On Friday, approximately 100 UMass Boston students visited IBM’s Cambridge Innovation Center to hear about careers in research, technology and business. The all-women panel included Frances West, chief accessibility officer at IBM; Sara Basson, who has worked on the Watson project for IBM Research, and a group of young women from across IBM’s Cambridge office.
Basson and West both spoke about their personal career trajectories. When West said she wanted to work for IBM, detractors told her she would only be a secretary. “I said, no, I’m going to be a systems engineer,” said West, a first-generation immigrant who received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from UMass Boston in 2011. “You need to prepare yourself for your goal – and then you need to take risks.”
The field trip to IBM was organized by Wei Ding, professor of computer science at UMass Boston and faculty advisor for the Women in Science Club at UMass Boston. Ding said that she wanted to expose students to possible career paths in a world-class environment. “I want students to see that you should be brave, and be proud to be a student at UMass Boston,” she said.
After the presentation, Casey Dugan demonstrated IBM’s “selfie station.” This particular technology is designed to help computers learn to identify people’s faces.
Undergraduates Clara Gamboa and Eric Brown snapped a selfie with their professor, K.C. Kerby-Patel. “It was nice to see how the panelists were all so well supported, and were able to be independent in their work,” said Gamboa, who is a sophomore engineering major.
Down the hall, students lunched with IBM staff and researchers, quizzing them on how to make the most of internships, classes, and entry-level jobs.
Melissa Cruz, a senior biology major, came on the field trip because she is interested in jobs in the private sector. “I’m glad I did attend, because I learned that industry has research positions available to us,” said Cruz. When asked about her plans after graduation, she said that she is looking for a job where she can make an impact, “but also learn something, too.”