CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - For Dr. Nicki Washington, you can say she was born to be in STEM.
“My mom was a computer programmer for her entire 30 plus career. I was surrounded a lot by other black engineers and attorney and educators,” says Washington.
So by the time she was in middle school she was programming, and this third generation HBCU graduate would get her degree in computer science at Johnson C. Smith University; her masters and PhD at NC State; and take a job at Aerospace Corporation.
She’s currently an associate professor of computer science at Winthrop University.
“For me it was really about making it such that every other black girl or young black women, whether she is in elementary school or in college, can see me in themselves,” says Washington.
Washington decided to take her influence a step further by creating a guidebook for women on how to navigate the challenges they’ll face as a professional in the field. So her self-published book Unapologetically Dope was born.
“The imposter syndrome. The marginalization. The dealing with situations you feel are micro-aggressions or just flat out aggressions,” Washington says. “So every chapter was something that had nothing to do with computing but everything to do with issues they would face in a computing environment.”
For defying the odds, and helping others do the same, Washington is among the “tech stars” featured in the March issue of Essence magazine.
“I’m just like you. I like the same things you like. I tie my hair up at night. I understand the importance of coconut oil and shea butter. I do computer science as well and you can too," says Washington.