Alicia Abella, executive director of the Innovative Services Research Department at AT&T Labs recalls her personal journey to connect computer science with her natural desire to help others. “Somewhere during the time I was working with researchers on projects like artificial intelligence and computer graphics, I saw firsthand the impact my work could have on others,” she notes.   

Young girls need to learn early on about the ways science, technology, engineering and math improve the lives of others.

The Connection Between STEM And Helping Others“Making your mark on the world is hard,” President Obama simply put during a 2006 speech. When I was a young girl I knew I wanted to help people. Considering my fascination with simply knowing how things worked, I had trouble picturing how I could turn that passion into a career. It’s easy to imagine yourself helping others as a doctor or a firefighter, but as a computer scientist? That’s tricky to comprehend, let alone embark on a career to help improve the lives of people.

I approached my schooling, and eventually computer science, from a very practical place. My parents emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba and worked tirelessly to give me the one thing that they felt no one could take away: my education. Where my parents lacked in formal education, they made up in support of my future. Education was their priority and so it became mine as well.

As a junior in high school, I took my first computer programming class where I learned the basics of computing: how to solve problems, code and eventually use those tools to make my ideas come to life. This was during the time that computers were becoming streamlined – people were finding them on their desks as opposed to laboratories. It was a new and exciting place as I saw more companies shifting work to this desktop machine.

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The Connection Between STEM And Helping Others