostor syndrome, stating that there are some days that make it difficult to feel at ease in her field. “I definitely feel out-of-place sometimes. It’s especially annoying when someone decides to question me about irrelevant, vaguely tech-related things – to be frank, I don’t exactly hear them telling nearby men ‘I just want to test your knowledge.’” This doesn’t get her down, though. “While there are some difficult moments, I know that I deserve to be where I am – just like anyone else. I don’t have to defend my interests to STEM gatekeepers.” Chelsea also firmly believes that passion is important: “If you are at all passionate about computing, creating, designing, etc.– go for it! People will tell you not to pursue coding if you aren’t great with math or if you aren’t familiar with hardware. Don’t be fooled: if you want to be here, you belong! Everyone has to start somewhere, and you certainly don’t have to have been a ‘techie’ your whole life to get involved in information technology or computer science.”
Lastly, Chelsea stresses the importance of connections with other women in STEM. “I joined the campus chapter of ACM-W last semester and felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders almost immediately. It’s so rewarding to be able to discuss similar experiences with people who understand exactly what you’ve been through.” Friendships also boost confidence and help networking, she adds: “I walk tall knowing that there are others like me who relate to me and what I experience in STEM. Being able to work on projects with my friends and have my name on it, of course, is just the icing on the cake!”