30 March 2020

An Interview with Andrea Delgado-Olson, Tapia Birds of a Feather Deputy Chair

Andrea Delgado Olson

Andrea Delgado-Olson is the Senior Program Manager for Systers and GHC Communities at Andrea is the Co-Chair of the Birds of a Feather Committee for the 2020 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing. We interviewed Andrea about her career, the importance of building communities and how she has become involved with the Tapia Conference.

Tell me about your life growing up.

I was born in Oakland California and grew up 10 miles away in Orinda during my middle school years. My father was a financial business manager for the Peralta School District, my mother was the Director of the San Francisco Bay Area field office for the Office of Special Counsel. I grew up surrounded by strong women – my mother, my grandmother and my great grandmother. I also had a large extended family, our most recent family reunion had over three hundred people.

Did you start off in Computer Science?

I actually started out studying biotechnology at a local community college, I loved math and science. I ended up getting into teaching in 1998, after I had my first son. I took an early childhood education class and then took 12 units to become a teacher by getting my certificate of completion. I taught pre-school in Moraga for 15 years and I had two more children.

How did you end up in Computer Science?

When I went back to school to finish my Bachelor’s degree, in 2013, I took a contemporary computing class and loved it. I had a great professor at Mills College who became my mentor and a good friend. I graduated from Mills College in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in education and then continued studying at Mills for a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. My professor, Ellen Spertus, a long time member of Systers, recommended to her students attend a conference for women technologists, the Grace Hopper Celebration. I, along with three others, applied to be volunteers at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. We were accepted! We took our midterms, hopped in a car and drove to Phoenix with my husband driving us. I was a typical newbie but I loved it and went to all the sessions I could. It was inspiring to be at a conference surrounded by other women in Computer Science.

How did you become involved in building communities in Computer Science?

While at the Grace Hopper Celebration I heard women talking about affinity groups and I asked whether there was one for Native American Women in Computing (NAWIC). They introduced me to Rose Robinson who began working with me. We introduced Native American Women in Computing at the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration. Building a community for Native American Women was important to me, they are severely underrepresented in computer science. I am a member of the Ione Band of Miwok Indians and for the first year I was the only member of NAWIC.

Rose brought me into as an intern in 2015 and I have been there ever since. I believe that if you don’t see representation you have to take the initiative and be what you are looking for. Today we have around 50 members. I am also a newly appointed board member for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). And I am engaged with Natives in Tech which is another great community and I was very pleased to see them launch their own conference last November with amazing speakers. And personally I collaborated with Google and Udacity for a course on the Miwok language which has been taken over 200,000 times, the Android Basics Nanodegree course for Multiscreen Apps.

You are the Birds of a Feather (BOF) Co-Chair, tell me about why people should attend BoF Sessions?

Rose Robinson invited me to be the BOF Co-chair this year. I think BOFs are a hub of how good and impactful things can happen. Once you start sharing about things you are working on or your experiences, it inspires other people to share how they have navigated those challenges. Going to a conference and listening to talks are amazing, but you also need to make connections and collaborate. A BOF gives you the opportunity to make meaningful connections, be inspired or be someone else’s inspiration. I encourage everyone to attend the Tapia Conference and attend a BOF session and find your community.