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Jessica Izumi

“I have found avenues to do what I love…I wouldn’t have been able to do this had it not only been for my parents, CWIT, UMBC, and so many of my true friends who I have met along this journey.”


Major: Chemical Engineering/Computer Science

Hometown: Pasadena, MD

Campus Activities: Center for Women in Technology; Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority; hackUMBC; Georgia Tech – Center for Material Science Devices (summer 2011); Department of Chemical/Biochemical/Environmental Engineering – through Dr. Hennigan (summer 2013 – fall 2014); NASA Discover AQ – through Dr. Hennigan (summer 2014); The Dow Chemical Company (2015) Capital One Software Engineering Summit (summer 2017); Vanguard (summer 2017); T. Rowe Price (fall 2017-spring 2018); Major League Hacking (2018 – present) Rockwell Automation (summer 2018 – fall 2018)

What did you choose UMBC?
I originally chose UMBC because I got a scholarship through CWIT. In high school, I had no idea what I wanted to be but I knew that I loved chemistry and math. I read about how the country was trying to push for my girls to go into engineering and I was up for the challenge. I spent my collective 4.5 years at UMBC, socializing through a sorority with Greek life, with people who I would not have met outside of my STEM classes. It was true applied psychology, learning about different personalities and perspectives by interacting. And this was the experience that I needed and the experience that shaped my soft skills, allowing me to find a really high paying job with Dow Chemical after graduation in 2014. Dow Chemical is a company that recruits from many state flag schools in the Midwest and South so being immersed with co-workers from Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Florida, LSU, etc. I felt out of place at first. But when I took time to get to know them, I realized that they didn’t really know much more than I did. We were all on the same baseline and we had things in common, they became my friends. I never really understood the diversity problem because at UMBC, you consider it the norm. It was not until I moved down south that my eyes opened to how limited diversity in thought not only created a toxic environment, but a place that I didn’t feel comfortable being who I honestly was. It is the culture and how some of them are raised down south, to be tough, so I can see things through their perspective as well. In the end, I realized that I was never honest with myself as to why I chose chemical engineering in the first place. This was not the field that I could really see myself achieving my true growth potential in so I found the courage to come back to UMBC to pursue another bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. And this has been the best decision of my life because not only am I going back and doing it with what I know now, but I truly can relate to Miley Cyrus in that, I feel so much younger now. I have found other avenues to do what I love, teaching, art, technology that matters, networking with people who are different than me and opening up my mind. I wouldn’t have been able to do this had it not only been for my parents, CWIT, UMBC, and so many of my true friends who I have met along this journey. We do not all take the same path in life, but we will take a piece of the special friends that we meet along the way, everywhere that we go. It is also amazing to see my friends, who I went to UMBC with, doing so many big things now. I remember being a freshmen and thinking “Is UMBC really up and coming though? What does that even mean?” But now having seen where so many of my peers have gone, UMBC is everywhere and I am so proud to see so many of them doing such big things in big named places.

What has been your favorite class at UMBC?
Classes from my freshmen year because that’s where it all began. I wouldn’t say that it was because of what I learned as much as it was because of the friendships that I made. In engineering, you’re taking so many difficult courses that do not relate and that consume so much time. But you make it through because of the friends who struggle with you. You teach them what you know and they teach you what they know. You motivate each other to keep going even when you feel like you cannot keep going. It’s the power of diversity and the power of networking, proven in ways that a classroom cannot teach.

Where did you complete your internship/applied learning experience?
When I was here for Chemical Engineering, I held multiple research positions between Georgia Tech and in Dr. Hennigan’s lab. I also was able to contribute to 3 publications. After graduation (the first time), I realized that research was not my forte so I decided to pursue industry but as mentioned above, that was never the ending fit that I saw myself growing in. After being back in school, I’ve had the opportunity to work for 3 different financial companies (Capital One, Vanguard, T. Rowe Price). And starting this summer, I will be interning at Rockwell Automation, bringing two rare worlds into one – chemical engineering and computer science. They say to walk the road less travelled and now I understand what that means. Walking my own path has given me a perspective that very few have, and it is our differences that are our greatest superpowers. UMBC also has allowed me to go to alot of insightful and inspiring conferences, women who have made it taught me that it wasn’t easy. They helped me to understand that people will keep saying no but you have to be resilient. And one of the best quotes that can describe my journey thus far is “Never let someone who doesn’t understand where you’re trying to go, give you directions on how to get there.”

What do you hope to achieve after you complete your degree at UMBC?
I am still keeping an open mind. The beauty of computer science is that you hold the power to truly be whoever you want to be. I’ve been able to explore the chemical, financial, and soon the industrial engineering industry. I am someone who knows that I need to try something in order to determine if it is a good fit before fully committing. I have to always be honest with myself.

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