University Talent

Meet the 2020 VMware Achieve and VMware Rise Scholarship Recipients

At VMware, we understand the financial responsibilities of being a student and the challenges often faced by traditionally underrepresented communities within the technology industry. Here, we celebrate people from a wide variety of dynamic backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, and we are committed to supporting our future leaders through their academic journey. As part of this commitment, VMware has two unique scholarships – the VMware Achieve Scholarship and the VMware Rise Scholarship – for students studying Computer Science (or a related field) to inspire students to pursue their goals without financial stress. By providing these scholarships, we hope that students feel empowered to become leaders in the technology industry.

Left to right: Emmanuel Ndubuisi, Isabel Gallegos, Ledornubari Nwilene

The VMware Achieve Scholarship

The VMware Achieve Scholarship focuses on providing women opportunities in technology and offers a one-time monetary award of $10,000 to a student pursuing Computer Science or a related major.

After a lengthy review and selection process, we are excited to announce Isabel Gallegos, a junior at Stanford University studying Computer Science, as the winner of the 2020 VMware Achieve Scholarship. Isabel’s leadership skills were reflected in her application through many impressive accomplishments in academia and her community. She has a particular interest in engineering and liberal arts and spends much of her free time running, playing soccer, baking and taking photos.

The VMware Rise Scholarship

VMware created the VMware Rise Scholarship to focus on providing opportunities for students in underrepresented communities. The scholarship offers a one-time monetary award of $5,000 to two students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or a related major.

After the review and selection process, we are excited to announce Ledornubari Nwilene and Emmanuel Ndubuisi as the 2020 winners of the VMware Rise Scholarship.

Ledonubari is a junior pursuing a degree in Computing and Security Technology at Drexel University. Her resilient drive to continuously learn and leadership qualities are accentuated through her community and professional involvement. She considers herself a “multipotentialite” due to her many interests. Not only is she curious about student/professional development and using technology for social good, but she also finds joy in reading mentally stimulating books and engaging in edifying conversations, cooking Nigerian delicacies — and tapping into her creative side with hair and makeup.

Emmanuel is a junior at Claflin University pursuing a degree in Computer Science and Mathematics. His passion and interest in Computer Science are expressed through the plethora of extracurricular activities, awards, and community initiatives highlighted in his application. He enjoys learning about natural language, conversational agents, inclusive design, economics, and public policy. Emmanuel loves playing chess, cooking, making to-do lists, and watching cat videos in his free time.

Katherine Nguyen: Have you always known you would study Computer Science?

Isabel: When I was in middle and high school, I loved math, logical reasoning, and solving challenging problems. I soon realized that my interests aligned with Computer Science. I solidified my interest in Computer Science through my college courses, research, and internship experiences. I have found that Computer Science allows me to use my knowledge, skills, and interests to impact and improve individuals’ lives andmy community. The entire world is using technical, data-driven research, and solutions.

Ledonubari: I had no idea I would [study Computer Science]. Ever since I was seven years old, being a surgeon had always been my dream and goal. When I got to college, I realized medicine was a childhood dream and not what I wanted to pursue anymore. During my freshman year of college, I was introduced to technical coursework. Though it was challenging, I enjoyed it! I derived satisfaction and joy in seeing how code lines could create an app and improve someone’s life miles away.

Emmanuel: I got my first computer at a very young age and fell in love right away. I thoroughly enjoyed using it to express myself creatively with classic applications like MS Paint, Windows Movie Maker, and Dreamweaver. However, I never envisioned myself in the industry because I didn’t think I was smart or creative enough to build technology that people would love.

Katherine Nguyen: Who is your role model?

Isabel: My older sister is the most influential and impactful role model. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. I am inspired by her dedication, persistence, and success, particularly as we both navigate spaces in STEM where women and Latinos are underrepresented.

Ledonubari: My parents are my role models. They are the most selfless and hardworking people I know. They have stopped at nothing to give my sibling and I the world. They have imbibed in me Godly values that I cherish more than anything, and they taught me the importance of being excellent in anything my hands find to do. They have taken risks for and with me (e.g., allowing me to study abroad at a private university). Their belief in me continues to push me, and now I see that the sky is merely my starting point.

Emmanuel: Mayuko Inoue. She is an iOS software engineer and a YouTube content creator. Burnout is something I struggle with working in tech because of how fast paced the work can get and my desire to outperform myself. It is a challenge I am actively working to conquer, and I love that the content she creates encourages me to do so. Her content on burnout helped me understand the consequences of unhealthy work habits that are often glorified and the importance of engaging in physical activities outside tech to unwind.

Katherine Nguyen: What has your experience been like as woman and/or underrepresented minority in Computer Science/Technology?

Isabel: While I love my studies’ technical aspects and applications, one of my most significant challenges in studying Computer Science has been my confidence. In classes, and during internship and research opportunities, I have, at times, inhibited my growth by doubting my abilities rather than focusing on my project, experience, and personal development. This imposter syndrome and lack of confidence are amplified when I find myself one of the few women in the room. One of the most important things for me has been seeing a supportive community of peers and role models with similar backgrounds and experiences to combat this feeling.

LedonubariBeing the only underrepresented minority woman in a class during my freshman year was tough. I shied away from asking questions in class and group meetings, and I would not contribute as much out of fear, or thatmy opinion was invalid or would be scorned. I can count the number of black professors in my college or other female peers in my classes. That freshman experience left me with two options: finding a more accepting field or using my voice, time, and resources to change the narrative of those coming after me. I chose the latter. The lack of representation is too lucid to ignore. Beyond my passion for technology, my heart beats for diversity and inclusion, especially in this space. Diversity is my superpower, and I have sought several ways to be a part of the solution since my freshman year. By acting as a tutor at an after-school middle-school coding class, I ignited these young individuals to the possibility of being a computer scientist. I served as a mentor in the Robot Springboard Technology Camp at Drexel University and Microsoft DigiGirlz. Two summers ago, I shared my tech journey with 20 high school girls  while guest speaking at Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program.. These opportunities have allowed me to work closely with brilliant women who needed to see  other women and me in tech as proof that it could be their reality too. I see myself continuing to share my story, volunteer, and be part of the solution. 

Emmanuel: I am fortunate to attend a university with many individuals who look like me accomplishing great things in the tech industry. I am also grateful to be a part of several minority-led organizations outside my college campus, where I have formed different support networks with other Black engineers. The communities I have developed within the broader tech industry have made my experience a rewarding one.

Katherine Nguyen: If you could give another student (interested in studying Computer Science) a few words of wisdom, what would they be?

Isabel: My advice to other women interested in Computer Science would be to find peers and mentors who can provide advice and inspiration. I think it’s imperative to build a community and support system of people you can relate to with similar experiences and backgrounds. Don’t give up when you feel self-doubt – Computer Science (like life itself) is a constant learning experience!

Ledonubari: Never be afraid to take an unconventional path. In Computer Science and many fields, there seems to be a default path many people take. What has helped me to enjoy my collegiate journey more was allowing my curiosity to fuel me. I knew software engineering was a popular path, but I also knew I did not want to spend most of my day coding. I enjoyed working with people and solving problems. I tried my handson cybersecurity, technology consulting, research, and quality assurance. Eventually, I found my passion for product management. You are free to try as many things as you want to. Create your own unique story and journey. There is so much you can do within CS/technology!

Emmanuel: “Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. And scratch where it itches.” – Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Here is what the quote means to me:

– “Fill what is empty” – Remain curious and continuously seek to learn more.

– “Empty what is full” – Share your knowledge and use what you have to help those in need.

– “Scratch where it itches.” – Strive to fix the things that make you unhappy.

Learn more about our scholarship offerings for university students here. Applications for the VMware Achieve Scholarship and the VMware Rise Scholarship will reopen in 2021.

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