University Talent

2021 VMware Scholarship Award Winners

At VMware, one of the ways we empower students to become future leaders is by supporting their education pursuits. We welcome students to share their dynamic backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives through our scholarship opportunities, VMware Achieve and VMware Rise. These scholarships are meant to shed light on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion while increasing the representation of women and underrepresented minorities within the technology industry. This year, we’re excited to award Becky Mashaido as the winner of VMware Achieve, and MacVincent Agha-Oko and Nana Aba Turkson as the two winners of VMware Rise. Each student was carefully chosen through a multi-round selection process for their academic excellence, community involvement, leadership, and genuine passion for technology. 

Left to right: Becky Maishado, MacVincent Agha-Oko, Nana Aba Turkson 

VMware Achieve Winner – Introducing Becky Mashaido

Launched in 2017, the VMware Achieve scholarship was created to empower women in STEM by offering a one-time monetary award of $10,000. Becky Mashaido, a graduate student studying Computer Science at Northeastern University, rose to the top of her class as the winner of this year’s VMware Achieve scholarship. Throughout her academic career, Becky has proven to be a natural leader and philanthropist who devotes her time to increasing the global representation of Black women in STEM through mentorship. She hopes to one day create her organization to improve the well-being of marginalized individuals and continue her passion for giving back to the community. Outside of these contributions, Becky enjoys traveling, taking photos, collecting cultural art, cooking, dancing, singing, and playing rugby. Katherine Nguyen, University Talent Program Manager, recently sat down with Becky to learn more about her…
 

Katherine Nguyen: Becky, what made you choose your university? 

Becky Mashaido: For my undergrad, it was a no-brainer. I chose the school that offered me the best financial package and multiple scholarships to cover my degree, and it just so happened that it was UC Berkeley. For graduate school, it was different. I was set to pursue a Ph.D. in Mathematics, but eventually, I decided to take a break from this subject. One thing led to another, and I joined my Master’s program in Computer Science. Looking back, there wasn’t much of a formula to the selection process other than listening to feedback from my mentors to make an informed decision. I advise any graduating senior to stay open to exploring new horizons. I wouldn’t have discovered the beauty and power that lies within the intersection of Mathematics and Computer Science if I hadn’t been open to trying new things. 

Katherine Nguyen: What motivated you to apply for the VMware Achieve Scholarship? 

Becky Mashaido: VMware CodeHouse Palo Alto! As far-fetched as it may seem, CodeHouse proved to me that VMware was serious about its stance on diversity and inclusion. Many tech companies today spend resources showcasing “diversity and inclusion” without actually partaking in the nitty-gritty of it all. Seeing VMware through CodeHouse, however, was enough motivation to apply for the VMware Achieve Scholarship. My values and principles perfectly aligned with VMware’s initiative.

Katherine Nguyen: If you could give another woman that’s interested in studying Computer Science a few words of wisdom, what would they be? 

Becky Mashaido: Womanhood in computing is no easy feat. I’m sure by now you’ve heard all the horror stories of women in tech… but it’s also beautiful. The most beautiful thing I can imagine. As a woman in tech, you get to pioneer important innovations that others may never think about (look up the top innovations by women throughout history)! Hence my advice, don’t let other people’s words put you down. Don’t let someone else’s “no” stop you. Rejections will come. Negative and misguided comments will arise. When they do, remember that you hold the key to letting that affect you. Don’t quit because he told you this, and don’t slow down because she told you that. Worst of all, don’t sit and wait for someone to “fix the system.” Get up and pave your path. Who knows, it might also impact another little girl somewhere across the world! 

VMware Rise Winners – Introducing MacVincent Agha-Oko and Nana Aba Turkson 

 
The VMware Rise Scholarship was launched in 2020 to provide opportunities for STEM students in underrepresented communities. This year, we’re pleased to announce MacVincent Agha-Oko and Nana-Aba Turkson as our two scholarship winners earning $5,000 each. 

MacVincent is a senior studying Computer Engineering at Claflin University with a particular curiosity in robotics. Using his leadership positions and amplified voice, he advocates for young talent in underserved communities to discover possibilities of an engineering career. MacVincent’s devotion and creativity to share his passion for engineering are exemplified in numerous academic and community achievements. He hopes to pursue a graduate program that allows him to carry out robotics research. During his free time, he enjoys volunteering on campus, reading, and playing the piano. University Talent Program Manager, Cherielynn Tsay, recently sat down with MacVincent to get to know him more.

Cherielynn Tsay: Who is an innovator within the industry who has inspired you, and why? 

MacVincent Agha-Oko: Sanjay Ghemawat and Jeff Dean—both are currently Senior Fellows at Google. I am more enamoured by the nature of their friendship than by whatever they have been able to accomplish together or as individuals (and they’ve achieved a lot!). From TensorFlow to Bigtable, Spanner to MapReduce, their work underlies some of the more widely used software solutions in the technology industry today. In a society like ours with a penchant for placing individuals on pedestals as singular geniuses, their partnership reminds me that true innovation rarely occurs in a vacuum.

Cherielynn Tsay: Why did you choose your university? What was the application and selection process like for you? 

MacVincent Agha-Oko: I found about Claflin University from a family friend who is an alumna of a neighbouring university. The application process is fairly similar to what one might expect from any other university—essays, recommendation letters, transcripts, test scores. However, I only became invested after learning about the school’s active commitment to developing visionary leaders, finding out about the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College, and reading news stories containing excerpts of interviews with students from the honors program. It seemed like the sort of community I would want to be a part of. On receiving a scholarship from the honors program, the decision to attend Claflin University was all but certain.

Cherielynn Tsay: If you could give another underrepresented minority student studying Computer Science a few words of wisdom, what would they be?

MacVincent Agha-Oko: Over the past few decades, Computer Science has changed society in profound ways—from the way we access information to the way we relate with our governments; the way we buy goods to the way we connect with that friend one continent away. Still, there are lots of problems worth solving. Studying Computer Science is a way of ensuring you have a front-row seat in shaping the solutions to those problems and as a direct consequence, our shared destiny as a society. If that sort of impact interests you, then let nothing make you think that you can’t thrive in the Computer Science academia or industry 
 

Nana Aba Turkson, a robotics and design enthusiast, is pursuing a Computer Science and Architecture degree at Mount Holyoke College. Her application shined through due to her dedication to diversity and learning. She not only serves her community as a leader and an innovator, but she also embodies many of VMware’s values while driving to be a force for good with engineered technological solutions. Nana hopes to start a women’s engineering and architecture university with a focus on building innovations for Africa, along with the rest of the world. In her spare time, she enjoys cycling, skating, watching animated movies, and playing the guitar. University Talent Program Manager, Cherielynn Tsay, recently sat down with Nana to learn more about who she is.

Cherielynn Tsay: Have you always known you would study Computer Science?

Nana Aba Turkson: No, but I do have a distant memory as a child where I was so impressed with the works of Bill Gates that I told my dad I wanted to be like him– a software engineer (although I knew nothing about how to make that happen). Bill Gates created software and made it accessible to people like me. I wanted to be someone like that, and I still do. 

In my sophomore year of high school, I was selected to participate in an inter-school robotics competition, a novel initiative to introduce Robotics in junior and senior high schools. I was part of the all-girls team selected to represent my school. In retrospect, I made an unconscious commitment to Computer Science during the training session on creative processes: the inner excitement I felt while learning to create the colour sorter and the self-driving car robotic device. My first working code for the self-driving car was a pivotal turning point for me. I loved the challenge, the research, and the ability to physically build something I could see working in real-time. I knew, at that moment, that I wanted to continue doing this work and I’ve loved doing it ever since.

Cherielynn Tsay: What has your experience been like being an underrepresented minority in your field?

Nana Aba Turkson: I am so thankful to have a community of people who pour so much into my life and that has made it possible for me to be where I am, and who I am today. I am eternally grateful to everyone that has contributed to my journey. Thank you. Because of them, I continue to push myself to be the best at what I do so that I can give back to my community. It has made every journey worthwhile.

Cherielynn Tsay: If you could give another underrepresented minority student studying Computer Science a few words of wisdom, what would they be?

Nana Aba Turkson: “Let me tell you something, most people will say just go out there and do it. That is true, absolutely true. 100%. But more than likely it is going to be hard. What happens is when you love it, and you keep doing it and doing it, and when God intervenes and comes down, all of a sudden you take off, that is when it kicks in….” –Viola Davis. 

“You cannot skip steps; you have to put one foot in front of the other. Things take time. There are no shortcuts but you want to do those steps with passion and ferocity.” -Jeff Bezos 

These quotes are true when it comes to Computer Science or any other field that someone wants to pursue. It is something that I have learned on this journey. 

If you are considering Computer Science then go for it, because I know and believe you can do it. Your journey may be challenging because Computer Science isn’t easy, especially when it’s new and doesn’t feel natural. Remember to embrace every challenge just as you embrace every win. Keep at it, ask for help, and get up when you fall or fail. Surround yourself with people that will encourage you and be there for you, be willing to learn, and be thankful for every experience because trust me, they count. 

When you love what you do and it excites you, all of the bad experiences, failures, and frustration fade in comparison to the love you have for it. In all, take care of yourself and do what you want to do. Just do it, do it well, and know you cannot do it all by yourself. 

Congratulations to Becky Mashaido, MacVincent Agha-Oko, and Nana Aba Turkson! We are enamored by their leadership and force for good. We look forward to seeing how they shape the future of technology. 

Learn more about our scholarship offerings and job opportunities on our careers site. Applications for the VMware Achieve Scholarship and the VMware Rise Scholarship will reopen in 2022. 

To learn more about #VMwareLife as a New Graduate or an intern, follow the social channels below! 

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